Nicolas Sarkozy, defeated Sunday in France’s presidential runoff by Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, joins a series of European leaders booted from office because of public anger over government spending cuts and economic crisis. Almost every crisis-hit European country that has held an election since disaster struck in 2009 has thrown out its leader.
Here’s a look at countries where political cadavers litter the landscape.
â€” ITALY: Silvio Berlusconi, the long-serving leader and survivor of scandals over everything from allegedly bedding escorts to serial corruption, finally bites the dust in November 2011. He resigns to cheers and jeers as investors lose confidence in his ability to spur economic growth and rein in debt. It’s the end of a political era. Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, is named to replace him and lead a technical government until elections in 2013.
â€” GREECE: Greek Socialist leader George Papandreou swept to power in October 2009 pledging to spend his way out of a deteriorating economic situation. Two years later, at the height of Greece’s worst financial crisis since World War II, Papandreou’s own deputies force him out after he endangers a hard-won bailout by pledging to put it to a referendum. He’s replaced by caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. On Sunday, Greek voters punish the country’s two dominant parties, with projections showing both losing support to anti-bailout groups in parliamentary elections and no party gaining enough ballots to form a government.
â€” SPAIN: A burst real estate bubble also deflated faith in a Socialist government, which was nonetheless reluctant to acknowledge Spain has problems. Blips of good economic news are seized upon as “green shoots” pointing to recovery. Wrong. Stimulus measures are enacted, then crushing austerity. Unemployment soars. The Socialists of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero are wiped off the map in November 2011 elections; Mariano Rajoy’s conservatives take over.
â€” BRITAIN: Gordon Brown leads the Labour Party to defeat in the May 2010 election; Conservative Party leader David Cameron becomes leader of a coalition government. Brown had been finance chief for a decade before succeeding Tony Blair in 2007. Brown had boasted endlessly of ending the cycle of boom and bust â€” but as prime minister he presided mostly over bust.
â€” IRELAND: Brian Cowen, promoted to prime minister in 2008 after being finance minister, doesn’t even get to run. He resigns as leader of the Fianna Fail Party weeks before the February, 2011 election. It doesn’t help his party, which suffers its worst ever defeat. Cowen was finance minister during Ireland’s banking crisis and the collapse of its housing bubble.
â€” PORTUGAL: A month after Portugal requests a 78 billion-euro bailout, the center-left Socialist government of Jose Socrates is voted out of power in June, 2011. Portugal’s woes stemmed from a decade of feeble growth as it failed to modernize amid increasing global competition and dug itself deeper into debt.
â€” DENMARK: A center-right government in Denmark loses power in September in part due to discontent over austerity measures introduced amid the debt crisis. It is replaced by a center-left coalition.
â€” FINLAND: Finland’s government is reconfigured after June elections following a sharp surge in support for nationalists who oppose bailouts for debt-stricken eurozone countries. A conservative-led coalition spanning left and right is formed to keep the nationalist True Finns out of power.