What they said.
“No” said the Irish on February 25, 2011. They ejected Fianna Fail, the largest party in Ireland since 1927 and replaced it with Finn Gael.
“No” said the Italians on November 12, 2011. They sent away Silvio Berlusconi who served on and off for a cumulative 10 years from 1994 through 2011 and was Italy’s longest-serving Prime Minister ever.
“No” said the Spanish on November 20, 2011 to the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, two-term Prime Minister from 2004-2011, replacing him with the conservative People’s Party led by Mariano Rajoy.
“No” said Geert Wilders, Party for Freedom leader on April 21, 2012 to his coalition partner, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Liberal Party, sending Holland to a likely caretaker government and election on September 12.
Romans in the streets celebrating Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation.
Source: Reuters. November 12, 2011.
“No” said the French on April 22, 2012 in the first round of the French election to Nicolas Sarkozy, likely to be the first President since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, not to be a two-termer.
“No” say the Greek polls to the likelihood of a plurality of the votes in the May 6 election for the two leading parties combined (New Democracy polling at 22% and Pasok at 17%, for a combined total of the votes (not the seats in parliament) of 40% — the functional equivalent of Democrats and Republicans in the US getting 40% of the votes together.
No. No. No. No. No. No.
So what’s going on? Are these “kick the bums out” nos? Are they “we’re not better off than we were four years ago” nos? Are they anti-euro nos? Are they “we can’t stand our national identity being kicked around” nos? Are they “we want growth not austerity nos”? There are lots of pundits who will tell you lots of things. I will tell you two.
Knowing what you don’t know.
First, what the European people really think is remarkably not evident and hard to get at. The nos at election time are a reminder of how little we hear them speak and how little we know what they think. The only other time is when they band together in extremist parties. These are noisy and have press outlets so we can listen in. And extremist parties are growing. For example, Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein is Ireland’s third largest party. Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France got 18% of last Sunday’s vote. Geert Wilder’s Dutch Party for Freedom has become Holland’s third largest. The Greek far left and far right are polling at 29% and 18% respectively. But most of the time the thinking of the European people remains opaque – more so than that of the American people who are culturally more voluble and typically more probed and analyzed. Why is it so hard to get at the ordinary Europeans’ mindset?
My working hypothesis is that reporting on and analysis of Europe is overwhelmingly about what the educated, professional European elites think about Europe. These elites have created an idea – Europe. They see it as a project on a one-way street toward the eventual and, in their eyes, historically inevitable United States of Europe. They see the euro as a piece of the roadway to that end. And they see the ordinary people and the parochial interests of individual European countries as flotsam and jetsam they have to navigate to get to the promised land. Like all those on a mission and with an agenda, the educated, professional elites of Europe are not really interested in people who might slow them down. And so they are typically the last to know of or report on troubles in the ranks. And we who read their newspapers or studies or BLOGs are the last to know as well unless we find other non-traditional ways to get behind the veil that shields the mind of the general population.
The numerate discount the immeasurable.
My second point is simpler and shorter: what the general population thinks and what it does is hard to measure, and since financial people love the measurable and hate the immeasurable, the general population’s intentions tend to be discounted or marginalized by those investing in Europe. If you want to know what the people might do – and what political risks might emerge from what they do – the last place to look is Wall Street, London and Frankfurt.
Against the huge push for the European – and currently, the euro idea – by the educated, professional elites of Europe the patter of nos at election time seem like so many ineffectual raindrops splattering against a huge, concrete dike. Maybe so. But if the drops of rain tapping out no, no, no, no, no, no is all you’ve got as clues to a popular storm that one day might kick up, better to listen than not.
— John Allison
© 2012 UNIO Holdings, LLC.
UNIO® and the UNIO® Logo are registered trademarks of UNIO Holdings, LLC.
The information contained in this communication is proprietary to UNIO Holdings, LLC. Reproduction or retransmission of this information, in whole or in part, is prohibited without the prior written consent of UNIO Holdings, LLC. This information does not constitute investment advice.