Europe had a momentous election yesterday. But it wasn’t in Greece. It was in France.
Greeks narrowly chose the “pro-bailout” party, the headlines trumpet. But that’s no surprise. The Greek public has consistently said that it wants to stay in the euro. But nobody in power, whether in Greece or in Brussels or in Berlin, has shown exactly how Greece can do so without suffering under crushing deflation and depression, which people don’t like so far.
The election didn’t change that impossible equation — nor did it change the fact that Greece is small. If the euro can’t survive a Greek pull-out at this point, it can’t survive much.
The real news was in France, where new president François Hollande booked a big victory, gaining control of Parliament by a comfortable margin.
The voters’ choice shows that the French people didn’t elect Hollande because they were understandably tired of Nicolas Sarkozy. The French people elected Hollande in large part because they don’t want austerity. Bowing to this reality, one of Hollande’s first acts was to rollback modestly an equally modest pension cut.
France is not small — and how France behaves now under a socialist government matters more to the euro than whatever happens or doesn’t happen in Greece.
— Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.