Supporters of France’s newly elected President François Hollande react after the early results during a victory rally at Place de la Bastille in Paris May 6, 2012. France voted in elections on Sunday and Hollande becomes the nation’s first Socialist president in seventeen years. (Reuters/Charles Platiau)So the voters have voted—in Britain, in France, in Greece, in Schleswig-Holstein—and the markets are tumbling. In Britain, the Tories took a serious beating from Labour in local elections, though Ken Livingston lost in London to Mayor Boris Johnson; their Liberal Democrat coalition partners were more or less wiped out. France has elected a socialist president for the first time since 1981 (though, as I recall, that one didn’t turn out so well); François Hollande has pledged to challenge European austerity and renegotiate the German-driven fiscal treaty that has effectively outlawed Keynesianism on the continent. Schleswig-Holstein dealt a blow to Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU and elected members of the Pirate Party to its regional assembly. And Greece has voted loudly, if incoherently, against the austerity program imposed by the EU and IMF. Across Europe, it’s no to austerity, and yes to—what?
European voters everywhere are turning against the elites that have managed most of the continent for the last few decades. The financial crisis has broken the illusion of stability; the cracks in the concrete of the Eurozone are gaping. As I wrote here on Friday, the voices being raised against austerity come from the far right as well as the left. Yesterday Greece became the first European country to elect neo-Nazis—twenty-one members of the racist Golden Dawn party—to its parliament. Their leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, dedicated his victory to “the brave boys in the black shirts”; some candidates used the rising phoenix, emblem of the colonels’ junta of 1967 to 1974, as their election poster. “Those who slander us,” he barked, and “those who betray this country should be afraid: we’re coming.” Golden Dawn won votes across much of the country—and not just in the inner cities, where its supporters stage pogroms against immigrants and woo old ladies with offers to escort them to the cash machine. It also got the votes of one in ten young people. If you add that vote to those of the other two far-right parties, Laos and Panos Kammenos’ Independent Greeks, then one in five Greeks voted for rabid nationalism and anti-immigrant rhetoric.