Austerity Backlash

A Chink in Merkel's Armor

Merkel HB
Syriza's triumph is bad news for Berlin.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Germany’s austerity-driven euro policies may begin to lose support in Europe after the Greek election.
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  • Facts

    Facts

    • Greece’s Syriza party won national elections on Sunday on an anti-austerity platform.
    • Spain’s leftist Podemos party could win national elections later this year.
    • Center-left governments in Italy and France also face growing challengers from radical parties.
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    Audio

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Germany is having a bad couple of weeks.

First the European Central Bank went ahead with its quantitative easing program, ignoring the qualms of Germany’s Bundesbank.

Then, the leftist Syriza won the Greek elections, largely swept into power by its firm rejection of German-dictated austerity.

“Our victory is also a victory for all European peoples fighting against austerity that is destroying our common European future,” new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, told supporters after his party topped the polls on Sunday.

It’s a direct challenge to Germany, which at the height of the euro crisis, was widely regarded as calling the shots in Europe.

The worry in Berlin is that it could start to lose influence over a whole range of governments, from Paris to Rome and Madrid, which under pressure from populist challengers may now start to backslide on reforms Germany considers essential.

At the same time, sources say the German government fears that giving in to Syriza could embolden other anti-austerity movements across the 19-nation currency bloc. “Mr. Tsipras shouldn’t get anything his predecessor didn’t get,” said one government source, who declined to be named.

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