Austerity policies introduced as a result of the economic-financial crises in Europe started to fuel the engine of change across the old continent.
The past few days saw four critical elections in Europe. In one, the “much beloved” Nicolas Sarkozy was ousted by the French electorate. In another, an electorate suffering from acute social hysteria produced by rampant economic crises preferred a bunch of fascists and radicals to centrist politicians, leaving Greece with no prospect of forming a government anytime soon. In another, this time in local polls in Italy, a comedian-turned activist and such political outsiders achieved outstanding successes.
Even though her party scored a rather good success in the state of Schleswig-Holstein poll, her coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, lost bitterly, forcing Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats to seek a new partner for local governance. It was surely a very uncomfortable few days for Chancellor Merkel, as much as for embattled Nicolas Sarkozy, her partner in the introduction of austerity policies.
Obviously the weekend’s elections will have serious impacts not only on the countries where they were held but throughout Europe and beyond. To start with, France’s president-elect socialist François Hollande campaigned on an anti-austerity platform. In Greece, as current scattered results don’t allow the formation of a working coalition, it is very likely that the current technocratic government will continue as a caretaker until a second election, which will hopefully produce a government, is called later this summer. In Italy the effects of the local polls on national politics will make it all the more difficult to continue austerity policies. Merkel, on the other hand, will have to face growing difficulties preserving her steadfast austerity approaches for her country and for the entire eurozone with her firmest ally Sarkozy down the drain. Will she be able to keep Germany away from election booths up until the scheduled summer 2013 poll?
Besides, these electoral outcomes will have some serious effect on the popular mood throughout the eurozone. Thus, with such electoral results and probable impacts on the rest of the eurozone, it will become all the more difficult to battle the current economic crisis through austerity measures.
Particularly, with Socialist Hollande calling for battling the crisis with increased production and declaring that France will not be victimized with austerity policies, it is obvious that there will be a sharply different Europe than what we have become accustomed to over the past two years.
And as regards Turkey and its expectations for the “change” in Europe, naturally seeing Sarkozy off was relaxing. He was a pain in the neck. He was a constant troublemaker. Will the France of Hollande now unblock the chapters blocked by the France of Sarkozy? Was Hollande indeed sincere in his remarks that without resolution of the Armenian genocide issue there was no place for Turkey in the EU? It is too early to jubilate but seeing Sarkozy out is enough to feel happy.