Netherlands: The Netherlands votes: Cycling against windmills | The Economist

Few nations beat the Dutch for practicality. Befuddled voters, who have 20 or so parties to choose from in the general election on September 12th, can save hours of poring over manifestos by submitting to the StemWijzer. This government-backed website presents 30 pithy statements (“All [drug-selling] ‘coffee-shops’ in the Netherlands should be closed down”; “European supervision of banks should be implemented”), and matches voters to the party that best fits their views. Separately, the Central Planning Bureau also runs the main parties’ programmes through an economic model, to compare how each will affect things like jobs, output and, miraculously, queues on motorways. Despite these aids, the Dutch are disenchanted with politics. At J.H. Van Dijk’s cheese stall in Amsterdam’s main street market customers are fed up with all those politicians and their confusing parties. Further into town, at the Independent Outlet music store (where “corporate rock still sucks”), a young man behind the counter complains how “politicians always let you down”. A hairdresser in The Hague, who in her time has shorn plenty of MPs, cannot make up her mind. The StemWijzer is all very well, she says, but politicians “don’t do what the people vote for.”

Netherlands: Dutch election focuses on the euro crisis | Deutsche Welle

Dutch concerns about the euro crisis are dominating the election campaign and have led to a sharp increase in socialist popularity in recent polls. Should the German Chancellor Angela Merkel be worried? The warm summer weather has returned to the small Dutch town of Boxmeer. An ice cream shop on Steen Street provides locals with place to cool off. The leading candidate for the Socialist Party (SP), Emile Roemer, vigorously scoops the ice cream and doles out a red clump of ice cream into a cone. In the background, the bells of the chapel drone, while dozens of photographers and cameramen snap photos and film the event. The Socialist Party leader laughs at the disfigured result of his efforts. But that’s no problem for Roemer. It’s the thought that counts. The powerful politician is offering a special sweet locals will probably have a hard time getting again: tomato ice-cream. The tomato is the symbol of the socialist political party. Back in the day, in the much wilder years, Dutch Socialists enjoyed pelting their political opponents with juicy, red tomatoes.

Netherlands: Dutch set to defy austerity as left takes poll lead |

The left-wing Socialist party is expected to seize the largest gains in September’s Dutch elections, threatening to deprive German Chancellor Angela Merkel of one of her closest allies in response to the eurozone debt crisis. With Dutch voters set to go to the polls on 12 September 12, opinion polls indicated that the Socialist party, which has never formed part of a government, is running marginally ahead of caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal party (VVD). According to a survey released on Wednesday (22 August) by opinion pollsters TNS-Nipo, both parties are projected to win 34 seats in the 150 member Parliament, with the centre-left Labour party (PvdA) expected to poll in third place with 21 seats. A poll of polls compiled this week by the University of Leiden pegs the Socialist and VVD parties at 35 and 33 seats respectively.

Editorials: Dutch go to the polls | Financial Times

François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential polls this year showed how a single national election can change Europe’s political equilibrium. Now the forthcoming Dutch election is being shaken up by the eurozone’s attempts to end its crisis and threatening in return to cause complications for Europe.
The election itself is a result of the Dutch government being a casualty of the eurozone crisis. Long a hawkish supporter of deficit cuts in the currency union’s periphery, the Netherlands was forced to take its own medicine when it went into recession last year and was set to miss fiscal targets agreed with the EU. An austerity package, designed by the coalition between prime minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right Liberal party and the Christian Democrats, led Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom party to withdraw parliamentary support and bring the government down. Both right and left are now riven by disagreements over how to handle the eurozone debt crisis. On the right, Mr Wilders has burnt his bridges and can only play the role of obstructionist. On the left, the Socialist party has outflanked the Labour party with strident criticism of both domestic austerity and the Fiscal Compact – the disciplining treaty demanded by German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany: Court dumps election law that favored Merkel |

Germany’s top court ruled on Wednesday that the country’s election law is unconstitutional, leaving Europe’s biggest economy with no valid rules on how to distribute seats in the Bundestag lower house just over a year before the next vote. The Karlsruhe-based Constitutional Court upheld a case brought by the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and more than over 3,000 citizens against the law, which was altered by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition last year. Germany’s complex system, which can end up creating extra or “overhang” parliamentary seats that benefit the bigger parties, breaches citizens’ rights to take part in direct, free and equal elections as enshrined in the constitution, the court said. Merkel’s government, preoccupied with trying to stem the euro zone debt crisis, now has to come up with a new law by autumn 2013, when the next federal election is due. A spokesman said the government respected the court’s decision.

Greece: New Democracy Party Scores Narrow Win in Elections |

Has the euro zone found some breathing room in its crisis? The conservative New Democracy (ND) party eked out a victory in Greece’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, edging out the leftist Syriza party, which is strongly opposed to the austerity measures imposed as part of the country’s bailout. The margin was less than 3 points. The victory, however, still leaves Greece without a government. ND failed to win an outright parliamentary majority and must join forces with at least one party to govern. The scenario is similar to the results of an earlier round of voting. ND also came in first in May 6 elections, again with Syriza running a close second, but failed to form a government then. Forming a government quickly is crucial because Greece could run out of cash to pay its bills as early as next month. It’s unclear which party might join ND in coalition. Greek media are speculating that the conservatives might join force with their traditional rival, the Socialist PASOK party, which came in a distant third on Sunday. Whether the results fully reflect the popular will is another question: nearly 38% of eligible voters abstained from voting — a much higher percentage than any party received.

Greece: In Greece, Fears That Voting Won’t Resolve Turmoil |

Greeks head to the polls on Sunday for the second time in two months with a pervasive sense of dread that any government that comes to power will fail to resolve the political and economic turmoil that threatens the country’s future — and the financial stability of Europe itself. If the establishment center-right party New Democracy ekes out a victory in a race that polls show as tight, Greece still faces weeks or months of negotiations with European lenders over the terms of its austerity program, which all parties agree are too onerous to enforce on its rapidly shrinking economy. A victory by the leftist party Syriza promises a more serious confrontation, especially with Germany, over how — and perhaps whether — to keep Greece in the euro zone.

Greece: Countdown to crucial election in Greece | euronews

With polls due to open in less than 24 hours, leftwing Syriza and the conservative New Democracy party are level-pegging in the race to win the election in Greece. The vote is being seen as a crucial indicator for the country’s future within the eurozone. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is the most likely candidate for the next prime minister of Greece. Although his party does not want to abandon the single-currency, it does reject the harsh austerity that comes with accepting the 130 billion euro bailout the country desperately needs.

Greece: Election apocalypse: Greeks hoard canned food | Herald Sun

Nervous Greeks are withdrawing up to 800 million euros ($1.01 billion) a day and stocking up on canned food as they fear the country will be forced to leave the eurozone after this Sunday’s election. Greek citizens fear the ramifications of a return to the country’s previous currency, the drachma, if the radical left-wing party and strong election contender SYRIZA wins this weekend. Bankers said daily withdrawals from the major banks were hitting €500-€800 million ($631.8 million-$1.01 billion), Reuters reported. Meanwhile, retailers say consumers are stocking up on non-perishable foods like pasta and canned goods.

Editorials: The Uniqueness Of The 2012 Election | NPR

All U.S. presidential elections “are unique in some fashion,” says John G. Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University. Sure, but what about 2012? What exactly will make the 2012 election between President Obama and Mitt Romney truly unique? For one thing, though the candidates have many similarities, as noted by NPR and The New York Times, there is a clear-cut choice between directions the country might take. And there are other — what shall we call them? — uniquities. Carol S. Weissert, director of the LeRoy Collins Institute — a nonpartisan public policy think tank in Tallahassee, Fla. — points out that the presidential election in November will be the first since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court opinion that opened the barn door to unregulated spending in all political campaigns — but especially presidential campaigns.

Ireland: In test for Europe, Ireland votes on fiscal treaty | The Washington Post

Linked by a common currency but not a common economy, the crisis-battered euro-zone nations are facing a pivotal choice: Either move more closely together or risk their currency union breaking apart. But are European voters — some in nations divided by centuries of rivalries — willing to take that leap toward closer integration? The fiercely independent Irish are about to offer a window into the answer. Euro-zone leaders aim to get control of debt crisis: Amid protests throughout the continent against strict austerity measures, European leaders are working on plans to save the euro. From the emerald hills of Donegal to the shores of Cork, the Irish go to the polls Thursday in a referendum on a regionwide fiscal treaty inked in January that would impose strict limits on budget deficits and debt. European governments that ratify the treaty will effectively surrender a measure of sovereignty over two of their most sacred economic rights — how much they can borrow and how much they can spend — to the bureaucrats in the region’s administrative capital of Brussels.

Ireland: Referendum turnout low as voting comes to an end | The Irish Times

Voting to decide if Ireland will ratify the fiscal treaty ended at 10pm with turnout reported as low across the State. With over 3.1 million people entitled to vote in the referendum indications are that only half the electorate chose to go to the polls. The counting of votes will begin at 9am tomorrow and a result is expected by early evening. In the last comparable referendum, the Lisbon treaty in October 2009, the national turnout was 59 per cent but early figures from returning officers today show it will struggle to reach the 50 per cent mark in many areas. With rain across much of the country earlier turnout was standing below 20 per cent at lunchtime in most constituencies however, there was a boost to the figures as people voted after work.

Greece: Caretaker cabinet named ahead of new elections | BBC

A cabinet of professors and diplomats has been sworn in in Greece to steer the debt-ridden eurozone state into repeat elections on 17 June. Panagiotis Pikrammenos, the senior judge who has taken over as prime minister, said the cabinet’s sole task was to lead the country into the polls. The 300 MPs elected on 6 May are taking their seats for a single day. Voters punished the two mainstream parties which agreed the cuts required under international bailouts. A 130bn euro (£104bn; $165bn) bailout was agreed earlier this year, following a 2010 package of 110bn euros.

Greece: Greeks set election date amid possibility of bank panic |

Greece will hold new elections on June 17, state media reported Wednesday, amid a political and economic crisis that could have effects far beyond the country’s borders. News of the election date came as Greeks pulled hundreds of millions of euros out of the banking system amid fears that the country will not be able to stay in the European Union’s single currency. Just 10 days ago, Greeks voters punished the major parties for harsh budget cuts, leaving no party able to form a government. A caretaker administration led by a senior judge will run the country until the new vote.
Interim Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos was sworn in Wednesday. The president’s office said Cabinet ministers will take their oaths of office Thursday morning. The political deadlock is leading to fears that Greece will not have a government in place when it needs to make critical debt payments, which could in turn jeopardize its place in the eurozone, the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro currency. And a Greek crisis could spread, one analyst warned.

Greece: Election a puzzle that could derail bailout |

Greek voters are unlikely to pick a clear winner in a snap election that is expected to send a record number of parties to parliament next month and test the international bailout keeping the country afloat. Political analysts say the outcome of the May 6 election is hard to predict. The conservative New Democracy party is seen ahead but not by enough to take sole charge of the indebted euro zone member. This could lead to days or weeks of negotiations while it forges a coalition with the Socialist PASOK party to impose austerity and reforms to meet the terms of a second 130 billion euro bailout from Europe and the International Monetary Fund. “It’s a great puzzle,” said Theodore Couloumbis of the ELIAMEP think tank. “I hope the pro-bailout parties will be able to form a government. This is the most likely scenario.”

Editorials: How An Election In Greece Could Cause Europe To Crumble | Yannis Palaiologos/The New Republic

Anyone anxiously waiting for the European Union’s death knell could do worse than circle May 6 on his calendar. That’s when Greece, a nation brought to its knees by an unprecedented economic crisis, is scheduled to hold what promises to be a turbulent parliamentary election. It’s an open question whether Europe’s fragile political balance—and Greece’s tenuous hold on membership in the Eurozone—will survive the subsequent aftershocks. What’s already clear is that life in Greece will never quite be the same. To gauge the extent of the tumult engulfing Greek politics, consider this: Since 1981, when the socialist party PASOK first won power, its combined share of the vote in national elections with the conservative Nea Demokratia, its main rival, has never fallen below 77 percent, and it often exceeded 85 percent. Recent polls for the coming contest give the two parties a joint percentage that lies between 33 and 40 percent. After the last general election, in October 2009, the two parties controlled between them 251 out of the 300 seats in parliament. Now, if the polls are to be believed, they may struggle to get to the 151 seats needed to form a viable coalition government.

Greece: Greece election announced for 6 May | BBC News

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has called elections on 6 May, after five months of technocratic government. Mr Papademos, an economist, was made prime minister last November to help steer Greece through its debt crisis. He told a cabinet meeting that the government had left behind “an important legacy” and would continue its work during the election campaign. After asking President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve parliament, he will then speak on national TV. The election will be Greece’s first since the start of the debt crisis that has led to drastic spending cuts and violent protests. Opinion polls suggest parties opposed to austerity could make big gains. The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens says the 6 May date comes after months of speculation and raises the prospect of a short and highly-charged campaign.

Europe: Radical eurozone shakeup could see countries stripped of voting rights | The Guardian

The European commission could be empowered to impose austerity measures on eurozone countries being bailed out, usurping the functions of government in countries such as Greece, Ireland, or Portugal. Bailed-out countries could also be stripped of their voting rights in the EU, under radical proposals being discussed at the highest level in Brussels before this week’s crucial EU summit on the sovereign debt crisis.

A confidential paper circulated to EU leaders on Tuesday by Herman Van Rompuy, the EU council president who will chair the summit on Thursday and Friday, says that eurobonds or the pooling of eurozone debt would be a powerful tool in resolving the crisis, despite fierce German resistance to the idea. It calls for “more intrusive control of national budgetary policies by the EU” and lays out various options for enforcing fiscal discipline supra-nationally.

The two-page paper, obtained by the Guardian, is to be discussed on Wednesday among senior officials in an attempt to build a consensus ahead of the summit. It may instead set off an explosive rebellion by eurozone countries balking at the options outlined by Van Rompuy, who heavily emphasises the need for a new punitive regime overseen by EU institutions that would be given new powers of intervention.