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EU & local elections: Greece’s political landscape in the shadow of FT revelations

I have a major problem: four days before the municipality elections and eleven days before the European Parliament voting, I am unable to follow the political debates, the statements and announcements or comments of elected and aspiring politicians in mainstream media and websites, in blogs and social media. I mostly stick to the news titles and hardly manage to click in them and read  details.

Things are much better when the political campaigns and debates take place on television. My ears may pick up one or two key points and my fingers can easily proceed to a quick zapping: from PM Samaras to “Grey’s Anatomy”, from PASOK’s Venizelos to “Game of Thrones”, from Tsipras to “Mad Men”, from KKE and To Potami to “The Mentalist” and from Independent Greeks and Democratic Left to “Without a Trace”. As for Golden Dawn… what Golden Dawn? It is absent as the media seem to boycott them.

While the municipality elections candidates are delivering their duels on rather local level, the upcoming EU elections have given reason for the major political parties to a hard war of words and accusations. Even thought their campaigns have not too much to do with Europe but with the troika-imposed loan agreements and the austerity measures.

The revelations of Financial Times put the icing on the hot Greek political pie.

The main points of the major parties candidates are the usual – and predictable as such.

ND offers “Loan agreements and Greek success story”

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Nea Dimokratia praise the Greek success story and keep hailing the “cosmogonic success” that has been achieved in the last two years. At the same time, they generously throw parties of promises for the conservative voters who may flee to extreme-right Golden Dawn or some minor nationalistic parties.

Nobody mentions that the austerity measures will continue whether with direct income decreases or with indirect tax increases and service cuts that will bring up the same result.

PASOK offers “political stability”

Deputy PM Evangelos Venizelos and ….well…. not the whole of PASOK keep struggling for a respectful place in the elections sun. As the other half of PASOK, ie the Papandreou supporters, are lurking for the party’s low election flight, they secretly smid plans to overthrow Venizelos once the elections are over and the socialists try to find their voters with the magnifying glass.

Venizelos may do keep repeating that once “PASOK is weakened, the ND-PASOK coalition will be over board”,but he has nothing to offer except “political stability” as he claims and thus in a country where citizens and voters struggle for their daily survival. The party leader has warned that if PASOK get below 10% in the EU elections he will resign from the coalition. Public opinion polls do not give PASOK more than 5%.

And many party voters do not seem to care. Some of them are toying with casting their vote for ND and some for SYRIZA.

SYRIZA offers “the anti-loan agreement” option

SYRIZA has a very clear position of being against the loan agreements but the promised solution does not convince the bright masses of the middle-class that have suffered from the austerity measures. The solution SYRIZA offers is still kind of vague. Certainly a weak point of the party is its left-wing that scares the conservative average Greek with slogans like “euro exit” or “internal borrowing, that is seizing of bank assets over 100,000 or even 30,000 euro”.

However SYRIZA is doing well in the public opinion polls for EU elections, constantly leading before ND. But it holds the second place after ND in the poll question “should parliamentary elections would take place next Sunday”.

To Potami offers … vague bubbles

The party of former TV star Stavros Theodorakis does not seem to offer anything concrete except that it is new and has no concrete views on major issues of the Greek society. Or it does have but I’m too stupid to understand them…

In a recent public opinion poll, To Potami received 8%, the same percentage with Golden Dawn.

Golden Dawn offers… “curses against the political system”

Right-extremist Golden Dawn may offer something to conservative voters who have suffered from the harsh austerity measures, but I can’t tell you what. Mainstream media seem to boycott the GD candidates even the one running for Athens mayor.

With the majority of its MPs in pre-trial custody facing charges for establishing a criminal organization, chances are slim to see the party candidates on TV screens or read their interviews in print and digital media.

However the party has the reputation as being against the loan agreements and against the established political system, even though hardly anyone has understood what alternatives the party offers except “curses, insults and fists.”

KKE, Independent Greeks and Democratic Left: each of them offers to their voters what their voters want to hear..

The major political debate is taking place between Nea Dimocratia and SYRIZA, with PASOK desperately trying to avoid the total collapse and To Potami to enjoy an unjustified promotion by the mainstream media.

Why the Financial Times revelations matter

The political atmosphere implies  “snap polls” after the EU elections and the tension is fueled by the reports of the Financial Times revealing all the political and economic background when ex PM Papandreou tabled the idea of an Euro referendum to Merkel & Co at the Cannes summit in November 2011.

The FT report in short

After the Cannes summit in November 2011, the EU leaders prepared a plan to financially reconstruct Greece should the country exit from the euro zone and to avert the collapse of the euro as the Grexit would be contagion to other euro zone member countries.

At the same time, they forced then PM George Papandreou to step down from the office and blackmailed Greece to accept unconditionally the terms of the second loan agreement (Memorandum of Understanding II) otherwise there would be no more financial aid.

The FT claims also that EU President Barroso had picked up ex-banker Lucas Papademos as Prime Minister.

Short after the elections in June 2012, Barroso had visited PM Samaras in Athens and convinced him not to push to renegotiation of the loan agreement. And so did Samaras.

The political timetable in 2011/2012

1. Nov 2011: PM Papandreou tables the Euro-referendum plan in Cannes. Merkel, Sarkozy & Co disagree and put pressure on him to leave from the PM position and form a coalition government with Samaras, who is opposition leader.

8. Nov 2011: PM Papandreou starts negotiations for a coalition government with Nea Dimokratia and nationalist LAOS and Apostolos Kaklamanis as PM.  Kaklamanis and ND disagree on several points, Kaklamanis rejects the PM position, Lucas Papademos gets appointed.

Papademos leads the PASOK-ND coalition government, accepts all the terms and conditions of the second loan agreement (signed in January 2012), the PSI take place in March 2012.

Early elections take place in May 2012 and as results bring no winner a new round takes place in June 2012.

Greece’s reactions to FT report

Today, Venizelos dismissed the FT claims that Barroso appointed Papademos to lead the interim government to the 2nd MoU and the PSI in March 2012 and the following elections in May and June of the same year.

Former Parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis (PASOK) admitted that he was offered the position of PM in 8. November 2011 in a PASOK-ND coalition government.

Nea Dimocratia claims that “the FT report reveals that country was one step away from the euro exit  and the complete disaster that was averted in the last minute.”

According to SYRIZA, the FT report  “exposes twice  Samaras and his partner Venizelos, because they not only conspired with Barroso behind the scenes in Cannes to build a vicarious pro-loan agreement government but they also accepted to not negotiate anything,  while they knew that no one would dare to take the disastrous risk of Greece’s  expulsion from the euro.”

In a parallel development outside Greece, the German Finance Ministry dismissed the claims of former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, that Wolfgang Schaeuble was preparing a Grexit plan in July 2012.

Are you confused about what does this Cannes-background have to do with the EU elections? Oh, it has a lot to do with the role of Samaras and Venizelos in ousting Papandreou, forming the Papademos government and the unconditional acceptance of the Memorandum of Understanding II that threw into impoverishment many households, loaded them with over-taxation, while it also lead some thousands of people to suicide due to financial collapse.

It will certainly help PASOK lose some more voters and take the party that governed Greece fro three decades to an unprecedented political collapse. An option that seem to set foreign investors on fire, who are on alert in the possibility of 27 PASOK MPs leaving the government. Apparently the collapse of PASOK scares the foreign investors more than the rise of SYRIZA.

At the same time, we learned from FT,  why Antonis Samaras gave up his pre-elections slogan to “renegotiate the loan agreement” immediately after he took office.

Now we know how and why and by whom we have been saved 🙂

PS  my favorite TV series remains the “Borgen”. But as the series is over,  I’m currently stuck to “Scandal”…. 🙂

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