It’s Election Time in Europe

So Greece has a new government, Haider seems to be staging a comeback and next Sunday Spain is going to the polls. On this latter I will post something during the week, meantime, since I confess to knowing next to nothing at all about the significance of the Greek results, or the real state of play with Haider: anyone out there feel willing and able to give us some insight? Especially with those tricky and potentially significant Cyprus negotiations looming right in front of us.

The centre-right New Democracy party on Sunday night won a clear victory in Greece’s general election, putting an end to a decade of Socialist rule.

New prime minister Costas Karamanlis, who has never previously held a cabinet post, faces difficult decisions in the next few weeks over the future of Cyprus and Greece’s lagging preparations for the Athens Olympic games.

But George Papandreou, the Socialist leader, pledged to support the new government on both issues. Conceding defeat, he said: “The Cyprus issue is at a very difficult point and we’ll do everything we can to get a just and viable solution and we’ll support the effort for the Olympic games.”

Mr Karamanlis will take office less than two weeks before the March 22 deadline set by Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, for reaching a Cyprus settlement. The Olympics take place in August.
Source: Financial Times

J?rg Haider, the far-right political leader, brought his party an unanticipated victory in his home province Sunday, increasing the odds for a national comeback.

Most analysts had predicted a loss for his Freedom Party after a string of defeats elsewhere over the past two years. In recent polls, it was more than 10 percentage points behind the Socialists.

Beyond assuring Mr. Haider’s reappointment as governor in the province, the victory increased chances that he would be able to revitalize his party.

Many blame Mr. Haider for the party’s national demise. He has been notorious for past remarks that sounded sympathetic to the Nazis and contemptuous of Jews, a visit with Saddam Hussein on the eve of the Iraq war and a friendship with Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi.

Such tactics have scored points in the past, when Mr. Haider and his party exploited disillusionment with more established political rivals.

His party became part of the national government in 2000, but he stepped down as party leader in 2000 to ease the diplomatic pressure on Austria. His subsequent attempt to run things from the sidelines provoked early elections in 2002, alienating huge numbers of supporters.
Source: New York Times

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

8 thoughts on “It’s Election Time in Europe

  1. Cypriot reaction to the Greek election result will be clearer tommorrow and I will post more on this here and on my site. In the meantime, CNN have gathered some views from analysists based here:

    The new government…’don’t really have a great deal of time to change policies. I don’t think they would want to undermine their credibility in any way by putting up obstacles to the process. They can’t afford to,” said Tim Potier of ERPIC, a think-tank based in Cyprus’

    The article goes on to suggest:
    “Problems may surface if Karamanlis is forced to choose between sticking by his European partners in cajoling the Greek Cypriot public into backing the plan.

    “My main concern is to what degree he would be willing to put pressure on the Greek Cypriots if so required,” said James Ker-Lindsay of Civiltas Research in Nicosia.

    “Karamanlis is new, he’s only just got his feet under the desk. Would he be willing to stand up and tell Greek Cypriots what they don’t want to hear?” he said.

    Another analyst said it was unlikely a New Democracy government would lend a sympathetic ear to Greek Cypriots resisting a quick deal.

    “If the Greek side is perceived to be the impediment this would not be good for the new government,” said Thanos Veremis of the Hellenic Foundation for Defence and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

    Veremis said Greek Cypriots were constantly admonished by international mediators over their concerns while Turkish Cypriots, long seen as obstructionist, were being “applauded.”

    “I must say the international community is not making things easy (for the Greeks),” he said.’

    I would concur that Karamanlis is unlikely to signal a significant change from the previous government’s policy of reproachment towards Turkey. However, formal policy is’nt everything – experience, political will and attention paid to creating the right atmospherics all play a significant part in the critical negotiation phase which is about to open up in Cyprus.

    Both sides have stated their formal positions, refused to do any real business and are only now on the verge of substantive negotiations involving ‘give and take’. It remains highly likely that this will not result in anything amounting to a breakthrough – thereby creating the conditions for the UN to invite the ‘Mother Country’s’ Greece and Turkey to step in. This will present Karamanlis with his first test in leadership. Will he have the political will to push a very reluctant Papadopolous to accept neccessary compromise? Does he have the political nous to package any outcome as representing the best interests of the Greek Cypriot community? Will the right atmospherics be created so, at the least, a cordial and constructive relationship with the Turkish negotiators be maintained? Time will tell.

  2. Whatever Haider may be up to, it’s hard to imagine him becoming a major player on a national level again, at least short-term. Carinthia, where he won the elections, has been described as “a small province south of Austria” in a recent newspaper commentary, and that pretty much sums it up.

    Note that Haider’s FP? imploded in Salzburg, following similarly heavy losses in other provinces and in the last federal elections. Haider’s victory in Carinthia is primarily a problem for Chancellor Sch?ssel, whose position in the conservative ?VP is getting weaker by the minute.

  3. The real story about the Austrian provincial (slight tautology) elections that no-one is mentioning in all the Haider glam is that the SP? did very well indeed, and reversed control of a province for the first time since 1964 – they took the Salzburger Land off the conservatives and will likely name the governor. Haider doing well in K?rnten is a nonstory: the opposite might be news.

  4. About the Greek elections:
    This was pretty much an anti-corruption and anti-establishment vote. It is significant that the Conservatives saw their votes soar in poorer urban and rural areas (especially hit by the Socialists’ austerity policies, the upward redistribution of wealth and the Athens-centered cronyism of the government). The fact that PASOK added to its electoral lists the two most ardent self-proclaimed neoliberal free-marketeers in Greece, with whom the Conservatives refused to associate themselves in order not to be labeled as extremists, didn’t help either. In general New Democracy (the conservatives) outflanked the socialists from the left drawing a good number of traditional leftist voters who were fed up with the Socialists.
    Corruption was a main issue in these elections as the Socialists are widely perceived (correctly IMHO) as a clientist party driven by business interests, which has made some cadres quite rich.
    Of note is the first significant electoral showing of the far-right since the 70s. The far right party (LAOS) did especially well in poor working class neighborhoods of Athens, Pireus and Thessaloniki – and captured the anti-immigrant vote. Even though it scored only 2% overall – failing the 3% margin that would allow it to enter parliament, its demographics suggest that it is very likely to elect at least one EP member in the coming European parliament elections.
    The Cyprus question was practically invisible during this campaign. It’s as if people didn’t want to talk about it. The Greek public is very eager to settle this issue once and for all and it seems that there is a large consensus in favour of finding *some* solution as quickly as possible.
    However the plan itself is ridiculous from an EU standpoint, restricting freedom of movement in the community, allowing foreign troops to be based on EU territory and creating restrictions of ownership and transfer of goods that were unimaginable until the Annan plan.
    Karamanlis has appointed his most senior diplomatic advisor as foreign minister (Petros Moliviatis) a veteran diplomat of great experience, to navigate through the minefield of the Cyprus talks.
    Although I personally would love to see the issue resolved, I’m more than weary at the prospect of an indirect legitimization of the invasion and occupation of part of the territory of a UN member state, and of the ethnic cleansing of 150.000 Greek Cypriots from their homes in 1974.
    The problem however isn’t what Greeks feel or believe (at this point the Cyprus question barely registers in the various opinion polls of immediate problems here), but rather that the Greek Cypriots according to recent polls are ready to vote against the Annan plan by a margin of 2 to 1. Many in Cyprus prefer joining the EU without the occupied North, come to some sort of land-for-recognition settlement and wait for the Turkish Cypriots to force a change in Turkish policy, or for Turkey to join the EU, whichever comes first…
    We’ll soon see.

  5. “However the plan itself is ridiculous from an EU standpoint, restricting freedom of movement in the community, allowing foreign troops to be based on EU territory and creating restrictions of ownership and transfer of goods that were unimaginable until the Annan plan.”

    Talos – I may have missed something, but where in the Annan Plan are provisions that restrict movement? Forein Troops – by which you mean British, Greek and Turkish troops will remain, but the latter in greatly reduced numbers and hopefully for a time limited period. What you refer to as a “restrictions of ownership and transfer of goods” is an unfortunate neccessity in preserving the integrety of a bizonal solution. A bizonal solution which the Greek Cypriot leaderships have accepted as the form the ‘solution’ would take since the late 1970’s.

    I am not suprised that a significant majority of Greek Cypriots reject the Plan as it now strands – negotiations are not yet complete. However, the fact that 70% say they don’t understand the Plan is telling….both the Government and media in the South have generally failed to enlighten the population – a dereliction of duty in my opinion.

  6. David Officer: Movement of goods and persons may be restricted temporarily in the Turkish Cypriot sector (Appendix E Section 2), but what I was referring to was freedom of residency which is certainly curtailed in the plan. (The Annan Plan c
    As you say the troops “hopefully” will remain on the island for a “limited” time, but since I see no definitive time limits I’m suspicious and uncertain of the goodwill of the Turkish Generals.
    The bizonal solution as presented is not (and was never) compliant with European laws and regulations and I give it no more than a few years before this arrangement is challenged in the European courts on the basis of its restrictiveness and in the European Court of Human rights by refugees being denied return to their homes. Again this is ridiculous from an EU perspective: even if no challenges arise and Greek and Turkish Cypriots find a modus vivendi, the principles of the EU will have been severely compromised.
    The reason Greek Cypriots will not be easily convinced of this is both the continued presence of Turkish troops on the island and the fact that not all of the refugees will be allowed to return to their homes in the North. Now I agree that the latter point sounds a bit maximalist, but then again I wasn’t driven off my land at gunpoint…
    To make myself clear: I welcome any solution based on the Annan plan that does not include the continued presence of Turkish Troops (and of course Greek – I want to be rid of this burden as fast as possible) and which gains the acceptance of a majority in both GC and TC communities. I don’t believe that this particular solution will even remotely work in practice, but I’m hoping that life will become so awkward for both, that a majority of GC & TC in unison will demand a more reasonable arrangement, in a matter of a few years.

    BTW it seems that even the Cypriot Communist Party (AKEL) which favours the Annan plan, is having a hard time convincing its members to support it…
    Yet I think that in an actual referendum the results would be different than those of the opinion polls.

  7. Just a quick word: thanks for the info and opinion everyone, it helps get some pespective. Blog comments as an alternative news source.


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