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July 2012

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The Futility of European Elections
by George Friedman, STRATFOR
Reviewed by David T. Jones, retired senior FSO and frequent contributor

In regard to the Greek and French elections and with Germany’s role still in play, this reviewer found Friedman’s “futility” a bit harsh, and thought inconclusive more accurate. Contrary to Friedman’s skepticism about forming a Greek government, a center-left arrangement quickly formed. To be sure, its duration is in question as the country remains severely divided over willingness to accept anything approaching the EU-directed austerity measures to address Greek debt. Friedman notes, “the divisions caused the crisis, but…the crisis caused the divisions.”

Circumstances are equally parlous for the France-Germany bilateral relationship following the French presidential and parliamentary elections placed France under socialist rule. French policy still endorses austerity—but now with substantial concurrent fiscal stimulus. The Germans still reject stimulus and endorse bailout/austerity, but moved at the end of June to make bank recapitalization easier—a twitch of position that will help slightly.

Consequently, Germany is now the problem for Europe when previously it was the solution. Friedman concludes, “It is not in [French President] Hollande's or France's interests to follow the German course.” And the result is dispute at the heart of Europe (“profound disharmony”) over managing its economic problems.

Nevertheless, although Friedman observes that while technicians agree on the economic solutions, “the electorate is driving apart policymakers.” Consequently, elections will not provide answers.

Indeed, in this regard, Friedman implicitly identifies the conundrums in the current U.S. politico-economic debates: the experts have solutions to address debt, deficit, health care, immigration, national security, environmental challenges, etc. The population, however, is closely divided on the “who to tax and what to cut” questions—so much so that no consensus is possible and thus little likelihood that the 2012 election will provide even an obstructed path to resolutions.bluestar

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