Last week we reported on the change of leadership in the Greek and French elections – with voters rejecting austerity/belt-tightening measures imposed by the prior leadership in an attempt to head off the rising debt crisis and return the nations to prosperity.
As it would turn out, the situation in Greece is worse than previously reported. The results of the election have left the parliament fractured – without a majority party to form a government and elect a prime minister. The parties attempted to come together and create a unity government, but the largest groups could not reach an agreement on how to proceed over the economy and the talks have now collapsed, automatically triggering a new election which should take place next month some time. In early polls ahead of the new elections the Syriza party, who surprisingly jumped up to the second largest parliament contingent in the last elections, are in the overall lead. This party has been leading the charge to abandon the austerity measures – and would likely be in a position to implement such changes if the current polls were the actual outcome.
This would be very bad news for the European economy as a whole. The strict austerity measures were not the idea of the Greek government – they were put into place by the leaders of the eurozone and the European central economy as a condition of remaining a part of the common currency. Election of the anti-austerity proponents to a controlling majority could lead to Greece rejecting these conditions and separating from the eurozone (either of their own according or by being voted out by the other members). Presumably then Greece would go back to printing and backing it’s own national currency – which it had done prior to the euro in the form of the drachma, a currency who’s value bounced around wildly. A partial breakup of the eurozone would be a nightmare for the finance ministers of the remaining countries – they have repeatedly sold their citizens on the necessity of keeping the entire community united…and have asked these same citizens to finance the repeated bailouts of Greece, Spain and Italy. A separation by Greece at this point would not only hurt the credibility of these ministers but also make it considerably harder to secure future bailouts for the remaining countries – making recovery less and less likely for those debt-laden countries.
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Of course, all this might be a bit premature – as the Post article linked above mentions, even the most ardent opponents of the cost-reducing measures cannot hide the impact of leaving the Euro on the electorate. And the majority of Greek citizens do not want to leave the common currency in the latest polls – so perhaps seeing the potential impacts will change their votes. Just another reason why it’s important to vote in an educated way considering the longer term effects of your choices – and not just in reaction to whatever is going on at that moment.