Whatever the outcome of the accusations of rape made against Dominique Strauss Kahn at the weekend, Marine Le Pen leader of France’s Front National was almost certainly right when she said that it marks the end of his campaign — or pre campaign — for the French Presidency. As euro land has creaked and groaned under the strains imposed on it by E.M.U. it is German politics which has attracted the most attention, in particular whether Angela Merkel’s coalition can find its way to supporting yet another bail out for Greece or Portugal or whoever is next.
The Strauss Kahn story throws the spotlight where it ought to be; not just on the French Presidential elections on April 22nd next year but on the shifting political sands for all Europe’s incumbent political parties. In recent opinion polls Le Pen has received as much support as Sarkozy — more in one recent survey. Meanwhile, Strauss Kahn was the front runner for next year’s Presidential race — until France woke up to photos of him handcuffed between two policemen. With Strauss Kahn out of the running and Le Pen facing a weaker socialist candidate the prospects for a victory by the Front National improve.
The facade of European solidarity is increasingly hard to maintain as the scale of the financial and economic disaster in the periphery becomes clear. But neither is all well behind the facade of national politics. Every mainstream political party in Europe offers a set of political and economic choices constrained by what freedom of maneuver exists within Economic and Monetary Union. As austerity is piled upon austerity it is becoming clear just what a straitjacket that is. In the past Europe’s “mainstream” political parties have successfully characterized politicians in minority parties as “extremist” but increasingly they have been forced to make concessions.
The most obvious area in which this has happened is race and immigration, for obvious reasons a highly emotionally charged area of debate. The “burhka ban” in France, the rhetoric of the “True Finns” and the re-imposition of border controls between Sweden and Denmark are all examples. What have remained beyond discussion have been the broader questions of economic and fiscal policy which have, so far, successfully [from the point of view of Europe’s political elite] been contained within the narrow confines imposed by E.M.U.
As unemployment continues to rise and economic conditions worsen in Greece, Portugal and Ireland it will become ever more obvious that a choice of political parties all of which favor E.M.U. represents no choice at all. The widening gulf between the core economies and the periphery becomes more and more obvious with every data release. It would be ironic if the [alleged] actions of one of the Euro elite in a 2000 Euro per night hotel suite took the battle to the heart of Europe.
The author is Nick Carn, the Founder of Carn Marco Advisors