Four elections this weekend have the potential to reshape the European political map and show how the response to the financial crisis remains hostage to the whims of voters on both sides of the region’s economic divide.
Recession-weary Greeks will pick a new government and polls show the French will probably install a Socialist president for the first time since 1981. Local elections will test Italy’s political pulse, and voters in a northern German state may deal a symbolic blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition.
Greece’s first ballot since then-newly installed Prime Minister George Papandreou uncovered a 20 billion-euro budget hole in October 2009 may yield a parliament with as many as 10 parties, making it hard to form a government with a clear mandate.
Merkel has her own electoral business to attend to, with her party vying to hold on to a share of power in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and to re-enter the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest state, a week later.