American voters headed to the polls on Tuesday and appeared to be ready to hand the nation’s Republican party a substantial victory in the midterm elections. Yet depressed Democrats can take heart in how different the fortunes of their progressive colleagues look on the world stage.
Progressive parties both old and new have scored major victories in the last year in parts of Europe and Latin America. Some of these successes represented a backlash against policies of the political right; others a total skepticism with politics as usual on both sides of the aisle.
Here are some of the countries where progressive parties are on the upswing:
The left-wing Podemos party is not even a year old, but it has shaken Spanish politics to its core. Led by 35-year-old academic Pablo Iglesias, Podemos emerged out of the 2011 ‘indignados’ protest movement. The party is calling for more public investment to create jobs and stronger labor protections. Newsweek’s Dan Hancox writes that Podemos has tapped into voters' deep disillusionment with the mainstream parties over the response to the country's unemployment and housing crises. A shock opinion poll published in Spanish newspaper El Pais on Saturday found that Podemos has fast risen to become the most popular in Spain. The party's rise raises the prospect that for the first time since 1982, Spain's two main political parties may be ousted from power in the 2015 elections.
In its September elections, Sweden voted in a left-leaning coalition led by the Social Democratic Party, pushing out the center-right government that had been in power for eight years. The Wall Street Journal explains that many voters were appalled by growing income inequality and a series of scandals blighting the nation’s much-cherished welfare state. The Social Democrats instead pledged to soften the blow of Sweden’s austerity program. "The Swedish people have turned their backs on tax cuts and privatizations as the solutions to all social problems," party leader Stefan Loefven said after their victory.
Since bursting on the scene in 2012, Greece’s Syriza party has grown from a far-left fringe organization to the most popular party in the country. This year, the party won Greece’s European elections, a key governor’s seat, and consistently leads opinion polls. The party is virulently opposed to the austerity measures imposed on Greece as part of a European bailout. But party leader Alexis Tsipras, a former communist activist, has made sure to temper his fiery outbursts and drafted a governing agenda as Greece’s 2016 elections approach.
Chile's Michelle Bachelet stormed back into the presidency in December's elections, taking the largest proportion of votes of any candidate since 1989. The victory of her center-left Socialist Party over the ruling right wing coalition was historic, but perhaps not all that surprising. Bachelet’s popularity soared during her previous administration, before she was forced out of office by Chile’s ban on consecutive terms. Her far-reaching reform program, which includes raising corporate taxes and overhauling higher education, resonated with Chileans who have held mass protests for greater income equality.