Friday, November 30, 2012

Greece and the politics of austerity

Georgios Papandreou was the social-democratic Prime Minister of Greece for the PASOK party from 2009-2011. By caving in to German Prime Minister Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel's demands for destructive austerity policies in response to the Greek debt crisis, Papandreou put his party on the fast track to non-existence. PASOK is a junior member of the current conservative-led Greek government. But polls show it now polling around the 5% range. The Syriza coalition has emerged as the main left party now, and polls are showing it as having the largest support of any party at the moment.

So, for putting his country under Frau Fritz' economic jackboot and ruining his own political party, he now gets to appear as statesman-at-large.

He provides a vapid statement of why it would be nice if the eurozone and the European Union The Politics of Fear 11/29/2012:

Like ghosts from the past, we see political violence, xenophobia, migrants being scapegoated and extreme nationalism creeping into our public debates -- even into our parliaments. This is a Europe diverging from its founding principles. Principles that rendered nationalistic hatreds an anathema.

But it is these politics of fear that seem to have incapacitated Europe. A Europe seemingly incapable of ending this crisis, a fractious Europe. This has undermined a sense of trust between us and in our European institutions. This climate does not inspire confidence either in our citizens or the markets. Nor will our retreat into a renationalization of Europe be the solution.

My recent experience in dealing with the financial crisis in Greece and in Europe has confirmed my belief that this is a political crisis more than a financial one.

I am convinced that, with the political will, we could have avoided much pain, squelched market fears and stabilized the euro, while at the same time reformed ailing, unsustainable economies such as ours in Greece.

Despite media hype to the contrary, it is the Greek people who first and foremost have wanted this change.
There's additional blather about "real, necessary reform and fiscal responsibility."

But it's all more than a bit disgusting from a leader who was democratically elected to represent the people of Greece and tossed his responsibilities onto the funeral pyre of a destructive neoliberal notion of "Europe." And thereby contributed mightily to the likely disintegration of the EU, both its neoliberal reality and the democratic hope that remains.

Here is a video of him, sounding like one of the American CEOs who we hear lobbying for austerity economics from a presentation of 10/31/2012, Is Europe a straitjacket or is it empowering us? - Giorgos Andrea Papandreou Berggruen Governance:

New Poll Confirms Rise of Extremes in Greece The New Athenian 11/29/2012 reports on poll results he sources to Δημοσκόπηση VPRC για τα "Επίκαιρα": Πάνω από 30% ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ Επίκαιρα Online 28.11.2012:

The poll, which appears in the weekly magazine Epikaira, gives conservative New Democracy 26.5 percent of the popular vote, and Syriza 31.5 percent. It also confirms the oft-predicted rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party to third place with 12.5 percent.

Beyond these three, the field is flat, with a clutch of four small parties claiming between five and 6.5 percent. This is important for three reasons. First, it sinks New Democracy's main coalition partner, the socialist Pasok, to the order of five percent, even lower than its lowest ever election showing of 12 percent last June, and indistinguishable from the likes of other small fry. Pasok had already been cast down from the ranks of potential ruling parties; now it is also on death row. This now should mean that both Pasok and the third coalition partner, the Democratic Left, ought to be more deeply invested in the ruling coalition, for the wilderness awaits them after a Syriza victory ...

Second, the poll implies that, unless something radical happens, the next parliament will also have seven parties, making it almost impossible for one of the two big players to secure single-party rule. New Democracy has picked its friends. Syriza has taken a step towards doing so. In a press conference two weeks ago its leader, Alexis Tsipras, opened the door a crack to a possible collaboration with the anti-austerity Independent Greeks. The party's main obsessions since it entered parliament in May have been charging the Germans reparations for illegal wartime loans, drilling for mineral resources and hauling off socialist and conservative politicians to the gallows for bringing the country to this pass. The two parties may come from opposite sides of the ideological divide, but they are both reactionary and possibly vindictive.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras was pointing this week to the leadership failures of Papandreou and his PASOK party, as Andy Dabilis reports in SYRIZA Bid for Greek Bailout Probe Nixed Greek Reporter 11/30/2012:

To no surprise, a request by the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) to investigate the decisions that led to Greece seeking bailouts from international lenders was easily defeated in the Parliament controlled by the ruling coalition government.

The three ruling parties, the New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the PASOK Socialists and Democratic Left [the three governing parties] all voted against the proposal, which got only 119 votes in the 300-member body. Before the June elections, New Democracy and the Democratic Left said it would support the investigation but reversed themselves. ...

SYRIZA wanted to know how the government in 2010, then led by former PASOK head George Papandreou, came to ask the IMF initially for aid after the prime minister said repeatedly that there was plenty of money to run the country. The leftists had wanted former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou and Papandreou to be questioned. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras lambasted the government for refusing an inquiry.

“It may be the case that those responsible will not sit in court, but they will sit – some are already sitting – in the margins of history,” said Tsipras, who accused the coalition of maintaining an "omerta," or code of silence, on the issue. Earlier the rapporteur for the proposal, SYRIZA’s Yiannis Dragasakis, had described the coalition as being the product of a "business relationship."
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