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Socialist Revival in Southern Europe

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

The 2008 financial crisis has caused tremendous economic hardship in southern Europe, with Greece and Spain, in particular, affected. Massive unemployment, especially among the young, continues to persist.

The unemployment rate for young people in Greece stood at 45.7 per cent at the end of last year, more than double the overall rate of 23 per cent. There are similar figures for Spain, with the youth unemployment rate, at 42.9 per cent, far more than the 18.6 per cent overall.

This has led to dire consequences, as an entire cohort sees its prospects dwindle. As a result, parties of the left have gained traction.

Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) is a Greek political party that was established in 2004 as an alliance of left-wing parties which, in 2013, became a unified party.

In the January 2015 elections, running on an anti-austerity platform, Syriza obtained 36.3 per cent of the vote, attaining 149 out of the 300 seats and becoming the largest party in the Greek parliament.

When 25 Syriza legislators rejected the terms of the Greek debt bailout and bolted the party in August 2015, the party lost its majority and called new elections a month later. It won 145 seats and re-established its coalition with the Independent Greeks (ANEL), resulting in 155 seats.

Podemos (translated as Together We Can) is a Spanish left-wing political party established in March 2014, formed in response to growing economic inequality and the high levels of unemployment.

It is harnessing the widespread discontent caused by the hard economic times and major corruption cases involving Spain’s traditional political parties.

Podemos advocates the renegotiation of austerity measures. Its platform also emphasizes poverty reduction via a basic income for everyone.

In the December 2015 parliamentary elections, it obtained 21 per cent of the vote, and became the third largest parliamentary party by obtaining 69 of 350 seats.

As no party won a majority, new elections were called for June 2016. Podemos joined forces with other left-wing parties, including the Communists, to form the Unidos Podemos (United We Can) alliance.

Disappointing its supporters, Unidos Podemos got 71 seats, behind the 137 won by the conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party) and the 85 won by their rival on the left, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).

These new leftist parties face major challenges. There is no more blatant example of the European left’s inability to be leftist than Greece.

Though Syriza that promised to thwart European Union austerity policies, it has been compelled, under threat of expulsion from the Eurozone, to adopt an agenda that is anything but leftist: privatizations, increased taxes, pension cuts and stringent fiscal targets.

Hardline ministers who had criticised these policies were replaced by moderate technocrats. The party’s supporters are frustrated, and have engaged in demonstrations.

As a result, the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras may be preparing to call early elections this year. He warned international lenders on Feb. 10 not to heap new burdens on Greece but he still hopes a bailout review with them would end well.

In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the PP heads a minority government as he attempts to pass a budget and stay in power. His political rival, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, a former political science professor, won’t make that easy.

“A political crisis is a moment for daring,” Iglesias has asserted. “This is a party of the 21st century that advances alongside the people, while other parties are entrenched in the institutions,” Iglesias declared in a fiery speech on Feb. 12.

The post-2008 crisis among some of the 19 Eurozone countries that use the Euro as their common currency created a devastating debt problem that upended the economies of Greece and Spain.

The result has been low growth, high unemployment, and hopelessness. It will take a lot effort to turn things around.

This post first appeared on I Told You So, please read the originial post: here

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Socialist Revival in Southern Europe


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