Monday, 27 May 2013

Serge Halimi, editorial director of Le Monde Diplomatique, on why elections do not matter anymore in the eurozone

The European Union, which gives lessons in democracy to the whole planet, has made this denial (to pay no heed to the electorate’s verdict) one of its specialities. 
Serge Halimi

For eurozone countries, it does not matter who wins elections - the economic policy, dictated by Brussels, the ECB and IMF, will remain the same, according to Serge Halimi, editorial director of Le Monde Diplomatique:

Once the formality of national elections is out of the way, Brussels, the ECB and the IMF send their road map to the new leaders so that particular campaign promises can be ditched immediately. EvenThe Wall Street Journal could not conceal its bafflement last February: “The French, Spanish, Irish, Dutch, Portuguese, Greeks, Slovenians, Slovakians and Cypriots have to varying degrees voted against the currency bloc’s economic model since the crisis began three years ago. Yet economic policies have changed little in response to one electoral defeat after another. The left has replaced the right; the right has ousted the left. Even the centre right trounced Communists (in Cyprus) — but the economic policies have largely remained the same: governments will continue to cut spending and raise taxes. The problem facing newly elected governments is that they operate within the institutions of the Eurozone. National governments must follow macroeconomic directives set by the European Commission. All of which means that, after the sound and fury of an election, national governments have little room for manoeuvre on economic policy” (15). “You get the impression,” Benoît Hamon admitted sadly, “that a leftwing policy or a rightwing one just administers different quantities of the same ingredients” (16).
When a senior official from the European Commission attended a meeting between his colleagues and the head of the French Treasury, he reported:  “It was stunning: they [the Eurocrats] behaved like schoolmasters telling a poor student what to do. I was very impressed that the director of the Treasury kept his cool” (17). This scene brings to mind the fate of Ethiopia and Indonesia at the time when their leaders were reduced to the role of administering punishments which the IMF had decided to impose on their countries (18). Now Europe is getting a taste of the same medicine: in January 2012, the Commission in Brussels instructed the Greek government to cut nearly €2bn from its public expenditure within five days or face a fine.--

This intellectual school — which is fundamentally distrustful of democracy, “the tyranny of the majority” — postulates that political leaders are inclined to sacrifice the general interest (indistinguishable from the initiatives of business leaders) in favour of satisfying their clienteles and guaranteeing their own re-election. The sovereignty of such irresponsible people must consequently be strictly curtailed. That is the role of coercive mechanisms that currently provide the inspiration for the European project (the independence of central banks, the 3% budget deficit ceiling, the stability pact).

Read the entire article here

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