The Ghost of de Gaulle
Greece has one of the largest armies per head of population in the world, but mercifully there are no signs yet of it going back into politics. Though, considering how awful the situation in Greece is, you could be forgiven for being surprised that their public debate is still being decided at the ballot box rather than the barricade.
The financial and betting markets are pricing a New Democracy win this weekend, but not a large one. It is entirely possible that post-election negotiations to form a coalition government will fail again as who among their corrupt and venal political classes wants to go down in history as forming a short-term government that bows to ‘Frankfurt’s’ demands?
However, the elections in France this weekend may prove to be as important in the long run. Francois Hollande stands a very good chance of becoming the first socialist in the history of the Fifth Republic to control the Presidency, Senate and Assembly at the same time.
The nature of a Hollande administration may already have been glimpsed by his aggressive moves against high earners (and Brit property owners), but a majority would enable him to be far bolder (if he chooses to be) than Mitterrand, the last socialist president (who nationalised much of the banking system…).
The Franco-German relationship that has been the crucible which decided the direction Europe has travelled since the start of integration is facing its biggest possible disagreement. If Germany demands that their cheque signing is dependent on tightening the fiscal integration past the point of no return, then France faces a decision that it may not be ready to make.
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