A tale of two elections

A tale of two elections

The weekend saw two elections of critical importance for Europe. The results of the presidential elections in France have injected fresh hope to despondent masses, while the results of the Greek general elections promise more turmoil for that country, with serious spillover effects for Europe.

The French electorate – at least the sensible portion of it – has shown that you cannot survive long politically with policies that disregard the man on the street and favor the privileged, while at the same time stoking ethnic and religious discord. That is what Nicolas Sarkozy did and paid the price.
The Guardian on Monday characterized him as “the most unpopular French president ever to run for re-election” and had the following to say on his defeat:

“Most French people felt he had failed to deliver his promises, and he was criticized for his ostentatious display of wealth, favoring the rich and leaving behind him more than 2.8 million unemployed. Political analysts said anti-Sarkozyism had become a cultural phenomenon in France.”

François Hollande’s victory speech, on the other hand, was well prepared and socially conciliatory, sending a message that is in tune with France’s national motto containing the words “equality” and “fraternity.” While Hollande is clearly not a dreamer as a socialist, realizing no doubt that he has to face bitter worldly realities, it is nevertheless a positive thing that he will be calling for less austerity measures in France and Europe, and more concentration on growth-oriented policies.

This may not go down well with everyone in Europe, but the fact is that without consideration for the needs of the average European, the EU cannot hope to go far. In that sense the swing left in France is welcome for Europe, promising as it does to put man at the center of all considerations once again.

The results of the Greek parliamentary elections, on the other hand, point to not-so-positive things. The unexpected rise of “The Golden Dawn,” the unashamedly neo-Nazi party, is a symptom of the serious social malaise in that country. As matters stand the election results point to more political turmoil for a country which owes foreigners over 200 billion euros for two bailout packages.

Greece has effectively mortgaged the next 20 to 30 years of its future and this will inevitably fuel social resentment. While the electorate voted with a vengeance against the politicians who landed them in this mess, Greeks now hope that whatever coalition government is formed will reverse the situation they have landed in.

That is not possible of course, but even the thought of this expectation is enough to send shudders down financial spines across Europe. Most analysts predict that any coalition formed under these circumstances will not be long lived anyway, which means more political and economic turmoil up ahead for Greece, and Europe.

So what do the results of both elections mean for Turkey? It looks like Hollande’s approach to Turkey will be wiser, especially when it comes to the Turkish bid for EU membership. He knows full well that membership is a long way down the road, and therefore there is no need to sully the atmosphere with this issue at this stage.

How the Armenian issue plays out, on the other hand, remains to be seen. That continues to be a touchy topic for both sides, and unless a way is found to address the matter reasonably, ties could founder on this issue once again. It is clear, however, that no one in Turkey is shedding a tear over Sarkozy’s political demise.

As for Greece, while the Greek far right is by definition anti-Turkish, it seems that Greeks have new targets to hate now, starting with Germany. Put another way, Turks are watching developments in Greece with interest, to put it diplomatically, but do not expect much fallout against Turkey from that direction, given that Greeks have a host of new countries and institutions to blame for their economic demise.