Greek Politics; Still, In the Woods

The World


Much interest and speculation lies with respect to the result of the upcoming Greek election, taking place on the 6th of May.  The crisis and the austerity measures demanded for its solution have brought on considerable social unrest and political tensions.  In the midst of a blurry political campaign, the result of the election and what it will mean is unclear.

Last November, the prime minister resigned and a new interim coalition government was assigned with a technocrat in charge.  The interim-coaltion-government consisting of 40 ministers includes members of the two main parties (PASOK, ND) and the populist right (flerting a lot with the extreme) wing party LAOS, the appointed prime-minster is an ex-ECB VP Mr. Papademos.  Results similar to the previous two years are poor, though legislation is voted in parliament, usually following months of stalling, implementation does not place.  Public administration remains at large at the national and regional level while local government has seen its funding effectively halved.  Shops in the high street are closing protests are part of the daily routine, unemployment has shot up across the board, while large numbers young people are migrating to other EU countries. 

Political parties in parliament see little incentive in supporting the measures bearing in mind the political cost involved and (upcoming) elections.  Parties within and outside the parliament have kept the debate plain and simple (and mind-numbing) largely offering variations against the austerity package; from refusal of re-payment to re-negotiations of the package.  As a result political debate has stalled within and outside parliament.  This has further reduced the credibility of parties and public confidence in them.  The two main parties now have together 40% of voting preference.  This percentage 10 years ago would correspond to solely one party.  Moreover, series of MPs have moved across parties while others have created their own political vehicles.  Small parties are enjoying higher than normal percentages, according to polls parliament after the 6th of May could consist of 9 (or more) parties with the two major ones unable to create a coalition government.  Disturbingly the extreme right wing party in Greece appears to be enjoying 5% of the vote preference. This is surprising as it usually receives less than 0.%. Though this preference might be exaggerated, it remains likely that it will enter parliament. 

Some argue that this is part of a political renewal the country is going through.  However, these statistics seem more likely to express the absence of policy proposals from political parties.  There are few new faces involved in the process, and it is clear that they retain a top-down view of policy possibly because their political parties still have inherent interests in the status quo.  More worryingly, the left wing has yet to come up with a coherent comeback, while right wing parties bash on illegal immigrants and (ironically) “nazi Germans” invading Greece using the Euro.  Comments by Commissioners on which parties Greeks should vote for have not been helpful.

Light at the end of tunnel? No not really

Different scenarios attempt to guess, at best, the day after elections in Greece.  One would be a coalition between the major parties plus one (or more) smaller party.  Another would see a broader coalition of the left (or right) with multiple parties.  But Greek politics are notoriously aggressive with little consensus and coalitions never taking place or lasting a few months.  This makes the scenario of a large coalition government non-sustainable or at least less likely.  Moreover, it is possible that in order to make it sustainable the size of the government will be extra-large.  Finally, another scenario would see the creation of a technocrats’ government supported by a broad coalition, as in Italy.  Or a less effective plan similar to the current situation.

The need for political discussion and consensus that will lead to action/ implementation is urgent.  Firstly, the country is still on life-support and will have to remain for quite a while.  But as other additional bigger Eurozone members are feeling the crisis, France and Netherlands, the willingness to keep supporting MS that are not taking action will deteriorate significantly.  Secondly, the fragmentation of the political scene might be healthy for the renewal of Greek politics.  But political parties are offering no politics or policy, a continuous debate on re-distributive terms and unrealistic proposals; more importantly they refuse to discuss the serious issues.  Thirdly, social unrest is unlikely to settle as the economy continues to contract. 

But the current political attitude expresses the social mood.  Political parties represent the broader public which is neither doing any introspection, nor facing its responsibilities; corruption and tax evasion is still rampant.  Political parties, in identical fashion, are polarizing argumentation to try and get whatever they can (while they can).  However, this is unsustainable for the future, economically, politically and socially.  For now Greek politics and society are living a (hellish) myth, in Greece.

IMAGE from: the guardian

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