A new politics in Europe

The emergence of a new politics across Europe is making public affairs a more demanding landscape.

A new politics in Europe – Weber Shandwick EMEA Blog//

We’re seeing the emergence of a new politics across Europe, as more extreme parties gain a voice in the political arena.

This is making public affairs a more competitive and demanding landscape than ever, as social movements are more volatile, and public debate is open to new (or resurrected) players and ideas, sometimes from far to the right or left.

This challenge was particularly thrilling in Spain during 2015, a year of complex electoral processes.

In December, Spain faced the most unpredictable elections since the country’s transition to democracy. Spain’s conservative Popular Party won the election, but the lack of a clear majority brings unprecedented uncertainty to the country’s governance. It is the first time since the 1978 Constitution that a member of the party with most seats does not chair the Spanish Parliament.

Spain’s political landscape is more complex and sophisticated today than in any previous term. Institutional relations require accurate expert analysis for companies to digest and formulate strategy around all the new policy proposals and political players.

The political landscape is influenced not only by the emergence of new parties, but also by the difficulty in forming a government.

In this scenario, with a lack of any clear majority party, advocacy starts with a multi-stakeholder approach: governments and authorities are not only the main target groups to take into consideration in the public affairs strategies we develop for clients.

The challenges of this new politics in Spain include:

The transition to a multi-party system. Emerging parties Podemos (“We can”) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) got 34.5% of the total vote: the first parties for decades to achieve such a good result the first time they ran in national elections. Their meteoric rise lies in their ability to attract votes from both the right and the left.
All main parties are advocating constitutional reform. This will include territorial issues, the electoral system and better representation, as well as the rules governing the succession of the throne.
The question of Catalan independence has become a dominant focal point of the Spanish political landscape. The Catalan government coalition has made a public commitment to independence, which brings extra pressure at a national level.
A series of internal fractures within all parties – fights for leadership or succession and territorial discrepancies – may diminish their ability to focus on policies.
It’s no wonder that pollsters are having a hard time predicting the outcomes of elections.

There’s no doubt that this new politics is having a profound effect on the work of public affairs professionals in Europe, in three main areas:

Firstly, public affairs and corporate communications teams will need to develop relationships with new parties and play close attention to areas of policy likely to have an impact on business regulation.

This is not always obvious: parties on the right may adopt policies, in terms of regulation, that might apparently belong more to the left. So it’s crucial to get close to the people involved, and the details.

Second, businesses and organisations need to understand the social drivers that are making people vote in that direction, and whether it reflects a more profound shift in consumer sentiment that will have a wider impact on preferences for goods and services.

And finally, businesses and organisations must protect themselves. They need to be particularly careful not to adopt the language and posture of any one party as a quick fix to a communications ambition. On the contrary, the need to retain a neutral political stance becomes even more important in periods of instability.

Organisations need to be very clear about their policy positions, maintain neutrality, and treat all political stakeholders in even-handed way.