_ GERMANY: On Sept. 27, Voters re-elected conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and gave the Social Democrats their worst thrashing since democracy was restored in Germany after World War II. The center-left Social Democrats _ who had been in government for 11 years _ scored only 23 percent of the vote. Merkel can now ditch her awkward "Grand Coalition" with the left and join forces with the pro-business Free Democrats.
_ FRANCE: In a closely watched battle of charismatic personalities, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy soundly defeated Socialist Segolene Royal to become president, and his party won a convincing parliamentary majority. Sarkozy campaigned on promises of breaking open France's labor market, but veered left when the global economy imploded.
_ ITALY: In 2008, billionaire media magnate Silvio Berlusconi returned to power as premier, avenging his loss two years earlier to a center-left coalition. Berlusconi enjoys majority support despite an embarrassing sex scandal and persistent allegations of corruption.
_ BRITAIN: David Cameron's Conservative Party appears poised to trounce Prime Minister Gordon Brown's beleaguered Labour Party in the next national elections. By law, that vote must be called by next June. Cameron's youth and charm often draw comparisons with Tony Blair when he swept to power in 1997.