Europe’s backlash against austerity gained momentum, in a challenge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s budget-cutting prescriptions for resolving the debt crisis.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy lost the first round of his re-election bid and a revolt against extra spending cuts in the traditionally budget-conscious Netherlands propelled Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition toward an early breakup.
The politician caught in the middle is Sarkozy, who sought to balance the German anti-deficit line with pro-growth policies, and delivered on neither count. France was stripped of its AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor’s in January and had 9.8 percent unemployment in the fourth quarter.
“What would the National Front mean: no euro, no Europe,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, a Socialist, told reporters in Luxembourg today. “If I were president of the republic, I’d be asking myself why one in five French voted for the National Front.”