The Southern Cone and Central Europe -the only ones shifting to the left
By Rosendo Fraga

On the outset of the XXI century, the developed world is sending clear signs of shifting to the right.

In the United States, one in three Americans today hold conservative values both in terms of ideology and culture and the events of September 11 have intensified this feature.

In the case of Europe, the last polls show the coincidental progress of the right and even extreme right and a clear regress of the social democracy. Problems such as immigration deepen the conservative shift in the European continent.

The developed countries of Asia do not escape this trend and Japan is still under the rule of a conservative coalition despite its protracted crisis.

Thirteen years after the fall of the Wall, the developed world seems not only to maintain but also deepen the ideological shift that marked the end of the XX century with the collapse of communism.

However, two regions of the Western world seem to escape this trend: Central Europe and the Southern Cone of America.

On the June 14 and 15 elections in the Czech Republic, the social democracy won over the Civic Democratic Party of neoliberal Václav Klaus though failing to obtain the majority in the parliament. Socio-democratic leader Vladimir Spidla called for him, the head of the communist party and the other winners of the elections not to be removed from the offices in the new Parliament as he has become the third force.

It must be noted that in September last year, Lech Walesa’s Solidarity Party was defeated and a social-democratic coalition took power under the lead of a former communist.

In the recent parliamentary elections of Hungary held in early June, victory was also achieved by the social-democrats.

These three countries along with Slovakia compose the Visegrad. They are the Eastern European countries with greatest progress in terms of the integration to the European Union and except for the latter, the other three have already joined the NATO.

Of them only Slovakia has a center-right government though there is the possibility for the return of the previous, left-leaning Prime Minister Mr Merciar, who could represent a threat to the neighboring nations eager to join the country to the NATO and the European Union.

In the Southern Cone of America and more specifically in the four Mercosur country members, the prevailing trend by mid-2002 is similar to the one registered in the Visegrad nations.

In view of the presidential elections to be held in Brazil next October, the polls show left-leaning, former metal trade union leader Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva leading after the 8-year office of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who developed a neoliberal economic policy.

In Argentina, the opinion polls reveal that center-left candidate Elisa Carrió leads preferences for the next presidential elections.

As to Uruguay, the left coalition known as Frente Amplio (Broad Front) is raising the number of vote preferences and its chances to take office in the next presidential election.

For its part, Paraguay is enduring a strong political and economic crisis while it seems unlikely that the traditional, conservative-oriented Partido Colorado (Red Party) will be displaced from power.

Some common situations could serve to explain this politico-ideological resemblance in two geographically distant regions of the world though closely related to the Western culture.

First, the regions are in the periphery and not in the center part of the West and so the trends prevailing in central countries may lose some steam when they reach that area. Second, the Visegrad nations fully abandoned communism in the ‘90s and something similar happened in the Mercosur regarding populism. After a decade of strong adherence to the capitalist model, the initial enthusiasm has cooled off and now the pendulous change passes over to the center-left.

While in the United States and Europe the influence by Democrats and the Third Way is fading away paving the road for more conservative expressions, in the Mercosur and Visegrad the cycles seem to emerge with some years of delay. It is worth remembering how the conservative revolution of Reagan and Thatcher in the ‘80s reached these regions in the ‘90s.

But both regions also feature some differences. First, the economic crisis affecting the Mercosur nations is much worse than the woes gripping the Visegrad, where there is greater stability. Even the Czech Republic is the only country whose economy continues growing amid the widespread recession currently affecting Europe.

Second, while Central European countries are heading towards integration with Europe despite the current political shift, the Mercosur nations do not have the same possibilities with the United States or the EU.

The shift to the center-left in the Visegrad nations prompts less economic uncertainty than the same trend generates in the Mercosur and this has been confirmed by the recent Czech election, a case that will surely be compared to the upcoming presidential poll in Brazil next October.

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