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Merkel, Sarkozy Have No Mandate To Lead

Wondering why Europe’s two most important leaders seem ineffectual and paralytic confronted with the greatest crisis in the history of the European Union?

A recent German opinion poll sheds some light on the problem.  75 percent of Germans polled said they lacked confidence in Merkel’s leadership on the euro; only 22 percent said they backed her.  (Interestingly, more than 70 percent of Germans said they didn’t really understand the crisis.)

Germans trust Sarkozy almost as little as Americans trust Congress; only 15 percent of Germans said they had confidence in the wily and hyperactive Frenchman’s leadership on the euro.

The one ray of light for Merkel: the French trust her more than they trust their own president.  48 percent of the French polled said they had trust in Merkel; only 33 percent felt that way about their own leader.  Perhaps Merkel should run for president of France; in the meantime, neither she nor her French colleague have the domestic political standing to force deeply unpopular measures down their parliaments’ throats.

Merkel might need a grand coalition with the largest opposition party the Social Democrats to get the Germans to guarantee the PIIGS’ debts.  At this point she’s not ready for that and neither are the Soc Dems; it appears that the Germans simply will not make dramatic moves until the European house is actually burning down around their ears.  It remains to be seen whether there will still be something to be done by the time the Germans are ready to try.

Inevitably the waiting process is going to involve more high tension market episodes like last week’s frenzied ups and downs.  Only when the status quo is undendurably painful will Germany’s reluctant chancellor be forced to act.

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