Saturday 5 June 2010

Next Left's 2010 World Cup guide

As this is the weekend of the newspaper World Cup Guides, it must also be time for Next Left to deliver on our earlier promise to let you know who to support to back the democratic left (sorry, North Korea, you will have to face the group of death without us) at the 2010 World Cup.

Our World Cup breaking news is not about injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Didier Drogba, but rather the strengthening of the democratic right with the defection from left to right since the World Cup draw of dark horses Chile as well as mighty England, the habitual quarter-finalists who many feel could go at least one better this time, while watching live developments in Holland and Japan closely.

So it is looking that bit tougher for the World Cup Left - though perhaps one of Spain, Brazil or Argentina might just come good in the end. The right can pin its hopes on Italy, England, Germany, France and Holland among others.

Here's the group-by-group guide:

Group A

South Africa - democratic left
France - democratic right
Uruguay - democratic left
Mexico - democratic right

The World Cup opens with two straight left-right games next Friday, as South Africa play Mexico and Uruguay take on France. The left can certainly cheer for the hosts, even if ANC President Jacob Zuma may struggle to live up to the Mandela legacy. With Uruguay's Broad Front left handsomely re-elected last November, as the team squeaked through qualifying, we will be looking to Diego Forlan to cause some trouble for Sarkozy's France, whose place in the finals is of questionable legitimacy and whose footballing form looks shaky too, on the opening night.

Group B

Argentina - democratic left
Nigeria - partially-democratic right
South Korea - democratic right
Greece - democratic left

George Osborne may have an underappreciated sense of humour, in scheduling Britain's emergency budget for June 22nd - when Greece meet Argentina in what could be the IMF World Cup final of financial crises.

We sympathise with Papendrou's newly elected Greek government as it seeks to deal with the financial crisis, but both footballing aesthetics and long-term tournament interests mean backing Argentina to come through the group strongest. Cristina Fernandez Kirchner's Presidency demonstrates the current ascendancy of the leftist Kirchnerist approach to Peronist populism. Poltically, this can be as turbulent as Diego Maradona's at times chaotic marshalling of Argentina's enormous footballing talent.

Argentina won the World Cup by questionable methods as hosts under the fascist junta in 1978, and under a democratic liberal president Raul Alfonsin in 1986.

Group C

England - democratic right
United States - democratic left
Algeria - semi-democratic
Slovenia - democratic left

Though Nick Clegg and the LibDems are junior Coalition partners in Britain's centre-right government, anybody wanting to stick fully to the Next Left world cup plan would have to back that unlikely pairing of underdogs, Slovenia and the United States of America against England. Both countries saw the main centre-left parties defeat the governing right in the most recent Presidential and Parliamentary polls, though ex-diplomat Danilo Turk and the Slovenian Social Democrats got less international notice than Barack Obama's US Democrats.

England have, of course, only won the World Cup under a Labour government. The best remembered US World Cup highlights - defeating England in 1950, and a creditable performance against Brazil as hosts in 1994 - came under Democratic Presidents Truman and Clinton, though the hapless Republican duo of Herbert Hoover (semi-finals, 1930) and George W Bush (quarter-finals, 2002) may have been unaware that the US progressed further in the soccerball tournament under their Presidencies.

Group D

Germany - democratic right
Australia - democratic left
Serbia - democratic left
Ghana - democratic left

The left has three underdogs to take on Germany, led by a Christian Democrat-Liberal coalition having had Social Democrat support in a Grand Coalition as hosts last time. Though Ghana's National Democratic Congress is a member of the Socialist International, the Australian Labour party and Serbian social democrats might stake slightly better claims to be programmatic centre-left parties. But any one of them could be England's second round opponent.

Germany has won two World Cups under Christian Democrat governments (in 1954 and 1990) and once in 1974 under the Social Democrats Helmut Schmidt.

Group E

Holland - democratic right (election pending)
Denmark - democratic right
Japan - democratic left
Cameroon - semi/undemocratic

The football commentators have yet to spot that Group E is the 'group of political uncertainty'.

The Japanese Democratic Party have selected a new prime minister yesterday, in an attempt to get the government back on track just ten months after sweeping the dominant LDP from power.

The Dutch hold an eve of World Cup general election on Wednesday June 9th, after the Dutch Labour Party resigned as a junior coalition partner in February. There is no reason to anticipate the formation of a government before the tournament ends. Our friends at Progress have followed the campaign and are more cautious having earlier been optimistic that Dutch Labour might spring a surprise and top the poll.

The left looks weak in Group E. If the Dutch election results go badly, and Geert Wilders looks like joining the government, social democrats might instead back Denmark, where the centre-right are in power but the opposition social democrats are performing creditably under the leadership of Helle Thorning-Scmidt, related by marriage to the Kinnock political dynasty.

Group F

Italy - democratic right
Paraguay - democratic left
New Zealand - democratic right
Slovakia - democratic left

"Anybody but Berlusconi" should offer a straightforward starting point in Group F. Paraguay, under 'red Bishop' Fernando Lugo, the second leftist President in its history, are an easy choice. The Slovak social democrats have controversial coalition partners in the far right Slovak National Party, over which they were suspended from the Party of European Socialists.

Group G

Brazil - democratic left
North Korea - left dictatorship
Ivory Coast - semi/non-democratic
Portugal - democratic left

Lula won the Brazilian Presidency after the 2002 World Cup, and so will be keen to see the country secure a victory before he leaves office next January after this Autumn's presidential election. With Portugese Socialist PM Jose Socrates' re-elected last Autumn, the left can back both group favourites, though superstar Ronaldo does not represent an egalitarian spirit and Portugal's footballing "golden generation" have become veterans who may now have missed their chance to emulate the achievement of Eusebio's 1966 semi-finalists in the country's pre-democratic era.

If both Brazil and Portugal do qualify, one of these teams will feature in an all-left tie of the second round against favourites Spain.

Group H

Spain - democratic left
Switzerland - democratic centre
Honduras - semi-democratic right
Chile - democratic right

European champions Spain join Brazil in heading the left's challenge in South Africa, following Socialist Prime Minister Zapatero's re-election in March 2009. The increasing presence and influence of Barcelona players in the Spanish side can also be seen as tilting them towards democratic republicanism - with the Barcelona presidency another key election to take place during the World Cup.

Arguably the anti-multilateral Swiss should be the left's second team: the pro-European Social Democrats are the second largest partner in the power-sharing Federal Council.

The left lost power in Chile last year after a successful period of government, in part because Michelle Bachelet was ineligible to run again, having approval ratings of 80% asher term ended. So we will still back Chile over Honduras, in protest at the political coup which preceded the right's election victory last year.


So that's the Next Left guide to the group stages. We will be back to advise on any tactical voting required when the knock-out rounds begin towards the end of the month.


Leo said...

This post gives the misleading impression that politics is more important than football!

Unknown said...

Obama and the Democrats... leftists!? hahahaha, that's a good one :D

Libertarian said...

That's interesting,

Every "democratic left" country has a worse economy than the "democratic right" except the USA and I would dispute that the USA is a leftish country, sure it's idiot President is but that's all

Unknown said...

"Ivory Coast - semi/non-democratic" - how do you figure that a country with recent civil war means it's "semi/non-democratic"? By that measure, the UK was for a good while "semi/non-democratic" because of Northern Ireland.

Sunder Katwala said...


It has to be based on specific judgements about whether there are free and fair elections, and other aspects of democracy, in each country.

I have Nigeria as partially-democratic right, because its most recent elections were not entirely credible, and it has had a shaky return to democracy, though it remains in the Commonwealth. Most of the others seem to me to meet the core threshold of a functioning political democracy (unless others have specific info/challenges).

There is no debate about North Korea. I call Algeria "semi-democratic" as a one-dominant party democracy, with quite a lot of restrictions on free association, though the government probably does have a broad mandate to govern from not entirely fair or free elections. That is pretty much true of Cameroon too, with a flawed one dominant party democracy.

Ivory Coast seems a clearer case. The President's mandate has long expired, around 2005 I think. Attempts to hold new elections have been routinely scheduled and then cancelled every year since. So "semi" reflects that there is a public commitment to revive a democratic system and constitution after the civil war, but no elections have been held. No elections is an easier case than gauging whether the elections are deemed fair by eg UN, African Union and/or other observers.

The northern ireland case isn't comparable. Britain remained a functioning electoral democracy from 1969 to the 1990s. One could make the point about NI specifically if and when democratic institutions are in permanent suspension.

Jesse said...

USA democratic left? What the hell... before you can define left and right I think we need to know where the middle ground is.