As we near the end of 2022, a number of key elections have taken place, with mixed results for those on the progressive side of politics. Most notably, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, running on a more centrist ticket than he did in 2003 and 2006, defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro to end four years of populism in Brazil.
In Denmark, the Social Democrats strengthened their position as the largest party and will now attempt to form a government with the newly formed centrist party, the Moderates. Slovenia’s presidential election will provide an early test for the recently elected progressive Freedom Movement, with centre-left candidate Natasa Musar up against right-wing Anze Logar in a runoff set for 13 November. In contrast, Benjamin Netanyahu is set to return as prime minister in Israel, as the coalition that kept him out of power was unable to remain united.
Although issues vary from one county to another, there are common global themes emerging. Prime examples are how to support citizens through the cost-of-living crisis and addressing climate change, both of which progressive parties need to tackle decisively before they are further hijacked by populist rhetoric.
Deep Dive: Brazilian Presidential Runoff, 30 October
Lula has beaten incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in the runoff of a presidential election that ended up being much closer than many predicted.
He collected 50.9 per cent of the vote share compared to Bolsonaro’s 49.1 per cent. Lula has secured a third term in office, after leading the country between 2003 and 2011, and will officially be sworn in on 1 January 2023.
Bolsonaro becomes the first incumbent not to be re-elected. His defeat marks the end of four years of populism in Brazil, a period marred by pandemic mismanagement, increased deforestation and a failure to improve living standards.
An increasingly divided country, which combined with Bolsonaro’s reluctance to admit defeat, will make unifying Brazil’s 215 million citizens a very difficult task.
Deforestation of the Amazon, which had reduced significantly under Lula’s last term, but surged under the Bolsonaro presidency.
Inheriting a very different country to the Brazil he led for eight years between 2003 and 2011, Lula will face a challenge to achieve economic growth and improve living standards.
His election-winning coalition was built around ousting Bolsonaro. While this is a strategy that progressives should employ to defeat populists, it must be combined with a pragmatic and ambitious policy agenda to solve voter issues.
Lula’s immediate task will be to unify a country divided on almost every issue, similar to the one faced by Joe Biden in the United States in 2020. This will make governing and policymaking more difficult. To navigate a right-leaning legislature, he will require a pragmatic approach.
Lula’s victory is good news for the environment. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation rates increased by more than 50 per cent, resulting in huge wildfires and degradation to the rainforest, often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”. Lula has promised to implement strong environmental measures, which is likely to lead to stronger relations with countries such as the United States and EU member states, which had been highly critical of Bolsonaro’s unwillingness to act on the climate.
What Else Happened?
Denmark, 1 November
Denmark held a snap election to elect the 179 members of its parliament (Folketing). The centre-left Social Democrats kept its status as the largest party, collecting 50 seats and more than 27 per cent of the vote share.
The result is good news for progressive politics. The next coalition will either continue the Scandinavian trend of bloc politics, with the left collecting 90 seats, just enough to secure a majority, or it will see them form a centrist coalition with the support of the Moderates.
The new Moderates party, formed by former Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, explicitly stated it would not be joining either bloc, and was expected to be kingmaker to coalition negotiations after neither bloc won a majority. This turned out not to be the case, but Mette Frederiksen has already stated that her preference would be to work with the Moderates, thus seeing her abandon bloc politics.
Israel, 1 November
Israel also held a general election on 1 November, with members of the 120 seats of the Knesset up for election. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies are set to gain 64 seats, enough for a majority coalition government.
Netanyahu’s Likud party will be supported by two ultra-orthodox parties as well as the far-right religious parties Religious Zionism and Jewish Power, led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, ensuring that Israeli politics veers to the right of the political spectrum.
One of the key factors in Netanyahu’s return was the fragmentation of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, which included a number of progressive parties. Israeli Labor scraped past the electoral threshold, but left-wing Meretz failed to do so. Likewise, Arab-Israeli parties were unable to agree to run on a joint ticket as they had done in the past, leaving one party, Balad, failing to reach the threshold. The Israeli left will need to develop a more compelling, coherent strategy out of the ashes of this election, including a reckoning with its failure to work together with Arab-Israeli parties.
You can read more about the Israeli election here
Slovenia, Presidential Election, runoff 13 November
Slovenians head to the polls on 13 November to elect the country’s president. Despite being a largely ceremonial role, the election will shed light on the state of progressive politics in Slovenia.
Anze Logar, backed by the right-wing Democratic Party, leads independent left-of-centre candidate Natasa Pirc Musar going into the runoff. Logar collected 34 per cent of the vote share compared with Musar’s 27 per cent. Musar is aiming to become Slovenia’s first female president.
Despite being 7 points behind, Musar is favourite to beat Logar. The independent lawyer should collect enough votes from eliminated candidates to beat the 50 per cent threshold, firmly cementing the place of progressives in Slovenia’s political landscape.
The cost-of-living crisis continues to dominate elections as a key issue, as governments around the world continue to grapple with high energy prices and inflation. Progressives need radical and credible answers to this key voter concern.
Results in Brazil and Israel provide progressives with a blueprint of how to form a coalition to oust populist leaders, as well as underlining the consequences of failing to move from an anti-populist coalition to a successful governing coalition.