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EU Leaders vs Greek Voters: Huge Gap, Dangerous Cliff

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti supports ND Antonis Samaras, French President Francois Hollande support PASOK Evangelos Venizelos. The two leaders of the Greek parties that definitely support the austerity bailout. At the same time a, while the country heads for fresh elections, Greeks have developed an allergy towards the austerity and the bailout. Even those who were considering a pro-bailout stance, suffered a shock after they received the tax bills sent during the last couple of days.  Greeks saw their tax contributions dramatically increase not only because of the tax-free income being lowered down to 5,000 euro per year.  They also saw that they have to pay taxes not according to real income but according to ‘deemed’ income.

I am afraid there is a high possibility the outcome of June-17 elections may not please our EU lenders. For one reason: Because EU leaders support those Greek leaders who do not have the support of the majority of Greek voters. If we look back to May-6 elections, conservative Nea Dimocratia (1.8%) and socialist PASOK (13.90%) received only 32% of the votes, while the rest 68% was shared among several parties with bailout-critical stance. Why? Because for the  majority of Greeks living and struggling inside the borders of the debt-ridden country the choice is not Black & White as it is for those far away from the Greek reality.

Pro & Contra ND, PASOK

The questions many Greeks put on the table are such: Didn’t ND and PASOK govern together since November 2011 with the result, that they didn’t manage to apply these austerity measures that would cut state expenditure? Didn’t they continue to stick in supporting the interests of their ‘party’ trade unions – mostly of the public and state-run enterprises sector? Didn’t they delay privatizations for these petty interests in favor of the army of unionists-voters? Yes, they did, the majority of Greeks will tell you.

Another question is, of course: If these two parties didn’t manage to combat big scale tax evasion and corruption, why and how will they do it after June-17 elections?

Greeks in Greece doubt it. After two years of austerity that hits mostly the low and middle-classes, citizens of this country read with great interest about the many scandals,  that civil servants and a part of the society continue to make ‘sinner profits’ by exploiting public money either through allowances to those not eligible or many other ways.

What Party would you vote, if…?

At the same time, employees and pensioners have been exposed to an increased financial burden with high tax rates and so-called “emergency taxes” while their incomes decreased either through the horizontal cuts in wages and pensions or with work place loss due to deep recession of -7%.

The 78-year-old mother of a friend, for example, saw her pension of 490 euro per month, to be decreased down to 460 euro as of 1.1.2012. With the new tax-free limit to be lowered at 5,000 euro annually, the chronic ill woman is forced to pay tax and additional  ‘solidarity tax’.

The 200 euro she used to receive as ‘social benefit’ due to her low pension was 100% cut in December 2012.

 As of yesterday, the  woman has to pay from her own pocket to get her prescription medicine and ask the refund by her insurance fund. Because pharmacists are have cut medication on credit complaining the state hasn’t paid them for years.

The woman has two children: her son, 48, is without job since summer 2011, and same as the husband of her daughter, 50, who lost his job two years ago.

Who do you think this family (5 adults, 4 voting eligible children) would vote for?

For PASOK that signed two loan agreements and the Greek bond swap? For ND that moved from its original anti-bailout position and finally signed the second bailout? For SYRIZA who threatens to make the Memorandum of Understanding invalid risking a euro exit? For Democratic Left that does not formulate a clear position on the bailout? For Independent Greeks who reject the bailout and appeal at the patriotic sentiment -see: national pride – of the people? For extreme-right Chrysi Avgi that want no bailout and no immigrants in the country? Or for Communist KKE that wants euro and EU exit?

What’s the Worst Horror Scenario?

However, quite some Greeks are not clear about what would be the biggest horror:

a) to stay in the euro and see their lives swept away by an even bigger austerity?

b) to exit the euro and return to Drachma being swept away by unknown and unpredictable consequences?

c) to have again a ND-PASOK government after two elections? Can old guards who ruled the country for more than three decades slip in new uniforms?

Questions that are difficult or impossible to answer as the Greek mass media prefer to demonize any party that is not mainstream (ND, PASOK) instead of impartially inform the people about the consequences of a euro stay or exit.

At the same time Greeks are exposed to a tsunami of euro-exit threats and catastrophology predictions. What do people do? They turn their backs to the endless political disputes and arguments.  Many turn their TV off, go to the bank and withdraw their money…

Is that what European and Greek politicans want?

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  1. Because EU leaders support those Greek leaders who do not have the support of the majority of Greek voters.

    Non of the Greek leaders had the support of the majority.

    b) to exit the euro and return to Drachma being swept away by unknown and unpredictable consequences?

    Those consequences are by now know and predictable. As soon as Greece goes the SYRIZA-path (quit the memorandum and then be thrown out of/exit the euro) that 460 euro pension will drop to zero and any tax free limit is totally irrelevant by then. That same women does not have to pay her medicines anymore, because there won’t be any. All medicines are imported and no pharmaceutical will deliver to Greece. Cars will run on empty, electricity will stop in large parts of the country since a large part of it is imported. 40% Of food consumed here is imported. That will grind to a halt. Resulting in food shortages and starvation. And so on.
    In order to prevent this, the new formed Greek government will have to crawl to the IMF to get emergency support. And as Greece did not meet its obligations on the first two loans, the conditions for the stand-by agreement will be very tough.
    And if anyone is thinking of cashing in their deposits at banks… well think again. Those will be probably frozen for a while until every last cent is recalculated into the new currency. Restrictions on travel will be part of that process.
    It’s all part of not having any money as a country and no way of getting any new credit anymore.
    It now has been described several times in all kind of media. And one might not like the message, but there is no way one can claim ignorance or uncertainty about this anymore.
    And yes, I see and acknowledge the dilemma of a) and b). And I do not have an answer either. But putting your head in the sand will not avert the oncoming disaster.

    • Sorry, it should be the dilemma of points a) and C).

    • “that 460 euro pension will drop to zero”
      Please don’t exaggerate, Antonis! The pensions won’t lose all value. Actually, they will even look more impressive. Tspras will raise them, plus the minimum incomes, to 1300! Drachmes, of course…

  2. It all depends on who will win the 50 seat bonus, kt. If it’s ND, they can easily from a coalition with Pasok. If it’s Syriza, they will have much more difficult neogtiations ahead, since the communists are totally anti-government (imho a party that refuses to accept responsibility shouldn’t be allowed at all) and Pasok is in the pro memorandum camp. If Tsipras and Venizelos are able to find common ground, a compromise course, that could lead to real political changes, though. Maybe that’s better than yet another “old guard” ND/Pasok team, which has proven to lack the ideas and probably the will to seriously change anything.

  3. Why are their no choices. Where is the party that says they will cut the unions, reform labor markets and move forward like the Irish have?

    Is there no party like that because their is no support for that position in Greece?

    Are the Greeks better than the people they elect, or do they get the politicians they deserve?

    I am an American, so I do not claim to know the answer, but I think that should be the question.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      Becuase Greece is not Ireland
      what means in practice to cut unions, reform labor market?
      but yes, they get th epoliticians they deserve – at least 40-50% of the Greeks who elect the government that makes election laws that tailored to big parties.