Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday's elections in France and Greece: big losses for the Princess Angie von Merkel

Socialist Party candidate François Hollande won the Presidency in France.

According to the reports at this writing, the conservative New Democracy (ND) Party came in first in Greek parliamentary elections, a left coalition called Syriza led by Alexis Tsipras. But ND and the third-place social-democratic party Pasok claim they have just enough seats to form a pro-austerity parliamentary majority. But according to this report in Athens News by George Gilson, ND and Pasok dominance dealt 'fatal blow' 05/06/2012, quotes Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos as saying "that a Pasok-ND coalition is not feasible, and that a coalition government needs broader participation." And Gilson writes, "The total collapse of Pasok is the most dramatic development in the election, as its 13.6 percent is about 30 percentage points less than its 2009 showing. Only in the 1970s, before the party first came to power, did it record a lower result."

According to the normal schedule, the Greek president acting as head of state on Tuesday will ask the ND leader Antonis Samaras to form a government. If he cannot do so in three days, the task would pass to Tsipras on behalf of Syriza, if the second-place standing holds when all votes are counted.

Hollande has opposed the current austerity policies in France and more generally German Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity hardline for Europe. We will soon see how hard he intends to push back against Angie, who will surely try to bulldoze him into line on austerity.

Both the French and Greek votes reflected the widespread discontent in both countries over the current course of Angienomics. Angie also had a setback in elections on Sunday in the norther German state (province) of Schleswig-Holstein. The previous conservative-liberal (CDU/FDP) coalition in the Landtag (state parliament) was voted down, though Angie could take some comfort from the fact that her CDU did take first place. (Wahl in Schleswig-Holstein. CDU knapp vor SPD, aber Schwarz-Gelb abgewählt Süddeutsche Zeitung 06.05.2012). The most likely coalition, though, at this point looks to be a combination of the SPD, the Greens and the Südschleswigsche Wählerverband (SSW), a small party which largely represents the Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein.

One notable result in Schleswig-Holstein is that the Left Party failed to make the 5% hurdle for getting representation in the Landtag. The Left Party doesn't seemed to have gotten a lot of wind in its sails politically from this depression. The SSW didn't actually make 5% either, but under the particular election law there, they don't have to. (There's a long history involved over the rights of the Danish minority there.)

And George Gilson reports in the article linked above on the Greek elections, "The Communist Party (KKE) appeared to gain little support from the crisis, as its 8.5 percent is just a tad higher than the 7.54 percent it received in 2009."

A bad Sunday for Angie. But a Sunday with some hope for the countries of Europe currently suffering from the suicidal austerity politics she insists upon for the eurozone and the EU.

Unfortunately, the US coverage we get on the European crisis tends to be along the lines of half-wit commentary about how if we don't slash Social Security and force Grandma to eat catfood, "we'll end up like Greece".

In theory, the EU could fix this by having the European Central Bank (ECB) act as buyer of last resort for soveriegn debt; creating eurobonds based on the whole eurozone's credit that individual countries could use; and, turning the eurozone into a real "transfer union" where economic stimulus and stabilizing programs like unemployment insurance would be financed on a eurozone-wide basis.

But Angie's insistence on austerity economics (for everyone but Germany) during a depression has already done so much damage they probably can't get there. The more likely options are: most of Europe agrees to continued economic suicide through austerity policies; or, countries start bailing out of the euro and go for an "Argentine solution".

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