Looking ahead to 6 May

16 April 2012 – Presseurop

**The Americans have their Super Tuesday, the day when primary elections held in several states often mark a turning point in the process for nominating candidates to run for the presidency. This year, the 6 May — the date for the second round of the French presidential elections, for general elections and an early presidential election in Serbia, and early general elections in Greece — will amount to a Super Sunday for Europe. These three votes will have an impact on most of the major issues in the European Union: political and economic governance, freedom of movement, enlargement, the connection between the EU and its citizens, and of course the eurozone crisis.

The French presidential election could result in a renegotiation of the budgetary pact, pledged by socialist candidate François Hollande, or a review of Schengen, demanded by outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has threatened to suspend the application of the agreement. The identity of the winner will also affect Franco-German relations, links between the European left and right, and the balance of power between small and large EU states.

In Serbia, President Boris Tadić is taking advantage of general elections to seek a renewed mandate that would give him a free hand to pursue pro-European policies. If he is re-elected with a majority in parliament, he will benefit from an unassailable position from which to lead his country in the footsteps of neighbouring Croatia towards an EU accession that will boost the stability of the Western Balkans. Thereafter his discreet policy of relinquishing Serbian claims on Kosovo, a condition imposed by Europe, could become irreversible, even though it may still be undermined by an upsurge in tensions in the former Yugoslav province.

As for the elections in Greece, they will represent an opportunity for the country’s population to express its view of the policies that have been implemented since the start of the crisis which has threatened to destroy the country. No doubt lenders and financial markets will be hoping for an outcome that favours the PASOK socialist party and/or the right-wing New Democracy. But the moment of truth may be fast approaching for both of these parties, which spent months locked in dispute before coming together to form a national unity government under Lucas Papademos. As it stands, both have been performing badly in the polls, with showings of less than 20%, and they will both have to contend with competition from dissident and extremist parties, opposed to austerity policies and the restoration of order in the country’s finances imposed by the EU and the IMF.

Opposition to mainstream politics, which will likely be a common feature of these three different elections in what is arguably a representative sample of European countries — one still a prosperous founder member of the EU, one peripheral EU state that is currently in crisis, and one country on the road to accession — should constitute an interesting barometer of the situation in the rest of Europe.

In France, the competition for third place behind Hollande and Sarkozy will be between the extreme right representative, Marine Le Pen, who wants out of the euro, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of alliance of left- and far-left parties, who wants to “liberate” France from the Lisbon Treaty. In Greece, the anti-European protest vote will be disputed by the borderline neo-nazi Golden Dawn, and the right-wing populist LAOS party, which briefly participated in the Papademos government, as well as the hard left represented by the KKE communist party, the SYRIZA (radical left) and DIMAR (democratic left). At the same time, nationalists continue to exert a strong influence in Serbia, where their support remains an important factor in the success of the Serbian Progressive Party led by Tomislav Nikolić, which is currently topping the polls in the run-up to general elections.

Notwithstanding the important role that markets in Madrid, Milan and elsewhere will play in determining the fate of the common currency, the cross-section of electoral opinion offered by 6 May will enable us obtain a better understanding of what the future holds for European politics in the months to come.**

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