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Sarkozy the latest leader to fall in Europe crisis
Question of the Day
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was kicked out of office in elections Sunday, but he’ll be in good company: Almost every crisis-hit European country that has held an election since economic disaster struck in 2009 has thrown out its leader.
Here’s a look at countries where political cadavers litter the landscape.
• Spain. A burst real estate bubble also deflates faith in a Socialist government, which is nonetheless reluctant to admit Spain has problems. Blips of good economic news are seized upon as “green shoots” pointing to recovery. Wrong. Stimulus measures are enacted, then crushing austerity. Unemployment soars. The Socialists of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero are wiped off the map in November 2011 elections; Mariano Rajoy’s conservatives take over.
• Italy. Silvio Berlusconi, the long-serving leader accused of everything from bedding escorts to serial corruption, finally bites the dust in November 2011. He resigns to cheers and jeers as investors lose confidence in his ability to spur economic growth and rein in debt. It’s the end of a political era. Mario Monti, a former European commissioner, is named to replace him and lead a technical government until elections in 2013.
• Britain. Gordon Brown leads the Labor Party to defeat in the May 2010 election; Conservative Party leader David Cameron becomes leader of a coalition government. Mr. Brown was finance chief for a decade before succeeding Tony Blair in 2007. Brown boasted endlessly of ending the cycle of boom and bust, but as prime minister he presided mostly over bust.
• Ireland. Brian Cowen, promoted to prime minister in 2008 after being finance minister, doesn’t even get to run. He resigns as leader of the Fianna Fail Party weeks before the February, 2011 election. It doesn’t help his party, which suffers its worst ever defeat. Mr. Cowen was finance minister during Ireland’s banking crisis and the collapse of its housing bubble.
• Greece. Greek Socialist leader George Papandreou swept to power in October 2009 over conservative opponents, pledging to spend his way out of a deteriorating economic situation. Two years later, at the height of Greece’s worst financial crisis since World War II, Mr. Papandreou’s own deputies force him out after he endangers a hard-won bailout by announcing he would put it to a referendum. He’s replaced by caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
• Portugal. A month after Portugal requests a 78-billion-euro bailout, the center-left Socialist government of Jose Socrates is voted out of power in June, 2011. Portugal’s woes stemmed from a decade of feeble growth as it failed to modernize amid increasing global competition and dug itself deeper into debt.
• Denmark. A center-right government in Denmark loses power in September in part because of discontent over austerity measures introduced amid the debt crisis. It is replaced by a center-left coalition.
• Finland. Finland’s government is reconfigured after June elections following a sharp surge in support for nationalists who oppose bailouts for debt-stricken eurozone countries. A conservative-led coalition spanning left and right is formed to keep the nationalist True Finns out of power.
Bucking the trend:
• Romania. Romanian President Traian Basescu wins re-election in 2009, the year Romania’s economy shrinks by 7 percent and Romania takes a 20-billion-euro bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union. Mr. Basescu, a former ship captain, prevails because he is seen as a strong leader in a time of crisis.
• Poland. This has been a rare European success story: It’s the only European Union country that did not to slip into recession during the global crisis of 2008-09. Last fall the center-right party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk wins a second straight term in parliamentary elections, making history by becoming the first government since the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 to be re-elected.
• Sweden, Latvia and Estonia. Sweden’s prime minister is re-elected in 2010, and the prime ministers of Latvia and Estonia are re-elected in 2011.
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