It is one year to the day since Greece held its second general election in two months and third in three years. What better way to celebrate the occasion than trying to relive the uncertainty and tension we experienced during the summer of 2012? The leaders of Greece’s three coalition parties go into a meeting this evening with the future of their government less secure than it has been at any point during the 12 months. The cause of their dispute suggests that even if this crisis is overcome, deeper problems lie ahead.
The spark that threatens to burn the house down is the closure of public broadcaster ERT. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who ordered the shutdown, suggested over the weekend that the bigger picture in this standoff is that he is a reformer and the others, both in his government and in opposition, are not. But what does he really mean by reform?
His justification for closing ERT was that it was overstaffed, too expensive and a source of corruption. Greece needs a more modern broadcaster, along the lines of the BBC, it has been suggested. All of these things may be true to a greater or lesser extent but there has been no attempt by the government to back this up with any substance, just the standard smattering of platitudes.
Posted in Economy, Greece, Greek politics, Media
Tagged Antonis Samaras, Democratic Left, ERT, Greece, Greek bailout, Greek coalition, Greek elections, New Democracy, PASOK, Public broadcasting, reforms, Troika
Greece has been the centre of the world’s attention, again, over the past couple of weeks. The June 17 elections and their fallout has attracted interest from around the globe and I was lucky enough to be asked to write some articles about all this for The Guardian and Businessweek. I provide links to these stories below in the hope they will act as an election diary, of sorts (I was never very good at keeping diaries).
Wednesday, June 13
Greece faces an agonising election choice (The Guardian)
The fear factor in Greek elections (Businessweek)
Monday, June 17
The Greek election may yet prove a victory for SYRIZA (The Guardian)
For Greek politicians, election doesn’t make governing any easier (Businessweek)
Tuesday, June 18
Greece’s anti-bailout brigade is here to stay (Businessweek)
Wednesday, June 19
Greece nears a coalition that seeks space to fix the economy (Businessweek)
Thursday, June 20
Tourism in Greece may rebound with new government (Businessweek)
Friday, June 21
Greece vs Germany, the real fireworks come after the soccer match (Businessweek)
Sunday, June 24
Finance minister of Greece: the world’s worst job? (Businessweek)
Ten tons of illegal election campaign posters were taken down in Athens over the past few days. The political scrap-heap is full, for now.
Having been sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister on Wednesday, Antonis Samaras will hope that this will be his moment of redemption. From rising star to rebel and them from outcast to unlikely unifier, Samaras has covered the whole gamut of political roles. Now, he must fulfill the biggest of them all, at the most crucial of times.
With him in charge, New Democracy veered all over the place like a driver nodding off at the steering wheel. He also managed the unique feat of alienating the party’s middle-ground voters while also losing support to the right. It’s safe to say that Samaras will have to up his game as prime minister.
Posted in Greece, Greek politics
Tagged Antonis Samaras, Democratic Left, Evangelos Venizelos, Fotis Kouvelis, Greece, Greek coalition, Greek crisis, Greek elections, New Democracy, PASOK
It’s not often that the losing party in an election can declare that “a new day is dawning.” Yet, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras felt that his party’s phenomenal rise, which narrowly lacked the momentum to carry the leftists to first place in Sunday’s Greek elections, justified a feeling of optimism.
“The future does not belong to the terrorised but those who bring hope,” he told supporters at a small post-election rally in central Athens on Sunday night.
Tsipras is right to feel emboldened by his party’s upward trajectory from 4.6 percent in the 2009 election to almost 27 percent in yesterday’s vote but the immediate future belongs to those who pledge something much less ambitious than hope. Sunday’s result, which saw New Democracy’s conservatives gain 29.6 percent, provides a mandate for those who pledge plain old stability.
Like a reality TV star who can’t remember applying to take part in the show, ordinary, respectable Greek people have had all their dirty laundry aired in public over the past couple of years. It’s unlikely that the citizens of any other nation on earth have undergone such intense scrutiny as the Greeks. Everybody knows what the Greeks earn, what they pay in taxes, how they live, how much their wages have been reduced, how many hours they work, how much vacation time they have, what they spend their money on, how they vote and what their most personal fears are.
Much of this is to be expected as a result if the mess that Greece got itself into and the unprecedented loan packages that it has received. But the line must be drawn somewhere. These loans come with extreme conditionality. Just as Greeks’ personal lives are pored over, so the bailouts dictate not just economic policy but a whole range of other policies down to the finest details. This is the quid pro quo of the loan deals: Greece receives money in return for certain fiscal measures and structural reforms. Nowhere does the agreement dictate how people should vote in a free election.