Christian Life 

Europe: When the Unthinkable Becomes Possible

Stratfor's George Friedman looks at the 'steady erosion' of the political systems within many EU contries.
 
First published 04/12/2014

By George Friedman
 

EU breakupEurope's economic crisis is slowly but steadily eroding the political systems of many countries on the Continent. New actors are emerging and threatening the supremacy of the traditional players. Alliances and events that seemed impossible only a few years ago are now being openly discussed across Europe.

On Dec. 3, for example, Sweden announced it would hold early elections, partially because of political moves from the far right. In Spain, the ruling center-right party is openly discussing the possibility of entering an alliance with its traditional center-left rivals to prevent a protest party from taking over. Key members of the European Union, including Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom and possibly Greece, will hold elections in 2015. In most cases, these countries will see outcomes nobody would have thought possible in 2008.

Sweden

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced the snap elections after his center-left government lost a budget vote less than three months after coming to power. Lofven's announcement was precipitated by a decision by the far-right Sweden Democrats party to support the opposition during a budget vote. Sweden's early elections, the first for the country in almost 60 years, will be held March 22, with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats likely playing a central role. In Sweden's parliamentary elections in September, no coalition managed to form a majority government, but the elections were marked by the strong performance of the far-right party, which received 12.9 percent of the vote, up from 5.7 percent in 2010, when it entered parliament for the first time.

While Sweden is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, unemployment remains above pre-crisis levels. More important, Sweden has the largest number of asylum applications per capita in the European Union. Last year, violent riots shook Stockholm's immigrant-heavy suburbs, revealing Sweden's struggle to integrate its immigrants into mainstream society. Opinion polls show that Swedes still largely support the idea of living in a country that is open to asylum-seekers, but they are also worried about the economic and cultural impact of increased immigration. If the Sweden Democrats hold their place as the country's third-largest party, they will probably become key in the formation of a new government. This would put a far-right party in a position of power in one of Europe's main economies.


Spain

Spain's general elections, which will be held in late 2015, will likely have an even greater impact on its political system. The country's enduring economic crisis and a series of corruption scandals involving the ruling party led to a dramatic rise in popular support for Podemos, a left-wing protest party that wants to renegotiate the European Union's debt and deficit targets and restructure the Spanish debt. Podemos was created less than a year ago, but recent opinion polls put its popularity at around 28 percent — above that of the mainstream center-right Popular Party and center-left Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, commonly known as PSOE. Podemos' rise in Spain has been so resounding that on Dec. 2, Popular Party chief Maria Dolores de Cospedal said her party would consider an alliance with PSOE in order to form a government.

PSOE rejected the idea, while members of the Popular Party had backed away from it by Dec. 3. However, Cospedal's statements highlight the extent of the threat to Spain's two-party system, which was created after the end of the Franco dictatorship in the late 1970s. Before the crisis, Spain's mainstream parties normally captured between 70 and 80 percent of the vote. The 2015 elections will probably mark the first time in modern Spanish history that their combined support falls below 50 percent. The situation is particularly awkward for PSOE, which recently moved slightly more to the left to appeal to some of Podemos' voters. The party has yet to decide whether it wants to risk losing voters to the left by siding with the Popular Party or risk losing moderate voters by siding with Podemos.

Greece

Greece offers an example of what Spanish politics could look like in the future. Like Spain, Greece had a relatively stable two-party system that saw the center-right and the center-left alternate periods in power. But the economic crisis led to the rapid rise of the left-wing Syriza party, which opposes the EU austerity measures supported by the mainstream parties. In 2012, it took two elections for the mainstream parties to form an alliance to keep Syriza at bay. In Greece, where political rivalries are old and deep, such an alliance would have seemed impossible before the crisis.

Greece will probably return to the center of the European crisis next year when the Greek parliament attempts to elect a new president. If the parliament fails, it will be forced to hold early elections. With Syriza still at the top of the opinion polls, it would be more difficult to keep the upstart party from power this time around. Syriza has promised to restructure Greece's debt, a move that would probably make financial markets nervous and generate uncertainty across the eurozone at a time when Europe thought it had found some stability. When the European Central Bank promised to intervene in financial markets almost two years ago, the European Union lost the sense of urgency it had in the early stages of the crisis. The European Union, and particularly Germany, chose caution instead of action. Should Greece generate financial turmoil in Europe again, the Europeans will have to go back to the negotiating table and discuss all the issues that have so far been avoided.


United Kingdom

Finally, Euroskepticism will also be a key player in the United Kingdom, which will hold elections in March. Britain also had a functioning two-party system before the crisis, making coalitions relatively uncommon. But the rise of the anti-immigration UKIP party is seriously threatening this system. A coalition between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party or an agreement between the Tories and UKIP both seem impossible for now, but either would be conceivable if no party wins enough seats to govern on its own.

The current norm in Europe would have seemed impossible only five or six years ago. Most people would not have believed that unemployment in Spain or Greece could go above 25 percent or that nationalist, protest and Euroskeptical parties would become key players in European politics. More important, most Europeans would never have thought that the survival of the European Union would be under such a serious threat. For many Spaniards, Greeks, Swedes and Britons, the transformation of their political systems may still seem unlikely, but for some a surprise is likely coming next year.
Read more: Europe: When the Unthinkable Becomes Possible | Stratfor
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"Europe: When the Unthinkable Becomes Possible is republished with permission of Stratfor."

Ed footnote: The above article is from a secular source, but has been published for information to the modern-day Issachers who seek to 'understand the times' (1 Chron 12:32). 

Stratfor, 12/07/2015

Feedback:
Gordon (Guest) 04/12/2014 22:35
I don't think we should bother ourselves with these worldly affairs but rather stick to the task Jesus Christ gave us to do. Apart from Him, there will never be justice , reconciliation or peace on earth until his kingdom comes through the preaching of the Word and the praising of His name. The efforts and promises of politicians may be sincere but they have increasingly become complete counterfeits of the Gospel.
(Guest) 04/12/2014 23:14
Gordon,
I agree with you wholeheartedly, when you say "I don't think we should bother ourselves with these worldly affairs, but rather stick to the task Jesus Christ gave us to do: Matthew 28.19-20 and Acts 1.8 etc. Apart from Him, there will never be justice, reconciliation or peace on earth until His kingdom comes..." These words of yours are "Sound speech, which cannot be condemned." Titus 2.8. BUT! This will NOT happen "through the preaching of the Word, and the praising of His Name."
Man cannot convert the world to Christ, it is ONLY through the dramatic, sudden, and all powerful intervention of the most high God that the world will be converted: Psalm 110.1, Daniel 2.44, Hebrews 12.28 etc. (Many other Scriptures may be adduced).
I don't believe for one second that "The efforts and promises of politicians may be sincere..." No! This is the failure of democracy; politicians will only seek the votes of those that will elect them. Is THAT not true?
Editor 05/12/2014 12:22
Christ said that while we are not "of the world" we are nevertheless "in the world". And a lack of awareness of the world around us can lead to us missing what God is doing.

We pray: "Thy will be done on earth...." and the Bible is shot through with the Lord stating: "I will..."
There are those who do not think that there are any prophetic events still future - apart from those immediately surrounding the final consummation of this age. (Gordon and Guest may be of that view.)

However there are others who seek to understand current events through the lens of Scripture and develop the ability (as Peter demonstrated at Pentecost) to recognise: "This is that spoken of by the prophet..." (Peter's accurate analysis required BOTH a knoweldge of Scripture AND a situational awareness: coupled with his intellectual capability he accurately 'joined up the dots....")

In this context, and for the benefit of those who continue to express their interest, articles relating to significant events in our world will continue to be posted - whether from Christian or other sources. (A new news-ticker from the Gatestone Institute has been added to the homepage.)

If you (Gordon and Guest) have no interest in these, then I would suggest that you don't spend your time reading same. And if this site policy does not suit your position, I'm sure that you will be able to find other sites which do.

Meanwhile you might wish to visit the current policy on 'anonymous' postings. Part of which states:
>>>>
An initial 'anonymous' post on any one topic may be allowed to remain.... However subsequent anonymous posts from the same source will be deleted.
<<<<

See - http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/423417/Christians_Together_in/About_us/Editorial_Policy/Article_Response_facility.aspx
Editor 13/07/2015 13:09
FAULTLINE IN THE EU

"There is now a fault-line in Europe. On one side are Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Belgium, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.

They were prepared to see Greece leave the euro.

On the other side are France, Italy, Spain and others clinging to their idea of a Europe of solidarity."

Read full report...http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-33506841

Global Intelligence agency Stratfor opines:

"The European Union is not merely facing a Greek crisis. It is facing a systemic crisis. The events in Greece have shown the extent to which a currency union without a fiscal union leads to conflict in Europe. The Greek government has presented the conflict as an attempt to weaken Greece's democracy, which is an incomplete explanation. The eurozone is a club of 19 democracies with their own national interests, priorities and constraints. Each actor has to pursue its own goals, all the while fettered by its domestic politics."

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on some articles may be restricted to CT site members. In these circumstances comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail: editor<atsign>christianstogether.net

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