Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande took the top spots as expected in the French elections held this weekend. This removed Marine Le Pen and her anti-immigrant platform despite a respectfully strong third-place showing garnering 19.2 percent of the vote. The front runners divided up the lion’s share of the votes with Hollande grabbing 27.9 percent of ballots while Sarkozy pocketed 26.7 percent. Far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon took fourth with 10.8 percent as centrist Francois Bayrou snared 9.2 percent with the five remaining candidates split the remaining ballots. The future of the European Union may be riding on the result of the French election as should Sarkozy win reelection the austerity path might still remain in the realm of possible while should Hollande be the new French president the austerity programs could be facing a rejection by voters who will demand continued social giveaways without any cuts in spending. Where France is not in as deep trouble as others such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, should the French voters reject even the moderate measures which may prove necessary for France, the rest of Europe could be expected to reject any candidate who even hints at making the austerity cuts and lean towards candidates promising to continue the popular but ruinous government social spending.
For our friends in the United States the titles of right and left in Europe are confusing as they have a different set of definitions than right and left do in the United States. Unlike the United States, in Europe it is pretty much a given that except for those few oddballs such as Monarchists and true Conservative Capitalists, it is readily accepted that everybody is a socialist. The differences in Europe are between the different types of socialists. The conservative right in Europe is the National Socialists while the liberal left is the International Socialists. Americans, for the most part, pretty much lump the National and International Socialists into one category, the Socialists. But in Europe this divide is well defined and the center of some of the most bitter rivalries in all of politics. It is just such a battle that will play out in two weeks in the finals of the French elections. Who wins this runoff may indicate the future of the next phase in European politics and foretell whether the more conservative of the socialists and the continued attempts at austerity will continue or will Europe once again swing the pendulum to the other extreme and install the freer spending left who rely on expanded growth to address deficits.
Unless some event turns the world economy out from its slumbers and economic growth breaks out of its doldrums, it would appear that the austerity approach might be the more responsible and promising way to address the European Union financial difficulties and dooming the free spending will produce excited economic growth leading to more inflow of funds to governments with which to pay off the debilitating debts now threatening the Euro and the European Union. This stark choice will bear close watching. From the initial round of voting we here at BTC believe that against what many have predicted, Sarkozy just might pull it out and get another term as the President of France.
Beyond the Cusp