Europe braces for policy churn as key elections loom

Vidya Ram London | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 04, 2012

National elections in France, Greece and regional polls in Germany may steer region away from austerity regime to a pro-growth mode

Sunday could prove a game changing moment for Europe and its handling of the fiscal crisis as two crucial national elections, and (to a lesser extent) one local one could further steer the region away from its austerity regime and towards a pro-growth strategy.

Most crucial of all will be the final run-off of the French Presidential election. Most opinion polls are pointing to a victory for Socialist candidate Mr Francois Hollande, who has pledged to drive his nation and Europe more broadly towards more jobs and more growth, and away from the tough public spending cuts that made President, Mr Nicholas Sarkozy, the closest European ally of German Chancellor, Ms Angela Merkel.

The significance of a Hollande-victory for the German leadership was highlighted by the weighty campaigning Ms Merkel has done on Mr Sarkozy's behalf in the run up, including appearing in a joint television interview with him in February.

With Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Mark Rutte, another austerity adherent, having submitted his resignation last week after losing a no-confidence vote, Ms Merkel could be more isolated than ever politically in Europe.

Also capable of throwing a spanner in Europe's austerity drive are the results of the too-close-to-call general election that will take place in Greece also on Sunday.

Public anger and distrust arising from its unpopular austerity programme are expected to lead to plenty of political fragmentation within the electorate.

Commentators are predicting a number of scenarios' — from a simple coalition between New Democracy and socialist party PASOK, both of which supported the conditions of the second bailout package, to one involving them in alliance with other smaller parties.

While smaller coalition partners could make it hard for the Government to implement the austerity measures, even the two largest parties are not entirely unwavering in their support for the bailout package conditions.

Over the course of the election, New Democracy's leader, Mr Antonis Samaras has spoken in favour of changes to the bailout package conditions.

And if that weren't enough on a somewhat less impactful, though notable level, regional elections will take place in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which are widely expected to involve heavy losses for the Free Democrats, the increasingly unpopular federal and state coalition partner of Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

Losses there would mean that the governing coalition could lose its majority in Germany's upper house, the Bundesrat, and also weaken the federal coalition's standing more broadly, at a time when it needs to be able to hold ground domestically against growing calls for a pro-growth strategy.

Continued dire economic conditions and record high levels of unemployment across Europe have triggered many calls for a change in approach. On Thursday, the President of the European Central Bank, Mr Mario Draghi, added his voice, urging leaders towards a ‘growth compact.'

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Published on May 04, 2012
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