A fresh start for Europe's social democrats?

Not only the German social democrats have suffered losses in key elections. In other countries of Europe too, traditional labour-oriented parties are in crisis. Europe's media put forward different explanations for this trend.

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Irish Examiner (IE) /

Only room for one in the centre

The German parliamentary elections confirm the trend in Western countries of there being no more space for competing parties in the political centre, columnist Leonid Bershidsky comments in the Irish Examiner:

“It's looking increasingly as though the political centre only makes sense to voters as a unified force rather than a place where established parties compete. The centrist parties that are stronger at the moment - largely, it seems, centre-right ones - will serve as the centres of gravity for mergers or steady unions. If no party is strong enough, the French scenario beckons [with a new movement emerging]. ... Today's competition is between the centre as a unified force and the extremes, both on the left and on the right.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Ideological anaemia

Although after more than 100 years of social democracy in Europe many of its demands have been fulfilled, these demands are more convincingly managed by the conservatives, Der Standard comments:

“It's hard to be essentially progressive while championing stability at the same time. Whenever their promises for a political panacea are honoured, they inevitably become parties of the disappointed. The unions may want to defend labour laws - in an almost reactionary manner - but the discontented voters are still shifting either completely to the far right or the far left. ... We need new narratives for new times? Perhaps. But what we've been able to diagnose so far - despite efforts to gain new strength from the anti-globalisation or other grassroots movements - is ideological leukaemia. And anyone who no longer has a vision is almost beyond cure.”

Mérce (HU) /

Workers' parties without workers

The simple fact is that the socialists are losing their traditional party base, journalist Szilárd István Pap writes on opinion portal Kettős Mérce:

“The main task of social democracy has always been to represent the interests of the workers vis-à-vis capital. But the workers toiling away at the work benches and assembly lines have disappeared in the last few decades. ... The all-encompassing service sector has replaced industrial production. Not to mention digitisation and automation. It is estimated that around half of today's jobs will fall victim to these trends. ... In short: social democracy has lost its customers.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

SPD needs to reinvent itself

Spiegel Online believes the time has come for German social democracy to reinvent itself:

“The SPD's decision to go into the opposition is justified. And it is also right that Martin Schulz wants to lead it. The party now has four years to get its act together. And it really needs to. There is talk of the end of the social democratic era. This is nonsense. The SPD is more needed now than ever before. ... It is vital that the party learn from its mistakes. [Ex-German chancellor] Willy Brandt once said: 'You have to have a past to be able to learn from it for the future.' The SPD's problem is that far too often it has failed to learn from the past. Perhaps that will change now.”

El País (ES) /

The left is lost

The SPD's crushing defeat confirms a trend among Europe's left, El País observes:

“The Social Democrats who had pinned all their hopes on Martin Schulz, the former president of the EU Parliament, have every reason to feel defeated: once again a parliamentary election - this time in the EU's biggest and most important country - has confirmed the enormous difficulties social democracy is having trying to navigate between the consequences of the 2008 crisis and identity politics while at the same time developing its own profile and discourse.”