Sunday, May 06, 2012

Crucial Elections in France and Greece

Voters Angry Over Austerity 

The political fallout from Europe's economic crisis will be seen Sunday in France and Greece. Elections are underway in both countries, where angry voters seem determined to roll back austerity measures that have backfired terribly, making their lives more miserable with no end in sight. 

In France, citizens are casting their ballots in a presidential runoff election, with preliminary results  expected this evening.

Opinion polls indicate President Nicolas Sarkozy has narrowed the gap behind his Socialist rival. But Francois Hollande is expected to win. Sarkozy has faced mounting criticism for the way he has managed the French economy during his five years in office. Hollande is a veteran politician who headed the Socialist Party for several years. But he has never held a top government position.

Voters are going to the polls in Greece in the first general election since the start of the country's debt crisis. They are expected to punish the two main parties--the socialist PASOK party and the conservative New Democracy party--which are widely blamed for the worsening economic situation. Greece has one of Europe's fastest shrinking economies.

In just two years, Greece has received two huge international bailouts to keep from defaulting on its financial obligations.  But in order to secure the aid from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, the government had to bow to demands to impose sharp spending cuts and tax oterincreases, which have generated widespread protests.

The two main parties are expected to lose votes Sunday to a field of smaller parties opposed to the austerity measures, bringing fears of new political instability.

If no party wins enough votes to form a government, building a new coalition could prove difficult and create even more problems for the nation's financial standing and its latest bailout.  Many Greeks want the terms of the bailout to be renegotiated.