What is becoming clear is that for a Eurozone politician, voting for austerity measures is like stinging someone is to a bee-any satisfaction you might gain from it is very short lived. Over the weekend Holland Prime Minister resigned after his failure to push through austerity measures in the alliance between his Center-Right party and the Right wing Freedom Party.
This has become a very common occurrence. We had Papandreou in Greece who resigned after agreeing to fresh Euro austerity measures in exchange for debt reduction. In Italy Prime Minster Berlusconi resigned rather than be involved with further austerity measures. Now we have the demise of Prime Minister Rutte.
Then there is what is going on in France.
"French Socialist challenger François Hollande beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France's presidential election yesterday by 28 percent to 27 percent, even as far-right candidate Marine Le Pen captured an unprecedented 18 percent of the vote. Hollande and Sarkozy will face off in the final runoff vote on May 6 (Guardian), in an election that is expected to have significant implications for European integration and the eurozone's response to its ongoing sovereign debt crisis."
""Mr. Sarkozy will have to find a way to attract most of Ms. Le Pen's votes as well as the 9.2 percent who voted for centrist Francois Bayrou, who finished fifth. This is no easy task, and his appeal will probably include a combination of anti-immigration riffs and more attacks on the European Central Bank (which has become the modern French substitute for running against the Germans)," notes this Wall Street Journal editorial."
There is just no way to fail to understand what the election results in France augur. It is a wholesale voter rejection of austerity. For once we can even speak of a "transpartisan" movment like the firebaggers are always talking about.
Certainly the most notable and encouraging development was Hollande's first round victory. However, it is also notable of the performance of Marine Le Pen. She received 17.9% of the vote, the best showing ever of her National Front party in a first round election.
Ms. Le Pen has just recently taken over the party's leadership from her father, the notorious Rightist Jean-Maria Le Pen.
Traditionally this Far Right party has been about some pretty nasty things like demonizing and targeting immigrants and extreme nationalism. Mr. Le Pen once declared that the gas chambers of WWII were "a detail of history" and that the German occupation of France was not particularly "inhumane"-he was there too.
His daughter however he sought to distance the party from this legacy and has empathised that "the euro has been a disaster." (Today's WSJ, og. A12, 4/24/12. I'm sure this is on the web too I can't find it right now, my computer has redirect issues.)
Most of what she says could be agreed to by leftists during this cycle as many Europeans feel this way about the euro at this point. To be sure her party is more radical and calls for the end of the EU or at least France's departure which would be ironic as the EU project is in many ways France's baby historically speaking more than anyone's.
When you add her near 20% with Hollande's you see that the large majority of the French are voting against the establishment euro austerity candidate, President Sarkozy.
Mr. Hollande plans many things that I sure like the sound of as many liberals would. He wants to raise the minimum wage for instance. But best of all he is urging France: "If France changes the direction of European construction, if France brings back growth, economic activity sustainable development, big environmental infrastructure, then Europe will recover and we;ll be done with this austerity that is imposed everywhere and which ends up taking hope away from the people and leading them to vote for the far right."
I can't think of a campaign speech that more totally knocks it out of the park. I half which I were French myself just to vote for this guy.
The really important thing here is that this is France were talking about,, along with Germany the other big player in the EU. If France changes course this will have to slow down Merkel's eager beaver's of austerity over in Germany. Viva La France! I don't know if this phrase is French or Spanish or whatever but it sums up my sentiment.