In Europe, Another Government Swings Right

Ireland held their latest round of parliamentary elections this past weekend, and the incumbent party Fianna Fail suffered its worst defeat since its inception in 1926, a result of the unpopularity from accepting the €85 billion EU bailout last November.

The EU doesn’t bailout fellow member states for free. The bailouts accepted by Greece and Ireland were accompanied by high interest rates and stiff austerity measures enacted to get these recipient countries’ spending under control, something which the Greek people haven’t been too crazy about.

The result ended up giving right-wing party Fine Gael its largest parliament majority in the party’s history. Fine Gael’s leader, Enda Kenny, is expected to be elected the next prime minister when the new government takes office March 9th.

Among the issues Kenny campaigned on were promises to balance the budget without raising taxes, attract businesses and jobs to Ireland, scale back government, cut waste, and reform the national health services. That was enough this year to give his party its best result in Irish election history.

Fall of the Socialism Network

Ireland, if anyone has been paying attention, isn’t the only country across the Atlantic to shift sharply rightward.

Since 2005, with the exceptions of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Austria, every election held in a major European country has resulted in the installation of conservative coalition governments and prime ministers. These have included Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s David Cameron, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, Poland’s Donald Tusk, Sweden’s Frederik Reinfeldt, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Czech Republic’s Petr Necas, and Slovakia’s Iveta Radicova, among others.

You can now add Ireland’s Enda Kenny to the list.

So what’s got the majority of Europeans jumping the socialist ship? After seeing the way Greece and Ireland are paying for decades of public spending, generous entitlement programs, early retirement pensions, and constant borrowing to keep up with it all, this shouldn’t be a mystery.

Conservative prime ministers across the continent are finally tightening the belts of their countries’ budgets lest they find themselves in the same position as Greece and Ireland needing a bailout. Coincidentally, the next four most troubled Eurozone economies with the biggest budget deficits and debt levels in need of a bailout are: Portugal, Spain, Belgium (a country that just broke the record for longest time without a government in power since their June 2010 election stalemate) and Austria, in that order. Do the math.

Britain’s David Cameron has told welfare recipients that the free ride is over and it’s time to get back to work. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy raised the country’s retirement age for the first time since 1983, from 60 to 62. Germany’s Angela Merkel’s policies of reduced bureaucracy, privatization, deregulation, and reform of collective bargaining have made her country the strongest economy on the continent and the indisputable powerhouse of the EU.

Only time will tell what Enda Kenny’s government will be able to do for Ireland but this much is clear – on a continent that was once known for pioneering socialism and state-sponsored solutions for decades, the majority of Europeans are making it clear they’re ready for a change.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons