The morning after election
Sunday, French and Greek voters have major issues unresolved. Austerity
harmed people in both countries. Technocrats remain in charge. Odds
remain long for change.
Europe's recession is deepening. Every stimulus attempt failed. Budget
cutting during crisis conditions makes hard times worse. Throwing out
bums for new ones assures similar ones.
European governments fell like dominos. Since crisis conditions began,
over a dozen regime changes followed. Thirteen Eurozone ones collapsed,
were voted out of power, or were ordered out by banker diktats. Left
or right made no difference.
The Dutch government resigned. No confidence votes toppled Romania and
Czech Republic leaders. Minority governments lead Sweden and Bulgaria.
An unnamed European diplomat said we'll "have to get used to new faces
and ideas all the time." Unity, leadership and vision are absent.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso wants EU sovereignty
replaced by Commission leaders controlling economic decision-making
to harden austerity harshness. Voters reject the idea. Throw the bums
out followed before and will again.
Spain replaced socialists for conservatives. Both parties follow similar
policies. Italy dumped pro-business elected prime minister Silvio Berlusconi
for unelected Mario Monte. Greece followed suit. Unelected Lucas Papademos
replaced elected George Papandreou.
Conservative David Cameron succeeded Labour's Gordon Brown. Portugal's
Jose Socrates fell from grace. So did governments in Denmark and Finland.
Germany's Angela Merkel faces reelection next year. Will she go next?
On Sunday, Schleswig-Holstein voters ousted Christian Democrats. Doing
so set the tone for next week's North Rhine-Westphalia election. It
also portends what Merkel fears next year.
Voters reject austerity. Why not when they're harmed most. Leaders force-feeding
it are rejected.
New faces replace old ones. Everything changes but stays the same. So-called
reforms make things worse. Europe's "fiscal pact" is in disarray.
French voters chose Francois Hollande over Nicolas Sarkozy. Voter turnout
topped 80%. US voter participation hasn't topped 70% since 1900. It
didn't exceed 60% after 1968. Anti-war sentiment drove it. It faintly
registers now despite polls showing Americans want Washington's Afghanistan
Voters demand one thing. Politicians deliver another. In 2007, Sarkozy
swept to power promising change. He left office with France's lowest
approval rating in decades. At one point, he scored lowest ever.
He's reviled. He pledged one thing and did another. He serves wealth
and power alone. He deplores worker rights. He supports reduced labor
costs and layoffs. During his tenure, over 1.4 million lost jobs. Many
were high-paying ones.
Hollande's victory reflected anti-Sarkozy sentiment. Voters saw little
difference between them. Austerity remains policy. Rhetoric signaled
otherwise. Reality will arrive when a new "dimension of growth, jobs,
prosperity, and (better) future" becomes same old same old.
Hollande's fiscal program is corporate friendly. Constrained under Eurozone
rules, he has little choice. Structural reforms will continue. Rhetoric
is anti-austerity but policy affirms it.
Expect more social cuts, lost jobs, and other right-wing measures. Despite
saying French troops will leave Afghanistan this year, France will stay
partnered with imperial Washington.
Franco/German relations won't change. Renegotiating austerity reflects
continuity, not new direction policies. German Foreign Secretary Guido
“We will work together for a European growth pact on Sunday....We must
add a new impulsion for growth, which requires structural reforms."
In other words, expect greater harshness. Voters demand policies helping
them. Neither candidate aroused enthusiasm. Sarkozy's unpopularity put
Hollande 24 points up initially. It dwindled to a narrow Sunday victory.
If campaigning continued much longer, he could have lost. On June 10
and 17, legislative elections follow. Results won't turn austerity into
French Voters faced a Hobson's choice. They were damned whichever way
they went. National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen called both candidates
"political Siamese twins." She voted "blank."
Expect Main Street France to chafe under Hollande like Sarkozy. At issue
is how long they'll need to find out and whether they'll react more
Greek Voters Reject Austerity
On Sunday, public anger rousted PASOK and New Democracy, Greece's two
dominant parties. Together, only 35% of voters supported them. Since
2009, social democratic PASOK dropped from 43.9% to 15.5%. Conservative
New Democracy fell from 33.5% to 20%.
Both parties fell one vote short of enough for majority coalition governing
authority. An anti-democratic provision got them that close. New Democracy
won the highest voter total. As a result, it automatically got an additional
50 seats not won.
Public anger rejected Greek politics. A record 40% of voters abstained.
Crushing wage, benefit, and social cuts, as well as unemployment created
mass impoverishment, homelessness, and human suffering.
Ordinary people have three choices - leave, starve or rebel. So far,
anger's been restricted to street protests, throwing the bums out, or
Parties rhetorically opposing austerity scored best. The Coalition of
the Radical Left (SYRIZA) tripled its vote from 4.6 to 16.8%. In 2010,
Greece's Democratic Left split from SYRIZA. It got 5%. The Communist
Party of Greece (KKE) received 8.5%. Greek Greens and Democratic Alliance
each won 3%. Right-wing parties scored poorly overall.
SYRIZA promised increased social and infrastructure spending. Follow-through's
another issue. Eurozone rules prevent real change. So don't ruling elites
and business friendly labor bosses.
A SYRIZA-led government may be too weak to survive. Perhaps right-wing
coalition authority will replace it. Either way, business as usual leaves
little wiggle room for change. Austerity policies will continue. Expect
new ones to follow. So will greater pain.
Revolutionary change requires freedom from Eurozone rules or rebellion.
If elections don't help, tug-o-war debates may decide.
If pain exceeds thresholds of no return, all bets are off. People only
take so much for so long. Explosive public anger follows. Greece is
a tinder box of rage. Electoral failure this time may ignite it.
A Final Comment
Last March, Russian voters overwhelmingly elected Putin with 63.6% of
the vote. He got a clear third term mandate. In 2004, he won 71%.
In 2008, he stepped down. Russia's Constitution prohibits three consecutive
terms. Dmitry Medvedev succeeded him. Putin served as prime minister.
On May 7, an elaborate inauguration began his third term. He's eligible
for another in 2018. "We are entering a new stage of national development,"
he said. "We want to live in a democratic country...in a successful
"I will do my best to justify the trust of millions of our citizens.
I think it is the meaning of my whole life, and it is my duty to serve
our country, serve our people."
"This support encourages me and inspires me and helps me address the
most difficult tasks. We have passed a long and difficult road together."
Outgoing president Dmitry Medvedev spoke first. Putin appointed him
prime minister. Around 3,000 guests attended. Pomp and ceremony came
Now the hard work begins. "Putin needs to be strong,” said Russian political
scientist Vladimir Pastukhov. "Otherwise, there will be 12,000 knives
to his back the next day."
He returns during hard times. Center for Political Technologies managing
director Boris Makarenko said:
"He left at the peak of economic growth and optimism about increasing
prosperity. Now he will be cautious, conflicted."
"He understands that the development of Russia and the economy requires
independent actors in business and public life, but at the same time
he feels the need from his KGB years to keep everything under control."
Confrontations with Washington lie ahead. Like Medvedev, Putin opposes
regime change in Syria and Iran. He's outspoken against US imperial
In 2007, he condemned Washington's quest for unipolar global dominance
"through a system which has nothing to do with democracy."
He's rightfully concerned about US bases encircling Russia, as well
as encroaching offensive missile defense systems.
On May 2, Russia's armed forces Chief of the General Staff and First
Deputy Defense Minister threatened preemptive attacks on US Polish and
other Eastern Europe sites.
As president, Putin is supreme commander-in-chief in charge of military
and foreign policy, especially national security matters. He can order
them. An interesting six years lie ahead. Serving Russia well won't
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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