Upending conventional wisdom, there is now a strong chance that all the European governments that have accepted or implemented unpopular EU/IMF austerity programmes may be re-elected in the coming months or remain the strongest political force.
From Lisbon and Madrid to Dublin, incumbents are gaining ground in opinion polls while the opposition is split among mainstream and radical parties, reducing the prospect of ousting sitting prime ministers and also encouraging investors to buy their countries’ debt.
One explanation is a gathering economic recovery, which is strongest in Ireland and Spain and picking up in Portugal, although unemployment remains painfully high and living standards have fallen for many in those countries. There are several other factors: nervous voters prefer to play safe after taking the pain of spending cuts and tax rises; untried opposition leaders fail to offer a credible alternative to austerity; populist or nationalist parties are sapping the main opposition party everywhere.
Whatever the reason, it looks as if euro zone politicians may have found an answer to the economic reform conundrum enunciated by then Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker in 2007: « We all know what to do. We just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it. »
L’austérité fonctionne, l’austérité fait gagner des élections, in your face la racaille syndicale !