Saturday, May 05, 2012

Active electoral weekend in Europe

French Presidential election Sunday. Greek parliamentary elections also on Sunday. It will be an exciting weekend on the European electoral front.

In Greece, the two major parties are Pasok (social-democratic) and the conservative New Democracy (ND), both heavily committed to suicidal neoliberal economic austerity programs and both subservient to the dictates of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. The new parliament is scheduled to be seated on May 17. The New Democracy ticket is headed by Antonis Samaras, Pasok's by Evangelos Venizelos. Greek electoral arrangements award an additional 50 seats to the party that comes in first, making it easier to form a single-party majority.

But both parties have damaged themselves so badly that it's possible that even the 50-vote bonus won't be enough to give one party a majority. Parties to the right and left of Pasok and New Democracy are expected to gain seats. Costas Douzinas reports in Trügerische Morgenröte Der Freitag 03.05.2012 that Pasok is polling around 15%, ND around 20%.

A left party called Syriza, with Alexis Tsipras at the head of the ticket, could take third place. As Douzinas points out, prospects are better than normal that the third-place party could wind up forming the government if neither of the two leading parties is able to do so. Tsipras wants to dump Angie's disastrous austerity policies and renegotiate the Greek debt. The next two most significant left parties are the Communists and the Democratic Left. But the latter party is still committed to an Angiefied Europe. Unless Greece can break out of Merkel's austerity trap, their economy will be devastated.

The arrogance of Angie's government is still going strong. Reuters reports in Schaeuble says new government must respect pledges Athens News 04.05.2012, "German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Friday that Greece would have to 'bear the consequences' if its voters elected a new government in an election on Sunday that does not respect commitments made by the outgoing coalition."

There's also a far-right party in Greece called Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi), whose showing Sunday will also be important to watch. Douzinas writes:

Das gesamte griechische Machtsystem könnte in den nächsten Tagen zusammenbrechen wie ein Kartenhaus – die von der extremen Rechten ausgehenden Gefahren sind nur allzu offensichtlich. Doch könnte ein Sturz der Eliten auch einen ganz anders gearteten dritten Akt einläuten, der die griechische Tragödie zu einem kathartischen Schluss führt.

[The whole Greek system of power could fall apart in the next few days like a house of cards - the danger proceeding from the extreme right is all too clear. But a fall of the elites could also lead in an entirely different sort of third act that leads the Greek tragedy to a cathartic end.]
By the latter, he is referring to the possibility of some sort of left-center coalition government willing to break with Germany and Angienomics.

But its also clear that the devastation of Greek austerity has given the far right a shot in the arm (Daniel Howden, Fascism rises from the depths of Greece's despair The Independent 05/04/2012):

At Greece's last general election in 2009 Golden Dawn, whose members use the Nazi salute and whose party symbol is an adapted swastika, polled fewer than 20,000 votes nationwide. Now as the country goes to the polls on Sunday, national politics more closely resemble those of the embattled area.

Entering its fourth year in recession, Greece now outstrips even Spain for youth unemployment with the new statistics published yesterday showing joblessness among the under-25s at 51.2 per cent. The headline unemployment rate is 21.7 per cent while the real rate is believed to be closer to 25 per cent.
Reuters also reports that Angie's willing partner in the destruction of various EU economies, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is still not looking like the winner in France Sunday (Catherine Bremer, Sarkozy's chances fade two days before French runoff 05/03/2012):

Opinion polls suggested Sarkozy could squeeze Socialist challenger Francois Hollande's lead down to around five percentage points from as much as 10 in the last few days.

However, centrist Francois Bayrou effectively buried one of Sarkozy's last hopes of hauling himself higher on Sunday. Bayrou, who came fifth in last month's first round with 9 percent, said he would vote for Hollande on Sunday and left his supporters to make up their own minds.

Bayrou attacked Sarkozy's use of tough language on immigration and Europe, aimed at winning over the nearly one in five voters who picked far-right leader Marine Le Pen in round one - an effort which the National Front leader snubbed this week by also refusing to endorse the incumbent.
More than the horse race is at stake. Hollande is demanding a renegotiation of the hideous austerity pact that Angie is insisting that EU countries approve and which Sarkozy has endorsed. Hollande wants to move toward more stimulative economic policies in France.

Local elections in Britain this past week are also indicating pubic with the neoliberal austerity policies of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron (Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt, Local elections drubbing piles pressure on David Cameron Guardian 05/05/2012):

David Cameron is under intense pressure to change the course of his government after suffering a severe electoral defeat that saw Labour chalk up gains across the country, and Ken Livingstone run Boris Johnson closer than expected in the London mayoral contest. ...

Ed Miliband, seizing control of 32 councils across the country, claimed Labour was back on the people's side, but promised he would work hard every day to win the electorate's trust. His aides, delighted by a strong showing in Scotland and southern England, admitted Labour had benefited from Tory abstainers as well as converts.

Senior Liberal Democrats warned that another set of results like Friday's would spell the end of the party as an independent nationwide force.

In an acerbic attack on the government, Lord Oakeshott, the former Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said the party would only recover popularity if growth is restored to the economy. He said: "The Treasury looks like a beached whale after the tide has gone out – there is the odd spout about yet more cuts but basically they are clueless and helpless."
Sunday's result in France and Greece will be very interesting.

Tags: , , ,

No comments: