Interesting elections in other countries

We should not ignore the fact that there are other interesting elections going on in the world. In the UK, attention has been focused on the surprising rise of Jeremy Corbyn as the possible next leader of the Labour Party when party members vote on September 12. Many comparisons have been drawn between him and Bernie Sanders, both being older men who have taken consistent progressive stances all their lives and suddenly find themselves in the spotlight, and shaking up the party establishments that have in the recent past favored bland, center-right, corporate-friendly politicians.

Michael White has a long profile of Corbyn and seems to think that he and Sanders represent a wider trend.

To the amazement of pundits and politicians alike, Corbyn’s campaign took off in July much as Sanders’s own has done for the Democratic nomination. Despite being unfashionable democratic socialists, both men tapped a deep well of resentment against the mainstream political elite by people who feel patronised, neglected and left behind.

Already under assault from rightwing populist insurgencies like the Tea Party and Britain’s anti-European UK Independence Party (Ukip), the elites in the US and UK are reeling. Nor is this phenomenon confined to the narrow realm of these two countries. Seven years into the north Atlantic recessionary trough, with the wider China-centric world increasingly uncertain, the populist revolt is global.

Enter stage left Jeremy Corbyn, a nice man from a comfortable middle class professional background whose parents met campaigning in support of the Republican side in the Spanish civil war of 1936-39. To call him a populist would not do justice to the fiery rhetorical traditions of that breed. He talks gently, dresses casually (sometimes in open-toed sandals and socks) and sports a beard. He is humorous but not witty, non-confrontational and scornful of personal invective in either direction. He has been around since the 1% he condemns so passionately were only a quarter as rich as they are today.

So, like Senator Sanders, Corbyn is a known quantity to those familiar with him – not many until recently. But he is an authentic figure, saying what he has always said about state ownership of utilities like water, power supply and railways (all privatized by Thatcher’s Conservatives), firmly backing Britain’s socialised National Health Service (so much cheaper and fairer than the US model), in favour of higher wages and higher taxes, in favour of controlling the oligarchical excesses of the super-rich.

Meanwhile, just north of us in Canada, parliamentary elections take place on October 19 and currently polls show the New Democratic Party (the most progressive of the three major parties) with a slight plurality of 35.4%, with the ruling Conservative party second with 29.8% and the Liberal party third with 24.7%. If the election were held today, the NDP would win 135 seats in the 338-seat parliament (35 short of an absolute majority) while the Conservatives would win 121 and the Liberals 81.

In May, the NDP surprised observers with a sweeping victory in the provincial elections in Alberta, a province that had been consistently conservative.

There is one party contesting called the Rhinoceros Party that is running on the following platform.

  • Repeal the law of gravity
  • Promote higher education by building taller schools
  • Count the Thousand Islands to make sure the Americans didn’t steal any
  • Reform the retail lottery scheme by replacing cash prizes with Senate appointments
  • Seat the Queen of Canada in Buckingham, Quebec.
  • Nationalize Tim Horton’s
  • Move the national capital to Kapuskasing, Ontario
  • Privatize the Canadian Army
  • Guaranteed monthly orgasms

This sounds like an excellent platform. Unfortunately, the party states that it will not keep any of its promises if elected.


  1. DonDueed says

    Oh sure. Promise us monthly orgasms, and pretty soon they’ll be limiting us to monthly orgasms!

  2. Nick Gotts says

    Cross-posted (lightly edited for a different context) from Pharyngula:

    A few days ago I attended a talk by Owen Jones, who noted the rise of opposition to the neoliberal establishment consensus in highly culturally-specific forms – some of them very unpleasant right-wing populism, e.g. UKIP in the UK, but very variable even on the left. He admitted he had thought it was the wrong time for a left candidate to stand for Labour leadership – Corbyn’s rise has been as surprising to his supporters, and I suspect to Corbyn himself, as to his enemies. Jones also argued that the right were able to use the financial crash of 2007-8 to intensify their class war offensives because the left did not have an alternative narrative and ideas ready (as the right did both in that crisis, and that of the 1970s). Perhaps the appearance of unexpected left alternatives you and he note will give us at least a chance to seize the initiative in the next crisis – which it seems possible could even now be upon us (hottest year on record, growing numbers of desperate migrants, stock market falls…).

    On Syriza -- the first such alternative to come to office in Europe, I think they faced an extremely difficult problem on coming to office (a friend recently said they should have been much quicker about reforming the tax system, but I doubt they had enough civil servants who were both competent and honest, given the years of corruption in the appointments system), and a hideous dilemma when faced with the troika’s intransigence. But I wouldn’t write them off yet – especially as other currents of opposition arise in European countries.

    It’s also worth noting that the rise of left alternatives to neoliberalism to office (which of course is not the same as “to power”) began in South America as far back as 2001. A number of the resulting elected governments are now facing severe difficulties -- partly as a result of their own errors and weaknesses, including corruption at senior levels, but to a large extent because of oligarchic economic sabotage with foreign support. However, only in Honduras has the latter so far succeeded in reversing the change altogether.

  3. jockmcdock says

    Will Corbyn adopt some “old” Labour policies? A few months ago, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated on TDS that the reason they won in Scotland was because the SNP (Scottish National Party) adopted Labour policies from 10 to 20 years ago (more like 20 years, IMO). The SNP won 56 out of 59 available seats. Jon, of course, jokingly compared Nicola to Stalin for having such a winning margin.

    Here’s Part 2 of her interview in which she states the reasons for winning

    And if you’re interested in Part 1…

  4. all kimeea says

    The NDP being the most progressive isn’t much. The political landscape has been dragged to the right in Canukistan as in the US. Not quite as extreme but still skewing ever rightward. When these “socialists” took power in Ontario in the early 90s they went straight after the public unions. They still have unpaid vacation days forced on them (Bob Rae Days).

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