It was a good weekend for progressives. First was the massive win for Labour in Britain, then the quite surprising emergence of a left-wing alliance as the leading party in France, and finally the reformist Masoud Pezeshkian defeating his hard-line right-wing rival in Iran.

I have posted previously about the Labour win, a victory that was impressive in seat count (Labour won two-thirds) but was less than an enthusiastic endorsement by the British people. Labour only got one-third of the popular vote, less in fact than the combined vote of the two conservative parties, and this in an election with a low turnout. Fortunately they have the right leader for the circumstances. PM Keir Starmer is very much the centrist technocrat, a man who may help restore faith in politics and provide a steady hand on the social services and economic wheels.

The big surprise of course was the French result. The first round of the two-round affair had indicated that the National Rally (RN) might form France’s first far-right government. But the leftist New Popular Front (NFP) not only took first place, bumping President Macron’s centrist coalition into second place, but relegating the RN to a disappointing (for them) third place. The NFP won a third of the seats in the National Assembly and will now have to negotiate with other parties to form a coalition government.

By reducing Macron’s party to second place the French have suggested they want power in the hands of parliament (the National Assembly) not in the hands of the president as it seems to have been in recent years.

Unlike the British election, the French had a high voter turnout, the highest in four decades. Apparently the possibility of a far-right victory was a powerful motivation. At least the French know what they don’t want. Nonetheless the RN still significantly increased its presence in the Assembly and will bear watching.

The leader of the NFP, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, couldn’t be more different from Britain’s new leader. A former Trotskyist, the anti-capitalist, anti-American Mélenchon seems determined to implement a heavily left-wing agenda. Considering that more French people have a lower opinion of him than even Marine Le Pen, he may have trouble holding his alliance together never mind forming a coalition to form a government. As for being appointed prime minister, President Macron has little use for him, so his chances aren’t good. The next few months should be very interesting in France as the parties negotiate a new government.

And then there’s Iran. It may seem odd including this theocracy in a piece about democracy, but there was an election of sorts, neither fair nor free and largely boycotted, but nonetheless it did have a progressive result, so I’ll mention it. The election pitted a reformist against a hard-line right-winger, and the reformist won convincingly. He will not be a president with much power—the big decisions are made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his mullahs—but he has promised to reach out to the West and ease enforcement of the country’s mandatory headscarf law, so the picture brightens.

None of these three events represent overwhelming victories for the left, but they do represent progressive shifts. Collective responsibility has confronted and rejected the hard-line right, refreshing to see in these times of troubled democracies. What just happened in these three countries gives hope that democratic electorates will still do the right thing. Now the big question is, will American voters take the hint?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *