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March 8, 2004
Sea Change in Europe?

The Greeks have resoundingly endorsed their conservatives and have sent Socialists to defeat, reversing twenty-three years of governing:

With nearly 98 percent of votes counted, the New Democracy party led the Socialists 45.4 percent to 40.6 percent in Sunday's vote as part of a deep reshuffling of Greece's political order. Papandreou conceded defeat after exit polls showed New Democracy with a strong lead.

New Democracy was poised to take an overwhelming majority in the 300-seat parliament. Under the Greek system, the winning party takes the lion's share of seats for a four-year term.

Although the Greek economy is expanding at a rate of 4.7% -- the best in the EU -- most of that production involves the upcoming Athens Olympics, which played a large role in the election, especially regarding security. Even with that robust growth, unemployment has remained at 9%. The New Democracy movement promises to cut taxes and government spending in order to boost the economy and start job creation.

The Greeks are the latest country to reject leftist governments in favor of conservatives:

Greece is following a path toward the right blazed by other European nations in recent years, including Portugal and Italy. Spain's conservative Popular Party is forecast to win parliamentary elections on March 14, and rightist Joerg Haider secured another term as governor in Austria's Carinthia province on Sunday.

Germany's Schroeder is also feeling the pinch these days, and the French ... well, all right, the French probably won't ever let go of its Socialist fantasies. Even the British have begun taking a new look at the Conservatives there, led by Michael Howard, who has emulated Tony Blair by staking out libertarian positions on social policy combined with traditional Conservative economic and defense policies. Instead of facing a hostile Europe, the US may find its allies integrating with American economic and security policies much more enthusiastically in the future.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 8, 2004 5:47 AM

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