Deflation is looming and growth is nowhere to be seen. There’s conflict in Ukraine, unemployment is still eye-wateringly high, and it doesn’t seem like much of that is going to change any time soon.
So insurgent opposition parties are popping up all over the continent, promising an end to crisis or a return to how things used to be.
Here’s what Citi’s researchers had to say about Europe’s political developments in their outlook for 2015:
Future developed country elections will likely continue to see the popularity of new — and not so new — anti-establishment parties, from France’s National Front to Greece’s Syriza to Spain’s up-and-coming far-left Podemos, increasing the risk of fragile multi-party coalitions and reducing the already limited political capital of leaders. In our view, the appetite for political alternatives will endure for many years to come, and their public support could increase in the event of a triple-dip European recession, a non-negligible risk.
Here’s a look at the five leaders most likely to cause an upset in the year ahead:
Berndt Lucke, Alternative fuer Deutschland
Lucke often doesn’t get a look-in when people are talking about Europe’s fresh new populist movements. AfD is comparatively poorly supported and, unlike the emergent centre-right and right-wing parties in other parts of Europe, AfD and Lucke are less prone to inflammatory rhetoric.
But that shouldn’t undermine Lucke’s potential impact. Germany is a colossal, irreplaceable lynchpin in the European project.
AfD support Germany’s membership of the EU, but wants it to stop using the euro. Standard & Poor’s went as a far as to say that the group posed a risk to the stability of the eurozone.
Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats enjoy widespread support for now, but some disgruntled voters are heading to the AfD. If more follow them as the German economy slows down, the Christian Democrats could be forced to pursue more anti-European policies in an attempt to get them back. German voters are overwhelmingly opposed to Europe-wide stimulus projects and a more stern stance from Berlin could worsen Europe’s already achingly-slow growth.
Alexis Tsipras, Syriza
There’s not much that Germany’s Berndt Lucke has in common with Greece’s Alexis Tsipras. Syriza have become the darlings of Europe’s anti-austerity left, and look likely to triumph in the snap elections that could come at the start of 2015.
Syriza has a political platform that puts it on a collision course with Europe’s most important institutions. That prospect sent Greek stocks into the ground last week, seeing their worst sell-off in more than 25 years. Syriza is at the heart of Europe’s far left: four Italian politicians were even elected to the European Parliament this year on a “Tsipras List“.
Greece was at the centre of the euro crisis from 2010 onwards, and it could still be the crux of European politics in 2015.
Nigel Farage, UKIP
Farage, the long-time leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), poses a threat to Europe from outside of the currency union.
UKIP aren’t likely to win the UK’s upcoming general election in May 2015. They’re not even necessarily going to get any seats, owing to the UK’s electoral system. But their shadow is hanging over British politics at the moment.
The Labour party has hastily assembled its own strategy for dealing with UKIP, and the Conservative party have promised a 2017 referendum on the UK’s EU membership which London’s financial giants are dreading.
Even with relatively little concrete political power, just a few seats in parliament for Farage’s UKIP could be crucial. No party seems likely to get majority support from the country, so alliance-building will be unavoidable after 2015. If UKIP’s handful of MPs held the balance of power, they could push for an EU referendum almost immediately.
Pablo Iglesias, Podemos
Spain’s anti-austerity insurgents, Podemos, have surged from nothing to become the most popular party in Spain right now.
If this list was ranked, Iglesias would be a serious contender for the man most likely to upturn the European political system in 2015. Iglesias is a fan of Greece’s Alexis Tsipras, but unlike Greece, Spain is too big to be isolated by European authorities.
There’s now a real chance that the eurozone’s fourth biggest economy might vote for a guy who refers positively to Vladimir Lenin in his political speeches. Even if the rest of 2015 goes well, Spain’s election in December could prompt a huge crisis.
Similarly to Syriza, Podemos would seriously clash with the eurozone’s economic and political orthodoxy, particularly on the issue of fiscal policy. The eurozone has agreed to rules that try to limit the deficit spending of its members, which Podemos would not abide by.
Marine Le Pen, Front National
Marine Le Pen is the most obvious representative of Europe’s hard right. Le Pen leads Front National that her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, led before her. A long-time presence in French politics which came in second place in France’s 2002 Presidential election.
Like Germany, France doesn’t have elections this year, but Le Pen and FN are making their presence felt in France. The country has municipal elections next year, when FN are likely to make gains, adding to their victory (by more than four percentage points) in the European parliament elections in France.
As in Germany, it’s very unlikely that FN will enter a formal position of power. The country’s two-round presidential elections make it functionally impossible for them to win at the highest level, but they will continue to have an effect on the mainstream parties of the French left and right, as they scramble to please its voters.