Sunday, 13 May 2012

Vive Hollande! M. Normal wins the day

France is celebrating its first Socialist President for 17 years, voting in François Hollande and bidding adieu to Nicolas Sarkozy.
Although Sarkozy may have clung on in the final live televised debate - watched by 18 million viewers - Hollande dealt with his cries of “liar” quite well, and with Fascist Marine Le Pen stating she would cast a blank vote, centrist François Bayrou pledging support for him and polls consistently putting the Socialist ahead, “M. Normal” won the day with just under 52% of the vote, in a Presidential race that ended much closer than expected.
Francois-Hollande-President-of-FranceJubilant crowds partied all night at the Place de la Bastille in central Paris, the same place François Mitterrand celebrated his election win in 1981.
Hollande’s victory showed a rejection by France of tough austerity measures, the voters calling instead for the creation of a new European agreement for jobs and growth.
In his victory speech at the Place de la Capitale in Tulle, he asked the public to judge him on two key issues – “justice and young people”.
President Hollande said:
“I am proud to be capable of giving hope again. I will be the president of all… There is only one France, one nation, reunited for the same destiny…
“Everyone in France with be treated equally, no child of the Republic will be sidelined, abandoned or discriminated against. The first thing the President of the Republic must do is to assemble and bring people together for the challenges we face.”
“Europe is watching us, when this result was announced I am sure that in some countries it was a relief, a hope… Austerity is not inevitable…
“We are are not any old country, we are France!”
Hollande’s win has implications for Europe as whole, proving austerity is not the be and end all. The left across Europe have galvanised hope in his win; Labour Party activists in the UK have been tweeting their delight at Hollande’s win, perhaps seeing it as a symbol for the British public rejecting harsh austerity measures in the general elections in 2015.
The Greek elections, more worryingly, have shown the public supporting far-left and far-right parties who reject the austerity regime, against the mainstream centre-right New Democracy and Socialist parties.
Europe is eager to see how the Franco-German relationship will evolve under Hollande’s direction, especially when Angela Merkel backed Sarkozy in his presidential bid. Hollande plans to meet with Merkel before the G8 summit in Washington in an attempt to start to renegotiate the fiscal pact.
All eyes now turn to the parliamentary elections in June, where the Socialists, UMP and Front National will want to win majorities. It is particularly important for the Socialist to win seats so that Hollande can carry through his policies. The campaign continues.

This article was published on left foot forward.

What next for Greece?

So the Greece voters have made their choice.  The centre right and socialist parties normally pick up 80% of the vote between them.  This time it was nearer 30%. The harsh austerity measures are biting and the public cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel with the current path.   No one party has been given a mandate to rule and to date no coalition partners have been formed.   Although anti-austerity parties gained support, it is unlikely that the far right and far left can work together.  

Greek newspapers.

So what next for Greece?  If deals cannot be brokered by Thursday another costly general election on the 17th June and exit from the euro looks likely.  But are the Greeks really ready to leave the Euro?  With 2 billion euros in the bank, this would last the country until mid-summer.  The second round of elections will tell the tale.  The mainstream parties are now also promising to renegotiate the austerity measures.  But will Europe let up so the Greeks can breathe a little?  With unemployment rising and the economy shrinking, is this the only way that Greece can survive?  The new French president elect, Hollande may present credible alternatives to Merkel that can accommodate Greece more and keep the Eurozone together.  It would be a headache for the euro zone if Greece left the currency, although Greece would feel the majority of the pain.   If there is a coalition that can renegotiate the austerity measures, whilst keeping Greece in the Euro, this seems to be the most credible option going forward.