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Who’s on First?

November 17, 2011

Tent City in Madrid

Spanish elections are coming up this Sunday and many are pondering the implication of the elections as the Euro crisis continues. The ruling Socialist Workers Party is expected to lose big to the centre-right People’s Party, bringing down the last of the five PIIGS governments (see chart below). Unemployment is the highest in Spain of all EU member states at a daunting 21.5%. If that number seems discouraging then the future must look even bleaker with 43.5% of those under 25 seeking employment. Young people in Spain have not stood by passively, they have been protesting since May in tent cities.

Ireland Brian Cowen Resigned prior to March 2011 general election
Portugal José Sócrates Lost in a general election in June 2011
Greece George Papandreou Resigned in November 2011, replaced by Lucas Papademos
Italy Silvio Berlusconi Resigned in November 2011, replaced by Mario Monti
Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Announced the he will not run for reelection, likely to be replaced by Mariano Rajoy


Spanish voters have to be aware of the situations in Greece and Italy which could influence turnout and who they vote for. The wealth that protestors have in enthusiasm is unfortunately not met with political organization. Radical economic change is not something conservative governments are known for unless you want count austerity measures.

The term “Technocrat” has been a buzz word in European governments for the past month as Greece and Italy have both installed leaders who have been elected, but chosen by bureaucrats in the European Union. Former vice-president of the European Central Bank Lucas Papademos took over the Greek government from Prime Minister George Papandreou while Berlusconi will step down to make way for former European Union Commissioner Mario Monti. These technocrats are expected to have specialized knowledge that will help their respective nation drift away from between a rock and a hard place.

Italian Technocrat Marion Monti

Democracy is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of the EU, as all of its members are required to have democratic governments.  However, the EU itself is often accused of being driven by elites in Brussels and suffering from a democratic deficit. While it may be necessary for a technocrat to take change during the current European Debt Crisis, it does beg the question: What if these measures taken by unelected technocrats become even more unpopular than the leaders they replaced? Major economic policy does not always show immediate change which could lead to even more social upheaval than we have seen in Greece in the past two years. What is the balance between the collective economic well-being of EU members and their own sovereignty?

If Spain elects a new government that does not improve its economic situation, how long do they have until the EU steps in and cleans house? Is the replacement of national policymakers going to become a trend in shaky EU economies?

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