austerity

Greece will hold new elections in June if last-ditch negotiations on forming a coalition government fail once again.

In May 6 elections, the country's two main parties — the conservative New Democracy and the center-left PASOK — suffered catastrophic losses and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), was catapulted from minor-party status into second place.

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Greece voters revolt against cuts

The victory of Socialist Party (PS) candidate Francois Hollande in the French presidential election on May 6 set off a wave of hope across Europe. On May 9, the Spanish government announced that it was nationalising the country’s fourth biggest bank, Bankia, to keep it from collapsing.

What do these seemingly unrelated events have to do with each other?

Enormous expectations are being loaded onto the shoulders of the former French PS national secretary. In recession-stricken Spain, Portugal and Greece, people hope he will put Europe’s economies on a path to growth and job-creation.

The results of the May 6 elections in Greece sent a message that has been heard around the world: Working people want an end to the austerity agenda that has plunged Greece's economy into depression and slashed living standards everywhere.

The highlight of the vote was the result for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), a broad left party. SYRIZA came second with 17%, ahead of the social democratic PASOK (13%) and just behind the conservative New Democracy (ND ― 19%).

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In what marks a significant shift in the balance of European politics, in the final round presidential election on May 6, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande defeated right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement by almost 52% to 48%.

Hollande is France's first president from the social democratic Socialist Party in France in 17 years. Sarkozy is the first president since 1981 not to win a second term.

Compared with a southern Europe stricken by ever-rising unemployment and government attacks on social welfare and democratic rights, Luxembourg can feel as if it is on another, much more pleasant, planet.

The richest country in Europe ― with Gross Domestic Product per capita at least 30% higher than that of the US, unemployment at 5.9% and the second-lowest public sector debt to GDP ratio ― this most important financial centre after London’s City would seem to be floating above the crisis.

Now that parties supporting cuts are losing elections across Europe, I wonder if the British Labour Party will consider a policy of opposing cuts.

At the moment, they sort of oppose them, so if the government announces 200 libraries are closing next Wednesday morning, Labour says: "This is typical of this callous administration. They ought to wait until the afternoon."

“Right Greece, up against that wall over there. Here, put that blindfold on... what’s that? No you can’t have a last fucking cigarette, you are too broke. You flogged your last pack off to Goldman Sachs.”

If the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was honest, this is how its press releases would read when describing the brutal austerity the “troika” of the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank demands from Greece in return for funds to stop the country going bankrupt.

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