What do the elections in France and Greece have in common?
And what is their effect likely to be in Europe -- and on the world?
For starters, the status quo in both countries has been capsized. Voters in both countries reject austerity measures that were imposed to save the euro and avoid bankruptcy, and to deter some countries bailing out of the 17-country European Union.
France has elected a socialist government for the first time in about 17 years, and the new president, Francois Hollande, seems bent on spending France out of economic doldrums.
Nicolas Sarkozy was gracious in defeat, and urged that the new guy be given a chance. But to some, Mr. Hollande's formula is fraught with doubts: "Austerity is not inevitable," he said of Sarkozy's determination to slash the debt. It's presumed that taxes may be increased, which is not a worry in France because no one pays them anyway.
Hollande promised "hope, employment and prosperity" -- the sort of thing U.S. President Barack Obama promises, but has difficulty fulfilling. Spending and bailouts are curious ways to cut the debt or deficit.
What's certain, is that France's unease with Islamic immigrants is destined to intensify. Also there'll be trouble when (if) Hollande attempts to renegotiate the deal Sarkozy and Germany's Anglea Merkel agreed on to rescue the euro from its crisis.
Already Merkel has said "no" to renegotiations.
France, being France, is likely to elect a more conservative government in the next election, if only because the radical Muslim situation will be worse. The door will then be open for a new president to be even tougher than Sarkozy.
As for Greece, it rejected both left and right political parties, and voters seem to want the country to drop the euro and go back to the drachma. This seems almost inevitable, especially since the hodge-podge of parties can't agree on a coalition government. If the stand-off continues, another election looms.
Both Greeks and French (and Italians too, if you want to be picky) seem to regard it as a matter of honour to avoid paying taxes whenever possible. I guess we all feel that way, but some countries are more diligent than others in pursuing tax dodgers.
Greece has had a succession of irresponsible governments that have raised salaries, pandered to unions, lied about finances, and neglected their duty to impose restraint and leadership.
One gathers that Portugal, Spain and even Italy are not averse to quitting the European Union, or dumping the euro. This will mean hardship, but it's coming.
The bailout loans that Greece got, hinged on it imposing a program of austerity and economic reform. But there's no guarantee (nor, possibly, likelihood) that the new elected government will agree or approve of such demands.
The IMF is likely to lose patience with Greece if those elected choose to ditch austerity and default on debts. An estimated 60 per cent of voters reject austerity programs as being too painful. They blame the euro for their self-indulgence.
The fate of the European Union and the euro, hinge largely on decisions by Germany and France -- the economic engines of Europe. If that alliance is now in jeopardy, it means all of Europe is approaching crisis. If so, that will also affect the rest of the developed world.
Stock markets are already reacting adversely -- which means there will be some good bargains out there for investors with nerve, judgment, foresight and ready cash.