Thursday, June 21, 2012

Greece's new government: a coalition with an unusual twist

The new Greek government has been sworn in, with the leader of the conservative New Democracy (ND) party, Antonis Samaras, as the Prime Minister. The government is a coalition of the ND, the social-democratic Pasok, and the small Democratic Left (Dimar) party (not to be confused with the second-place parliamentary group, Syriza).

But there's something a little peculiar about the set of ministers in this three-party coalition. Normally in parliamentary governments, the government ministers are made up of members of the respective parties' parliamentary delegations. They are usually apportioned on the basis of intense negotiations among the coalition parties.

In the new Greek government, most of the minister are from ND's parliamentary delegation, which one would expect. But, as Makis Papasimakopoulos and Damian Mac Con Uladh in the Athens News Live news blog, June 21, "The new government contains no MPs from Pasok or Democratic Left, which will support the government with a vote of confidence".

Four ministers, Finance Minister Vasilis Rapanos and the Ministers of Administrative Reform and E-Governance; Environment, Energy & Climate Change; and, Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister, are designated as technocrats. "Some of the technocrat professors would be sympathetic towards the Pasok/Democratic Left spectrum."

In other words, the two coalition partner parties wanted to keep their partisan brand as far away from the government in which they are participating as they could!

It's a safe bet that Pasok and Dimar don't expect the current government to be very well-regarded among Greek voters. And they don't see their participation in it as a ticket to greater popularity at the polls.

Eduardo Febbro reported from Athens on the result of last Sunday's Greek elections (Un voto griego para el centroderecha y el ajuste Página 12 18.06.2012). He writes:

Grecia votó ayer bajo la inmensa presión ejercida por sus socios europeos y los medios del Viejo Continente, que hicieron una campaña feroz y deshonesta a favor del continuismo presentando la elección con los mismos argumentos que la derecha de Nueva Democracia: a favor o contra del euro. Ganaron entonces el miedo y la austeridad.

[Greece voted yesterday under the immense pressure exercised by its European partners and the media of the Old Continent, who conducted a ferocious and dishonest campaign in favor of continuity, presenting the election with the same argument as the right of New Democracy: in favor or against the euro. So fear and austerity won.]
The new government is claiming it will push for a two-year delay in the austerity calendar imposed by the Troika (EU, ECB, IMF) as a condition of the bailout.

The European and American press both have been blowing some smoke about the meaning of the Greek election and the various political positions. Syriza energetically opposed the austerity measures as such, that much got through pretty well. But Syriza did not campaign on a program of leaving the eurozone or the EU. One could argue - and I would - that a consistent stand against austerity would wind up with the result of Greece exiting the eurozone. But Syriza was not "anti-Europe". But they demanded arrangements under which being part of "Europe" (the EU) wouldn't mean the impoverishment of the Greek people and the destruction of the Greek economy. And they are right to demand that.

It's also the case that the so-called "pro-bailout" old parties, ND and Pasok, campaigned on the idea that they would negotiate easier terms on the bailout. So they felt it necessary to give at least lip service to the idea that austerity measures need to be relaxed.

We'll soon see how serious Antonis Samaras' new government is about doing so. The representatives of the Troika, now popularly known as the Men In Black, are going to be conducting an official visit and evaluation of Greece's performance on meeting Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel's punitive austerity measure to impoverish the Greek people. They will then make a recommendation on whether Angie should consent to ease up on them for a few months.

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