In the May 6th Greek elections, the established ruling parties, the conservative New Democracy and the socialist PASOK were punished, unable to form a government. The voters blamed them for Greece’s debt crisis, and for destroying the country in their attempts to address the crisis.
The subsequent general elections of June 17 led to a flood of attention in the international media and blatant foreign intervention due to their potential economic implications for the Euro currency zone and the global economy. Observers were concerned that a Greek exit from the Euro would have a catastrophic impact on other ailing European states, damaging the US and the entire global economy. There was an unprecedented campaign orchestrated by the Eurocrats, the German government and the German media, which amounted to the blackmailing of the Greek electorate to vote against the parties that want to end the draconian austerity and neoliberal policies.
E.U. officials disregarded the norm of neutrality concerning an independent national election and expressed their opinion about their preferred outcome of Greeks’ vote, threatening “Grexit,” i.e., forcing Greece out of Euro zone, if the radical left wins. The intervention crescendo came on the eve of the election with an open letter of Germany’s Bild newspaper to Greek voters. The tabloid warned:
“Tomorrow you have elections but you do not have any choices….If you don’t want our billions, you are free to elect any left- or right-wing clowns that you want…For more than two years, though, your ATMs are only issuing euros because we put them there. If the parties that want to end austerity and reforms win the elections, they will be breaching all agreements and we will stop paying.”
But it was not only threats by the media and the Euro-area governments. After the May election results, part of Greece’s next aid payment (1billion Euros) was postponed as a warning to Greek politicians and voters to stick to the austerity program.
Repeated Eurocratic interventions over the month before the election of June 17 implied a deep disapproval of potential choices by free citizens. This began in February, when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble made the incredible suggestion that Greece should hold off the election and allow the interim government . . .
Read more: The Greek Election, June 17th, 2012
In this post, Minas Samatas, Professor of Political Sociology, University of Crete, reports that while the Greeks said no to draconian austerity, no to the two ruling parties, and no to European threats of Greece’s exit from euro zone, “Grexit,” they suggested a new path for a democratically legitimate European Union. -Jeff
Μay 6th elections in Greece have sent a loud and clear message: the Greek people said no to the draconian austerity measures that have devastated the country in exchange for dead-end bailouts from the troika of European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Designed by IMF and Eurocrats, the bailout “memorandum” does not guarantee a safe path to move Greece away from disaster, even if implemented in full. The austerity policy gives absolute priority for paying creditors at the expense of citizens’ incomes, without any future prospect of development and growth. It promotes sharp reductions in public spending, shattering the healthcare and educational system, and the “Balkanization” of Greece with salaries under 200 Euros comparable to Bulgaria. The Greek electorate rejected this in no uncertain terms.
They also, and very importantly, said no to the two ruling parties, punishing the socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy (ND). They are responsible for the dramatic economic crisis and signed the disastrous austerity program (memorandum) to protect the foreign creditors and the banks at the expense of the most vulnerable. The outcome of the ballot expressed anger against the corrupted political elite and its policies. It expressed dismay at the lack of punishment of those responsible for the crisis. It was a call for social justice for those who suffer from the crisis. The election results express the fear and despair of the Greek people affected by the memorandum’s inhumane policy, lurching deeper into poverty and despair by sharp salary and pensions cuts, unfair tax increases, 22% unemployment (with 922 people losing their job per day over the past year), leaving no future for the young people but immigration, leading to over 3,000 persons to suicide.
The conservative New Democracy (ND) came in first place . . .
Read more: Reflections on the Elections in Greece
The crisis here in Greece is not just financial, but also social and moral. People suffer, while the political elite and the establishment survive, untouched, although they are responsible for the current state bankruptcy. Given the history of the recent past, after the bloody civil war (1947-1949), during the police state (1949-1967) and the military dictatorship (1967-1974), and especially after the dictatorship up to the present, the crisis is not surprising. Greek tragedy has returned.
After the end of the dictatorship, democracy was restored and Greece joined the European Union (EU) and eventually the Euro-zone for political reasons, not based on economic fiscal criteria. As a consequence, the Greek people enjoyed thirty five years of stable democratic life and relative prosperity, albeit a false one. The state apparatus, dominated by the two political parties, the conservative “New Democracy” and the socialist “PASOK,” was thoroughly corrupt and mismanaged with a highly elaborate system of patronage. There was little real economic development. The economy was based on tourism, EU agricultural subsidies and other EU funds. Many Greek citizens, based on their political connections, were employed in the inflated public sector, and avoided their tax obligations, violated building regulations, and received permits and easy loans from the state controlled banks.
Through loans or from EU funding, these were good years for Greeks and their European partners, especially the Germans who took advantage of the great Greek party, i.e., Athens 2004 Olympics. Their outrageous cost and the ensuing corruption seriously contributed to the present debt crisis and the actual bankruptcy of the whole post dictatorial state and society. Beyond the Olympics, European and other multinational corporations have fully exploited Greece’s corrupt and disorganized system so as to multiply their profits in relation to other countries. The real party was in arms deals in the billions, which involved huge kickbacks. The Greek Parliament covered up the Siemens’ kickback scandal and several others. No one has been sentenced to jail. No one has been punished.
With the international fiscal crisis and aggressive international markets, the . . .
Read more: The Crisis in Greece: Tragedy Without Catharsis
I have been on the road much of the past month. This weekend I was involved with my son’s wedding. Sam and Lili Lu were married on Sunday, now off to Oslo and points north for their honeymoon. I have been in deep family mode. It has been hard to fit in a week in review post, but now I can offer some thoughts about the past few weeks at Deliberately Considered and in the world.
Oslo. I was in Wroclaw at the time of Anders Behring Breivikis’s atrocious act, ironically, the city where he may have bought chemicals for his bombing. A Polish visitor to the Institute, an alum, had worked in Norway. His first concern was to confirm that a friend, who called and left a message on his cell phone the day of the massacre, was ok. Upon speaking to his friend, our Polish colleague reported that “everyone” in Norway is relieved that the despicable act wasn’t the work of an Islamic radical. In my class on media and crisis, we discussed this judgment. A majority thought this relief was based on an understandable desire to not have Norway drawn into the conflict of civilizations narrative, but then a student from Albania (an historically Muslim nation) spoke. For her, the early reports of the fanatical anti-Muslim commitments of Breivik were deeply troubling, part of a larger civilizational whole.
When I came home, I discovered that the talking heads on conservative talk radio and Fox News were denouncing the idea that Breivik was a Christian xenophobe, representative of a deep cultural problem. I also heard about the new project to build the “ground zero Mosque.” The absurd side of our academic discussion was revealed.
Economic Crisis. Trying to explain the American debt ceiling crisis to Europeans is next to impossible. In the Euro zone, the economic crisis is the result of a fundamental problem. One currency is being used in a diverse set of nation states, each with independent . . .
Read more: DC Week in Review: Democracy in Crisis