For those who have worried about the illiberal, populist drift in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, events of the past few days have brought some rare good news. Recent political tremors have shaken several governments in the European region that led the populist wave now gaining ground across much of the world.
Despite the series of setbacks, there’s still a chance—in every instance—that when the current convulsions stop, the populist right could remain in place. But it does seem that the region is now in play.
What’s remarkable is that these developments have occurred almost simultaneously. It could be a coincidence, but perhaps it’s an early indicator, the leading edge of a coming shift.
Source: In Central Europe, Populism Took a Hit This Week
Opponents accused Russian authorities of mass fraud on Monday (20 September) after the ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, won a bigger than expected parliamentary majority despite unease over living standards.
With 99.9% of ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said United Russia had won nearly 50% of the vote, with its nearest rival, the Communist Party, taking just under 19%.
Source: Rivals allege mass fraud in Russia election, EU refuses to recognise the Crimea poll – EURACTIV.com
In a few months, Scholz reversed the social democrats’ decade-long decline, running on a message of dignity and respect for all workers.
Olaf Scholz and his social-democratic SPD came out on top in Germany’s federal election with 25.7 per cent of the vote, narrowly edging out the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of the outgoing chancellor, Angela Merkel, and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which received 24.1 per cent.
It was an astonishing victory for a party which had polled at around 14-15 per cent just four months earlier, when Scholz proclaimed his intention to become Germany’s next chancellor. At the time, his announcement sounded rather bold, even fanciful, considering that the SPD had come to be regarded as an irreparably damaged and diminished party. For years, the party had been haemorrhaging more and more of its traditional working-class and middle-class base. Now, some of those losses have been reversed.
Source: How Olaf Scholz won Germany – Dalia Marin
It’s a bitter irony that the last embers of the Arab Spring may be snuffed out in the same place, Tunisia, where a spark first ignited massive pro-democracy fires across a region filled with dictatorships. Tunisians, at least some of them, seem to be stirring from their jaded acceptance of a presidential coup. Still, the one country that emerged from the Arab uprisings with a semblance of democracy looks like it’s returning to what was the norm before the revolutions it unleashed in 2010.
Last Sunday, thousands of people turned out to protest in the Tunisian capital, where President Kais Saied, once a revered professor of constitutional law, has launched a series of moves that, despite his denials, are very clearly a coup.
Source: Still Fighting for Democracy, Tunisia Drifts Toward Dictatorship
Has the center held in Europe? The obvious answer would seem to be yes. As has been widely noted, parties on the extremes lost ground in Germany’s election this weekend compared to 2017. And across Europe, far-right and anti-establishment parties similarly seem to be receding in electoral and political relevance. But in other ways, the picture is less heartening, as the impact those parties have had on political discourse has mainstreamed a brand of anti-immigrant, identity-based closure that calls into question Europe’s purpose and meaning, both at home and abroad.
Source: In Fortress Europe, Far Right Agenda Has Been Mainstreamed
The California recall election, without a cataclysmic event, was likely a fait accompli for Democrats from Day One and a fever dream for Republicans frustrated with the decline of what, sadly, was once the “Golden State.”
Unseating Gov. Gavin Newsom in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2-to-1, where Donald Trump got trounced in both 2016 and 2020 and where no Republican has been elected statewide since 2006 was a long shot at best. Remember, it was California that delivered by such a huge margin for Hillary Clinton in 2016 that she was able to win the popular vote while losing the rest of the country and the Electoral College.
Source: GOP has to make 2022 about policy, not personality – Roll Call
Ed Koch, the late colorful mayor of New York, was famous for asking his constituents, “Hey! How’m I doin’?” That’s a question most politicians ought to ask once in a while, never more so than Joe Biden as his summer slide accelerates into a grim September of one crisis after another. If public opinion polls are an indicator, he’s not going to like the answer he’s going to get.
In essence, political surveys are the statistical equivalent of Koch’s trademark question. Most surveys test what people think of the job Biden is doing as president of the United States. While surveys test a range of questions in different ways, two standard questions form the basis for analyzing the current political strength of any president and his administration: The president’s overall job approval and approval of his handling of voters’ top concern.
Source: Biden’s dug a hole for himself, but he keeps digging – Roll Call
At least nine Republican Senate candidates have a political résumé with a contentious item: filing or actively supporting one of the failed lawsuits that furthered former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud.
Since many GOP candidates support Trump’s claims, participating in lawsuits could help some stand out in crowded Republican primaries, where they need to win over Trump supporters who still say voter fraud played a role in President Joe Biden’s win.
Source: GOP Senate candidates backed legal challenges to the 2020 election – Roll Call
California freshman Sara Jacobs speed-listens to podcasts and speaks at a rapid clip. You might too if you had this kind of schedule, flying back and forth between her San Diego-area district and her job in Washington, all while earning a reputation as the new member of Congress everyone wants to call a friend.
The 32-year-old Democrat even spent part of August recess freezing her eggs — and going public with that fertility decision to highlight issues facing millennials. “We need to make sure that our workplaces and our institutions actually reflect what life looks like now,” she told CNN last week.
Source: Take Five: Sara Jacobs – Roll Call
In mid-August, Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, or PiS, introduced a bill that would ban non-European ownership of Polish media properties. Detractors saw a blatant attack on TVN, the biggest independent television news source in the country and frequent PiS critic, which is owned by U.S. media conglomerate Discovery. Despite the opposition, PiS pushed the bill through the lower chamber of parliament with the help of some dubious procedural maneuvers and the votes of several MPs from an allied party, sparking widespread—and at times colorful—accusations of political corruption.
The resulting political maelstrom leaves Poland with its freedom of speech under threat, its parliament in disarray and its ties with its most powerful ally strained.
Source: Poland’s Attack on Press Freedoms Is Facing a Major Backlash