Tag Archives: New Democracy

An issue of statistical significance in Greece

A Greek flag flies behind a statue to European unity outside the European Parliament in BrusselsThe head of Greece’s statistics agency, Andreas Georgiou, is to face a criminal inquiry. An ex-employee of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), Zoe Georganta, has accused him of colluding with the European Union’s statistical arm, Eurostat, to inflate Greece’s deficit figure for 2009, thereby justifying Greece’s EU-IMF bailout, signed in May 2010, and  its drastic austerity measures. Georgiou vehemently denies the charges.

Financial prosecutors have referred the matter to a special magistrate and the Greek justice system will have to decide on the validity of each side’s arguments.

Beyond the judicial process, some observations about the case are needed as it goes to the very heart of understanding how Greece’s public finances veered dramatically off course and the country turned to the eurozone and International Monetary Fund for emergency loans.

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The man who wasn’t there

Cartoon by Ilias Makris

Cartoon by Ilias Makris

Since he began his political career at the unusually young age of 28, Panos Kammenos has made a name for himself by being involved in high-decibel attacks on opposition politicians. For years, he was one of New Democracy’s attack dogs, poised to bite the necks of any passing detractor. Now a party leader, Kammenos finds himself struggling for political survival as his propensity for blood and bluster proves his very undoing.

His failure on Monday to respond to complaints from Independent Greeks MPs about his leadership prompted the kind of furious ranting that Kammenos, usually with the aid of a sheen of sweat, has made his trademark. “He is a coward,” barked Yiannis Manolis, another politician who has shunned the sotto voce school of oratory.

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Straight lines are useful sometimes

If the new Greek government is attempting to bamboozle the country’s lenders into submission with its tactical meandering, who knows, it might have struck on a great idea. If it’s trying to convince the Greek people it’s capable of dealing with the economic crisis, then performing more sudden turns than Fernando Alonso going through the Monaco chicanes is just not going to cut it.

Within a week, the three parties who campaigned on a pre-election platform of renegotiation, renegotiation, renegotiation suddenly decided that the bailout terms are fine as they are for now. Then, they changed their minds again and decided it would be best to bring up the issue of changes to the loan deal in talks with the troika later this month.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras caused consternation last week when they suggested there would be no Greek bid to renegotiate the bailout, without making it clear whether this meant abandoning efforts or simply putting them off. There is logic to the strategy of putting aside the renegotiation issue in the sense that the coalition government can draw a line under what has happened in the past, express its commitment to meeting fiscal and reform targets and allow a little time for trust with its lenders to be restored and goodwill credits that could be subsequently cashed in to be amassed.

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A Greek election diary, of sorts

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)

A poster moment for Greek politics

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.

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