Tag Archives: SYRIZA

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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Trading places

tsiprashandup_390_0412What a delicious irony that on Monday – the day that at least one paper carried a headline labeling SYRIZA “the new PASOK” – the leftists announced the results of a vote aimed at uniting the party behind a central vision just a few hours before former PASOK high flier Andreas Loverdos heralded the creation of a new political movement, or would-be party, that splits the Socialists even further.

As SYRIZA attempts to leave behind its days of myriad factions and to create greater cohesion behind a common set of policies, PASOK – the erstwhile epitome of the party coming before anything else – breaks up into ever smaller pieces.

Sunday’s vote was the next step in SYRIZA’s effort to speak with one voice. Since its inception, the party has been made up a variety of groupings from the left side of the political spectrum, such as Eurocommunists, anti-capitalists and ecologists. This has made for a rare polyphony, an attractive feature in times when the urgency of bailout bills means Parliament’s rules, regulations and even role are often steamrollered. The plurality of views created and ebb and flow that kept the party moving and provided a platform for all views, regardless of how controversial they may have been. Matthaios Tsimitakis, a freelance journalist who follows SYRIZA closely, refers to the process as “exhaustive democracy.”

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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 victorious second place for SYRIZA?

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.

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Fear itself

Fear is a sentiment that Greeks have learned to live with over the past couple of years. As the thread by which the country hangs grows ever thinner, fear has begun to pervade all aspects of life. It is so prevalent and has been lingering for so long that most people have become desensitized, blocking from their minds the worst scenarios that could lie ahead.

Every now and then, though, there is a jolt to the system that reminds us of how precarious Greece’s situation is and how there are about 11 million people clinging to this fraying thread, hoping that it will somehow repair itself before it snaps and they are cast into the dark valley below.

This week, there have been plenty of reminders of just how close the abyss is. Perhaps the most shocking came on Tuesday when during a Skai TV report about drugs shortages, a woman’s cries could be heard from inside a pharmacy. “Where am I going to find my medication?” she screamed with a fear that pierced through the shield of inurement that Greeks drag along with them wherever they go these days.

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