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This map shows whether the left or the right is in power in every European democracy

Daily Kos Elections has been publishing our monthly International Elections Digest covering major foreign election developments throughout 2016. We put that knowledge to use making the above map that shows—very generally speaking—whether “the left” or “the right” wields political power in Europe, since nearly every country there is relatively democratic and has ideologically well-defined political parties. The terms left and right themselves are fluid and can encompass a wide range of ideologies, but this map generalizes from common characteristics to categorize each European government based on its political leanings.

Parties holding social democratic, socialist, progressive, or social liberal ideals are grouped on the left, and those holding traditional conservative, neoliberal, or anti-immigrant right-wing populist principles are placed on the right, while truly moderate parties fall in the center. This map uses the standard international color scheme where the left is usually colored red and the right is usually colored blue, which is the opposite of what America’s Democrats and Republicans are accustomed to (see here for a larger version).

One thing you might notice is how most European countries don’t have one ideological side so to speak controlling a majority in the legislature. That’s because nearly all of Europe uses the parliamentary system or has a weak presidency, while the vast majority of these countries use proportional representation, where parties generally receive a share of seats equivalent to their share of the popular vote. Those systems consequently make it much likelier that third parties win seats, which often leads to coalitions between parties of differing ideologies. Switzerland’s unique constitutional arrangement even mandates that all of its several major parties share power to a certain degree.

Europe’s left-of-center parties are at a bit of a low point after 2016, and the center-left leads an ideologically likeminded majority in just four countries: Albania, France, Malta, and Portugal. Right-of-center parties form majorities in 13 countries such as the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Belgium, and Norway. Disturbingly, right-wing populist extremist parties have won unprecedented majorities in both Hungary and Poland in recent years. Like their brethren President-elect Donald Trump in the U.S., governing majorities there have undermined democracy and the rule of law, marking a dangerous recent trend in European politics.

The year ahead in 2017 could see major changes as several European countries hold elections. Chief among them is France, where outgoing center-left Socialist President Francois Hollande is horribly unpopular, and the country is poised to possibly elect its most right-wing president in generations. On the other hand, the left could regain power in countries like Norway, while many parliamentary countries could always have unforeseen early elections if the prime minister loses the support of their parliamentary majority. In any event, Daily Kos Elections will be sure to cover these developments in the new year.

from Daily Kos