Signifying noting: elections in France and Greece cannot resolve Europe's underlying problems.

Author:Poschmann, Finn
Position:OPINION
 
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A tale told by idiot[s], full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

--Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

As this edition of Inroads heads to press, the outcomes of loud, divisive and ostensibly important elections in Europe have rolled in.

In France, the charming and occasionally conservative Nicolas Sarkozy fought a losing rearguard action to protect his presidency from the steady assault of his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande. Sarkozy's loss signals the obstreperous French electorate's rejection of post-crisis fiscal austerity measures, measures which were set in motion by Sarkozy and which, for the most part, they have yet to experience.

Perhaps more than that, the result signals populist resentment and the French elite's attempt to take a stand against what they see as an overbearing German electorate's self-righteousness, arising from Germany's relative fiscal competence In France, a vote for Hollande was a vote against Chancellor Angela Merkel and thrifty Swabian housewives, one which carried the bonus message of a rejection of the arriviste Sarkozy. German voters in Schleswig-Holstein shared some of this populist sentiment, on Sunday rejecting Angela Merkel's candidates in a regional election.

In Greece, riots have given way to ritual electoral comedy. In the past 38 years Greece has run elections with four different flavours of proportional representation. The 2009 episode produced a Socialist majority of seats, but not a strong one, owing to the division of votes between the Coalition of the Radical Left and the Communist Party. And the Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow, the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), the Marxist--Leninist Communist Party, the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Organization for the Reconstruction of the Communist Party of Greece all won votes, but not seats.

This latest election, in early May, was to be different, owing to a fifth model of proportional representation: the party gaining the biggest share of the popular vote would be granted 50 seats in the Greek parliament off the top, with the remaining 250 seats divided proportionally to votes cast. Yet it seems that the Greeks do prefer comedy to tragedy. The incumbent socialist party, Pasok, came in third, and the conservative New Democracy party, which garnered a plurality of votes, is unable, even with its 50 bonus seats and the support of Pasok, to outvote the second-place party, the Coalition of the Radical Left, and its Marxist...

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