The recent removal of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney from his party leadership is the latest example of some political parties struggling to maintain unity within their ranks.
Kenney barely surpassed 51 percent in the party leadership vote, effectively forcing him to resign. Under the party’s constitutional rules, he could have stayed, but as far as real politics went, Kenney knew he was done.
Essentially, Kenney was voted out because, while a right-wing politician, he is obviously not right-wing enough for the United Conservative Party and he has been too willing to accept various public health restrictions during the pandemic.
The party will now engage in what is sure to be a divisive and likely bitter race to succeed him. The candidates, having witnessed Kenney’s fate, will surely push the party even further to the right.
But the situation in Alberta is not unique.
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The federal Conservatives are torn apart in their own race for leadership, and the candidate seen as the most likely winner is aggressively pushing right-wing politics. It is completely unclear whether the party can hold together under the leadership of Pierre Poilievre or whether it will split into different camps.
All political parties are essentially coalitions and, in at least some cases, these coalitions seem to be becoming more difficult to hold together.
For example, it seems that social conservatives and so-called progressive conservatives are no longer getting along in Alberta, and that may very well be the case with the federal Conservative Party.
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South of the border we will witness the two main political parties endure self-inflicted earthquakes.
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The Republican Party appears to be in the midst of a civil war, pitting party members who are Donald Trump supporters against those who are decidedly not. It is not entirely clear whether it can ensure long-term survival.
Democrats aren’t nearly as consumed by internal warfare, but elements of it are emerging. If the party does not do well in the upcoming midterm elections, there may very well be an internal revolt against the Joe Biden administration (likely led by left-wing elements in the party).
While there is currently more evidence that right-wing parties have the greatest problems when it comes to maintaining unity, left-wing parties are not immune to the same fate.
The emergence of things like police defunding, disruptive culture, and an aggressive environmental protest movement may shed support for progressive parties.
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So far, the BC NDP government doesn’t seem to have lost much support for these groups, but the longer they are in power, the harder it is for them to repel these factions.
As for the BC Liberals, holding this so-called “free enterprise” coalition together will be almost impossible if they continue to be essentially barred from urban and suburban areas when it comes to MLA elections.
Political discourse has grown coarser during this pandemic (check out Twitter every day) and traditional political alliances have been weakened as tempers are divided and anger and frustration mount among many.
The potential impact of this worsening situation could be devastating for political parties and their leaders. Anyone who doubts this should speak to Jason Kenney.
Keith Baldrey is Global BC’s chief political reporter
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