This week has already proven to be tumultuous time for European politics and it’s only Monday. A wave of change seems to be washing over both France and the Netherlands, leaving some of the top posts in Europe currently up for grabs.
The first round of the French Presidential elections saw Francois Hollande take a step closer to becoming the first ever Socialist President of France, his 28% giving him a clear lead over Nicolas Sarkozy’s mere 26%. Although not yet defeated, this can be seen as a personal blow to Sarkozy. Not only is it a spanner in his campaign to be re-elected but it also can be viewed as a resounding personal defeat; it is the first time in 50 years that an outgoing President has failed to secure a majority in the first round of votes. It has been noted by many that success for Hollande could mark a turning point for politics in Europe. Hollande favours a European fiscal pact that encompasses provisions on growth and jobs rather than just purely austere measures. This could leave the German Chancellor Angela Merkel more isolated in her insistence that rigid austerity measures are the only way to resolve the euro crisis.
In other significant news, the Dutch Prime Minister today resigned from his post after an emergency cabinet meeting was called.The Dutch government information service released a statement that left no uncertainty on the matter:
“Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered his cabinet’s resignation to her Majesty Dutch Queen Beatrix,”
This move was not entirely unforeseen after crucial negotiations on a new set of austerity measures collapsed at the weekend. Geert Wilders’ dissent on the matter meant that the government no longer had the support of the Freedom Party, support that had ensured the government’s majority in Parliament in recent months.
What with Hollande’s recent success in the Presidential campaign and his desire to encourage job growth, perhaps he will soon be in a position to offer Mr.Rutte a new post? But for now we must be content to surmise on what the coming days will bring. One thing is for sure; all eyes will remain fixed on Europe to see how both the French and Dutch situations play out.