When the financial meltdown of autumn 2008 got underway, there was much debate on how this would affect politics around the world. Some argued that it would make people swing left - after all the cause of the crisis was the private sector out of control and not regulated enough (regulation, which the Cameron-commissioned Redwood report slammed as too heavy turned out to be too light). Others argued that financial crises made people turn right as they became more conservative, and cited the 1930's for proof.
Well, we've now had several general elections around the globe, so we should have a feel for how the global crisis has affected voters. Here are the general elections conducted since the crisis broke:
Canada: The Canadian federal election came during the crisis itself; it was held on Oct 14th 2008. The Conservative Harper government increased their seats by 19, with a swing of 1.38%, but failed to gain the overall majority they wanted. The result was that the incumbent conservatives continued to govern with a minority government. Swing: right
USA: The American federal election was held in November 2008, and voters swung decisively left. Obama took the White House and the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. The turning point in the election was John McCain's histrionics during the TARP bailout, after which Obama started to pull ahead. Swing: left
Iceland: The Icelanders held a crisis general election two years before it was due, in April 2009, when their government resigned. Iceland was one of the worst hit countries in the financial meltdown, and a combination of being outside the protection of the EU and infuriating the rest of the world by trying to renege on international financial law meant they had to go to the IMF for help. IMF help came at the price of interest rates at an eye-watering 12%. The right-wing Independence party, which had been in power for the previous 18 years got hammered in the election. The Social Democrats were elected in an alliance with the Greens. The Social Democrats ran the election on a promise to try to gain entry into the EU and join the euro within four years. They followed through and formally applied for EU membership in July 2009, and the EU accepted the application, and has started accession proceedings. Swing: left
India: The enormous Indian electorate held their federal and state elections in stages from mid April to mid May 2009. India was relatively unscathed by the financial crisis thanks to the old-fashioned reserve requirements imposed by their central bank and heavy banking regulation imposed by their centre-left government. The governing centre-left Congress party gained seats, with a swing of 3.96%. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian Prime Minister to be re-elected in 40 years - an impressive feat given that India's stroppy voters take pleasure in kicking politicians out. Swing: left
Japan: Japan held their general election in August 2009. Japan was indirectly affected by the financial crisis due to their reliance on exporting to the USA. After spending most of the 1990's mired in zero growth and deflation, they had hoped they had moved back to normality from the middle of this decade. But the crisis plunged them back into deflation and something seems to have snapped. The centre-right LDP, which has ruled Japan since 1955, was swept from power in a landslide defeat (they lost 177 seats). The Japanese finally got tired of crony capitalism where public funds were used for pet projects in LDP constituencies, while doing nothing for the main economy. The centre-left Democratic Japanese Party took power. Swing: left
Germany: The German federal election took place on schedule in Sept 2009. The centre-right CDU had been governing in a grand coalition with the centre-left SPD since 2005. The grand coalition was held to have handled the financial crisis well - but credit went to the CDU's Angela Merkel, whose party gained enough seats to be able to form a government with their preferred partners, the Free Democrats. Swing: right
Norway: The norweigian general election was held in Sept 2009. Norway was largely unaffected by the financial crisis, insulated by it's oil money. The ruling labour party was returned to power, along with the Socialist Left party and the Centre party in a Red-Green alliance. Norweigian Labour gained seats compared to the previous election. Swing: left
Greece: Greece also held a general election two years before it was due, in October 2009. The right-wing New Democratic party, which had been cooking the books, was swept from power, and the Panhellenic Socialist movement led by George Papandreou came to power with a mandate to clean up corruption and sort things out. Greece has also been badly hit by the financial crisis. Swing: left
The conclusion to be drawn from above is that the crisis has moved people leftwards. Only Angela Merkel escapes, and her government is pretty moderate as right-wing governments go.
One thing to note though is that most of Europe conducted it's general elections before the crisis hit (Sweden 2006, Denmark 2007, France 2007, Ireland 2007, Belgium 2007, Netherlands 2007, Italy April 2008, Austria in Sept 2008 - In Austria, the socialists are the largest party and hold the chancellorship, but the far-right made substantial progress too), so it's hard to tell what their populations think about the crisis. They arn't due to go to the polls again till 2010/11.