European economic crisis leads to political change

May 7, 2012

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Beverly Clark
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Dramatic political changes are sweeping through Europe as many countries in the EuroZone continue to deal with economic crisis.

Voters in France and Greece recently voted in mass against dominant parties and in favor of more extreme candidates as bailouts and austerity measures caused "massive resentment among the populace of most European Union member countries," says Emory University political science professor Thomas D. Lancaster.

Lancaster, an expert on European politics, says many governments in the last few years have been able to weather the political storm caused by the recession and EuroZone crisis.

"One reason for this is that many national leaders and their governments have benefitted from the luck-of-the-draw that the crisis hit during an 'off' period in election seasons," he explains. "That has now changed.  Many upcoming elections mean political accountability must now meet governmental management of economy, and it doesn't look good." 

Nine government changes have occurred in the last year: France, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Italy, Slovakia, and Slovenia.  Governments recently fell in the Netherlands and Romania.  There's also a referendum on austerity in Ireland later this month, and even Germany has to start thinking about its national elections in 2013, Lancaster says. 

"Economic issues are severely challenging the European Union and its members," he says. "The people are mad, and now they have a chance to apply a veto if they wish. Such democratic accountability doesn't bode well for the status quo." 

Lancaster says he wouldn't be surprised if smaller countries, starting with Greece, pursue strategies to begin exiting the EuroZone.