There is the fragrance of elections hovering in the smog-free air of Greece. The country’s government announces measures here and there, measures aiming to alleviate the suffering of the austerity-ridden society. Right after his arrival to Athens from Brussels and Kefalonia where he visited the earthquake-hit area, prime minister Antonis Samaras announced the creation of 440,000 jobs.
The plan has three pillars: the program of community services, the program “Youth Guarantee» and the use of resources and the new ESPA (EU Funds) for the period 2014 to 2020.
The mammoth project in the recession-hit country will be financed via European Union and will cost 4.4 billion euro.
Samaras described the unemployment as a “insidious enemy of society that undermines the social cohesion.”
The prime minister also announced:
-Incentives for new farmers. Half of the jobless-farmers will have th opportunity to get education in programs related to their occupation.
– Simplification of the bureaucratic conditions for retirement. the program will be in full operation in the middle of 2015.
– One-year extension of the healthcare to unemployed with 50 work stamps instead of 100 needed today.
– Retirement age for farmers insured to OGA-fund at 62 years
– Poverty allowance (EKAS) to those with disability over 80% independently of age. Note: 1.1.2014 EKAS was stopped to disabled people if they were below 65 years old. Two weeks ago, the government said what Samaras announced on Wednesday.
Early elections on the way?
The announced measures spread not only a cloud of suspicion but also gave the impression that the country is heading for early elections. Even though prime minister Samaras vehemently dismissed any snap elections scenarios on Friday and repeated that “elections will be held in 2016, whether some like it or not.”
The questions are: can the coalition of conservatives and socialists endure until 2016? Can Nea Dimokratia sustain its 127 seats in the Parliament and PASOK survive the upcoming municipality and EU elections?
The public opinion polls of recent weeks display a steady lead of left-wing SYRIZA, even though with relative small margin difference. Samaras’ Nea Dimokratia holds the second position, the right-extremists of Golden Dawn the third… The rest of the political parties walk on unsteady feet, with PASOK sinking and former Samaras coalition partner Democratic Left at risk of not entering the parliament. KKE and Independent Greeks seem to keep some descent rates around 5 percent.
One should not wonder about the public opinion results.
Day in and day out, with hands and feet tied Greeks feel more and more the pain of the economic rope digging scarfs on their skin. They are confronted with taxes that do not correspond to their real finances. Day in, day out the Greek economic team plots new ways to rob the last cent, the last asset from the people. Even retroactive. Day in and day out, new governmental decisions give a new slap in the face of any intended business activity, while the majority of companies struggle to survive. There is no liquidity in the market and bank loans for investment are a rarity. The close monitoring of any transaction squeezes the last breath of anyone who cannot afford to meet his obligations in monthly bills, outstanding debts to the state and the banks.
Austerity here and recession there, hardly a Greek would believe that it’s all about saving the country by economically exterminating its citizens.
At the same time, PASOK is increasingly criticizing ND’s choices and statements. Much too much promotion of Samaras’ work, much too many ND-decisions that could drag also ‘socialist’ in the name only – PASOK into the political underworld.
Despite the increasing conflicts, the coalition government hold on. Should PASOK withdraw from the coalition, Nea Dimokratia would be unable to govern even one day. 127 seats in the parliament of 300 make it impossible. No other party would be available for a coalition as the opposition waves the anti-memorandum (loan agreement) flag.
Should PASOK withdraw from the government, early elections would be imminent, something that neither Venizelos nor Samaras want. Venizelos believes he has good chances to increase his rates, and so does Samaras. Both hope to solve some issues with the Troika in the upcoming months, sustain the primary surplus, distribute it to vulnerable society groups and keep on ruling until 2016.
Greece’s coalition government stands on very fragile majority of 153 seats (ND 127, PASOK 27) in a parliament of 300. One ND lawmaker implied on Wednesday and clearly threatened on Thursday to bring down the government. Gerasimos Giakoumatos’ rebellion has to do with the prosecution of his brother and his wife two days ago due to suspected tax evasion of 24,000 euro.
The draft bill for the privatization of electricity transfer company (ADMHE) passed on Thursday with just 151 votes from the coalition MPs. The opposition voted against with 122 votes.
Should Giakoumatos resign from Samaras’ party, the days of Nea Dimokratia-PASOK are counted until the municipality/EU elections in May 25th. Greece will be obliged to hold also parliamentary elections.