6 May 2012

History as France, Greece and Serbia go to polls

A tremendous air of excitement here in Paris. Even before getting here, it was clear that French society is profoundly different from our own.

St Pancras International, boarding the Eurostar, all the staff are French. Every one of them that I encountered was going to vote, either in the London Borough of Camden or in Kensington.

There are, they claimed, 100,000 French voters in London, and they all expect to queue, as they did in the first round of the French presidential elections, for several hours.

But it’s not just France that’s voting today, but Greece and Serbia. The Serb election is interesting because it is the first in which the independence of Kosovo does not seem to have been an issue.

Greece foreshadows an unprecedented event in which the two parties that have dominated Greek politics for as long as anyone can remember, both look likely to be ground to electoral dust.

The extremes – the Communists and the extreme right wing – are likely to generate together 15-20 per cent of the poll, and a myriad small parties together are likely to produce a pretty anarchic outcome. An outcome that could send shockwaves through the eurozone and see Greece’s own departure from it.

Here in France, you have a straight right-left contest for the presidency, and plenty of personality to boot. And yet everyone you talk to here thinks nothing too much will change.

That’s not the view of the eurozonistas encamped in Frankfurt, who fear that if Mr Hollande wins he will follow up on his word to try to renegotiate the processes for reforming the eurozone itself.

On the lighter side, if he does win, Mr Hollande will become the first president of any country to be called by the name of another.

We shall be live in Paris, Athens and London tonight, and we’re on at 6.30. I don’t usually ask you to join us when I’m blogging, but today I do. It’s a moment of history for all our tomorrows.

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