Ireland and Greece: parallel destinies

Electoral revolution in Dublin, paralysing strikes in Athens – Europe’s most economically fragile member states are reacting differently to drastic austerity budgets and the EU/IMF bailout. But their fates are intertwined if they wish to emerge from the crisis and have a say in the running of the eurozone, writes an economist.

Published on 28 February 2011 at 16:24

The past week provided two very different expressions of citizens’ frustrations in Greece and Ireland, the two members of the European Union at the forefront of the year-long sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone.

While Irish voters in Dublin, Cork and Limerick went to the polls, Greek citizens in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patra vented their anger by staging a week of industrial action, culminating in Wednesday’s 24-hour nationwide general strike. While people voted with their hands in one country, citizen exercised their rights with their feet and fists in the other.

In Dublin, we will now see a new government taking office. The results of the general election on Friday could not have been any clearer. More than 70 percent of the electorate cast ballots and the outcome swept the ruling coalition from power. It was the first defeat for a eurozone government since the onset of the debt crisis. The change of power in the new Dublin parliament, the Dail, produced the biggest swing in Irish politics since 1932. It’s nothing short of a democratic revolution achieved at the ballot box.

After 14 years in power, the center-right Fianna Fail has to digest its worst defeat in history. In Dublin it only won one out of 47 available seats. The anger toward the governing coalition was widespread and unrepentant. It also affected the junior partner in government, the Green Party, which lost all of its six seats and will not return to parliament.

The electoral tsunami underlines how comprehensively both parties were blamed for the property and banking crash of the past two years, leading to the humiliating IMF-EU bailout in December 2010.

The new governing coalition parties of Fine Gael (right-of-center) and Labour have a large majority in parliament. They now face the daunting task of trying to combine a renegotiation of the terms of the EU-IMF bailout with the implementation of the harsh budgetary measures needed to confront the fiscal crisis, banking sector liabilities and a deepening economic recession. Read full article in Kathimerini…

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