It appears that the Eurocrats still haven’t managed to structurally assassinate democracy in Europe, and they are running out of time to get the job done. The weekend’s elections in Greece and France were a major disappointment for the EU experiment, to say the least. One of the key pillars of that experiment has become the drive for an impossible level of “fiscal discipline” through austerity, and now this pillar is facing its most existential threat to date.
“As long as strains of democracy remain alive and well within Eurozone nations, the Euro will be buried that much deeper in its grave. And for every inch deeper it goes, it will take much more than an inch to get back to where it was before. Remember, it takes a lot of effort/coordination to keep the Euro alive, and very little to let it die. In the “distant future”, there most likely won’t be anyone deciding any issues for an entire continent of people.”
The European people have now pushed the Euro a few more feet under, as they expressed their discontent in voting booths located in both the periphery and the core, and there is no doubt that the entire world will take notice in upcoming weeks. The most important story of the weekend is the one in Greece, where the pan-European, pro-banker platform of austericide for the masses first began and may first end. Greek political parties that are critical of the status quo bailout-austerity process took down a whopping 33%+ of the vote.
The left-wing Syriza party and right-wing Independent Greeks party want to nullify all the agreements reached with the Troika to date, or “abolish the memorandum”, and the communist KKE party would like to leave the EMU altogether. Meanwhile, the pro-austerity PASOK and New Democracy parties got pummeled down to just above 30% of the vote, down from 77% in the 2009 elections. It is also the first time the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party is set to gain enough votes (6-7%) to get seats in Parliament, which certainly adds something to the bitter sentiment draping the country now.
Here is a report on the results from Ekathimerini:
Greece was plunged into political uncertainty on Sunday night as national elections produced a fragmented Parliament of at least seven parties and a result that could preclude New Democracy and PASOK forming a coalition government over the next few days.
The possibility of the two parties that backed Greece’s new bailout combining their forces was undermined by a collapse in their support, particularly in the case of PASOK. The Socialists suffered a drubbing around the country and looked to have been beaten into third place by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) with what could be PASOK’s worst ever showing at the ballot box.
The election result was also notable for the entry into Parliament of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), which in 2009 had only gained 0.29 percent of the vote and looked set to gather close to 7 percent at these elections.
With 45 percent of the vote counted last night, New Democracy was leading with 20.23 percent. It was followed by SYRIZA on 15.94 percent and PASOK on 13.92 percent. The right-wing anti-bailout Independent Greeks party, formed just a few months ago, came fourth with 10.40 percent. The Communist Party (KKE) garnered 8.36 percent, which was lower than most opinion polls had suggested. Chrysi Avgi gained 6.84 percent and the Democratic Left was the last party certain of a place in Parliament with 5.99 percent.
Two other parties, Ecologist Greens and the nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), were close to gaining seats in the House with less than half of the votes counted.
The result means that in the best-case scenario, New Democracy, which will be awarded an extra 50 seats, and PASOK would only have a majority of a few MPs in the 300-seat Parliament. Even if they were able to agree to form a coalition, it would have weak political legitimacy in wake of an election that saw Greek voters move en masse toward parties that opposed the bailout agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras both declared themselves open to the idea of forming a pro-European national unity administration that would include other parties and would seek to renegotiate the terms of the EU-IMF loan agreement.
However, the possibility of a third group joining such a government looked extremely slim last night.
Perhaps the best hope for Greece’s two main parties would have been Democratic Left, which maintained a clear pro-European stance during the campaign. However, party leader Fotis Kouvelis repeated his position that cooperation with New Democracy and PASOK was not in Democratic Left’s intentions. “The results show people’s frustration and anger,” he said.
A failure by PASOK and ND to form a government would leave second-placed SYRIZA, the night’s big winners, with the option of trying to form a government. Greece’s electoral law means that in case of a hung parliament, the first party has three days to form a government, followed by the second party and then the group that comes in third.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who at 38 led his party to its best election showing, ruled out the option of working with either New Democracy or PASOK and said he would try to form a coalition of parties opposed to the EU-IMF memorandum, starting with those on the left.
Tsipras said in a speech from his headquarters that the austerity policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel “have suffered a crushing defeat.” He said he would appeal to the “forces of the left” in a bid to form a coalition to “abolish the memorandum.” “Their signatures have been undermined by the popular mandate,” he said, referring to the leaders of the outgoing coalition government.
If the top three parties fail to form a coalition government, President Karolos Papoulias has the right to broker a deal to create a national unity administration. If this effort fails, Greece will have to go to new elections.
“Political uncertainty” is just a bit of an under-statement here, even for a country like Greece. This unsurprising, yet forceful rebuke of the Eurocratic agenda by the Greek people calls into question all of the austerity-soaked adhesive that was acting as the ONLY thing still holding the Union together. We see a somewhat milder, yet very similar popular sentiment being expressed in France through democratic elections as well. The bottom line there is that pro-austerity, status quo President Sarkozy is out, and the guy critical of it all, Francois Hollande, is in.
Here’s Henry Samuel for the Telegraph:
The effects in France were equally as momentous as those in Greece as Mr Sarkozy was ousted from the Elysée after just one term in the worst setback for the centre-Right for over 30 years.
The “silent majority” that Mr Sarkozy repeatedly swore would “submerge” his Socialist rival and all those who predicted he stood no chance, failed to speak up at the 11th hour.
Exit polls cited by France 2 television gave the Socialist 51.9 per cent of the vote with a turnout of around 81 per cent, as joyful crowds gathered in his rural fiefdom of Tulle and in front of Socialist headquarters in Paris. Mr Hollande was expected to pledge his victory would be a force for change not just in France but in Europe, as he prepared for a political battle with Angela Merkel between her economic doctrine of austerity and his emphasis on state spending to kick start the economy.
The triumphant candidate reacted to his victory by telling supporters he had a mandate to change France.
“On this May 6, the French have just chosen change in bearing me to the office of president,” the 57 year-old told a cheering crowd in his hometown of Tulle, in the rural Corrèze region. “It is the French dream that I will strive to make whole during the mandate that has just been given me.”
Jean-Marc Ayrault, the man who is expected to be France’s next prime minister, said: “We must get out of this austerity in Europe and tonight all our partners in governments around Europe have understood that was the choice of François Hollande to re-orient Europe.”
Up to 100,000 jubilant supporters flocked to Paris’s revolutionary Place de la Bastille, a pilgrimage site for the Left, chanting “François President”.
Many were too young to remember that it was here that a gigantic crowd gathered for the 1981 victory of the last Socialist president, François Mitterrand.
BUT, despite all of this popular resistance against the status quo across Europe, it is a mistake to think that the banking/corporate elite will simply turn off the bailout-austerity wealth convyer without a fight here. As Hollande prepares to take office and establish his policy agenda, the markets will apply enormous amounts of pressure on him to reverse course and take a more pro-austerity stance, as will many of the people surrounding him. However, the same tactics are very unlikely to work in Greece at this point – a country now closer than ever to its bittersweet escape from the Eurozone.