What now for Greece and for Europe?
This is the first of a series of blog posts by Ephilant, a long-standing Political World member, writing from Greece, where the announcement of early Presidential elections has been another turning points in the crisis in Europe. Greece continues to be the testing ground for the political and economic road down which other EU states follow.
Prelude to the Greek Elections – Inequality and an Increasingly Unpopular Government
The Greek Presidential election has been called 2 full months ahead of schedule. What is Prime Minister Samaras up to?
Syriza is heading the national opinion polls, and support for the government has collapsed. The way I see this it, the early election is a concerted effort to kill all opposition to TROIKA-imposed, government-executed policy. Samaras offers an election to get his man in place. That, he hopes, will give him enough time to sign away the rest of the family jewels and do the bidding of the TROIKA/ECB/IMF to the point that whoever comes after him has no way out. There is probably a nice, cushy job waiting for him in Brussels as well.
While we are struggling to get out of the EU IMF Programme, in Greece the spin on the economy is at full speed. Officially unemployment has fallen. But nobody mentions that emigration has risen by more units than unemployment has fallen. Greek economic data is being doctored like there is no tomorrow: the corner has been turned, apparently…
This is an excellent article on why we in Greece are where we are today after seven years of this crisis:
… Read the full article here
The troika has lined the pockets of the very forces that brought about the economic collapse in the first place. And Greece is not an isolated case. European bailout funds have had a similar effect throughout the smaller economies of the eurozone, including Ireland, Spain, and Portugal. Leaders in these countries, too, have spent European funds to maximize their short-term political advantage; meanwhile, Brussels has proved incapable of combating cronyism and criminality.
A hard hitting report has been published by the International Federation for Human Rights.
The findings go well beyond Greece, and highlight the total failure of the EU, IMF and ECB to take into account the effects of the austerity policies on the human rights of those subjected to the austerity measures.
Greek austerity measures are both unreasonable and disproportionate, particularly in disproportionately impacting on already marginalized and vulnerable groups. This finding is substantiated by the European Parliament as discussed below. As a result, the austerity measures have had a discriminatory effect based on socio-economic status, in contravention of international law.
When the EU parliament substantiated these findings, why didn’t it stop the charade, instead of pushing us even further ? The direct result of our “Programme” so far
More than half of the children at Greek schools in deprived areas were suffering from a lack of access to enough food to ensure a healthy life, also known as food insecurity, at the start of the academic year in 2013, but this eased slightly thanks to donated meals.
By “deprived areas”, you can understand everywhere outside the affluent areas of Athens and Thessaloniki, meaning, about 99% of the country. The situation is worst on the islands, the North of the country and in the Peleponnese. In Greece at the moment 2 out of every 3 rural schools have no heating (and won’t have because the funding isn’t there to buy the fuel), and winter is knocking at the door..
People were lured in the Eurozone boom into becoming asset rich but cash poor. First, people everywhere got lured with “cheap money”, with little or no regulation, checks or controls on the system. The money gets invested in assets. Along comes 2008, and the money tree is chopped down. People find themselves suddenly cash poor, unable to service their loans and any other financial commitments
Now we are at the verge of being made asset poor. As things stand, primary residences in Greece are protected from repossession for debt. But the current ban on repossessions expires on December 31. Samaras and his merry band of looters have just announced that the government will NOT renew it. This is one of the key demands of the TROIKA. After all, their friends and relations must have access to cheap properties, how else are we going to get the property market working again? Let the floodgates open. Personal assets are being repossessed by banks if their value is up to 200,000 euros and the owner’s annual income does not exceed 35,000 euros. Bottom line, the vast majority of people end up with neither money nor assets, the elite ends up with both.
People are beginning to realise this. Samaras and New Democracy is rapidly losing its grip on parliament and on the country. For the past number of months SYRIZA ( left alliance) had been consistently moving ahead of New Democracy in the national opinion polls. Even after the media barrage of the last weeks, SYRIZA appears to be leading New Democracy by 3.6 % (27.6 % over 24.0 %, respectively), with Golden Dawn getting with 5.6 % , followed by PASOK with 5.0 %, the KKE at 4.4 %, To Potami at 4.1 % and Independent Greeks (ANEL) 2.9 %. DIMAR (Democratic Left) the former government party is doing a very good impression of the Irish Green party, and has more or less disappeared from measurable results.
Worrying times indeed for the EU mandarins and their puppets… Tsipras and SYRIZA is coming, it seems, and Tsipras is in no mood to act “correctly”. The elite is running scared, and will use every dirty trick in the book in order to stop the election of a left, anti-austerity government in Greece. They know that if one domino in Europe falls, the rest goes with it. And this cannot be allowed, not with Italy at the verge of going under, France rapidly heading in the same direction, ditto with Spain.
So we are told by Prime Minister Samaras that the prospect of a SYRIZA government is pushing Greece towards the “Grexit… the “Drachma lobby” has been mentioned more than once, of course everything said by anybody other than himself is “irresponsible” and will destroy the Greek economy. Juncker, Moscovici, the ex Greek PM Constantinos Mitsotakis (also honorary president of NC and good buddy of Samaras) are holding up the spectre of a Grexit etc. etc. Don’t these people realise that if you sow fear you reap anger? And that is exactly what they have got in Greece, anger ready to boil over. It’s no wonder the TROIKA didn’t want to meet our reps in Athens but pick Paris instead…. They warn that the supply of cash will be stopped, as the ECB did to Cypress two years ago. They really do not like the idea of Tsipras in power…
In an attempt to stem the tide, Samaras is now playing (perhaps was ordered to play?) a game of poker with very high stakes. The day after he called the elections, Athens stock market plunged nearly 13%, its biggest one-day fall since December 1987. Voting for a new head of state began the following week. The press was full of articles on how bad things will get if we don’t get a president elected and have to organize a general election. If SYRIZA wins the general election, or becomes the majority partner in a coalition government, then we are to believe the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse will turn out to be 8 riders, the gate to hell will open and swallow the lot of us, Armageddon will happen immediately, together with a repetition of the seven plagues, we will be overrun by muslims and SYRIZA will impose SHARIA law, you name it.
Financial markets took the news of the election badly: the FTSE 100 was down 142 points, more than 2%, at 6529, its lowest level since the start of November; Germany’s Dax dropped 2.1%; France’s Cac closed down 2.4%; and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 158 points or 0.88% lower by the time London closed. Banking shares were under pressure on fears that a new round of the eurozone debt crisis would prove another strain on their balance sheets.
The media, the political establishment of Greece and the EU, and finance capital (‘the markets’) responded to this situation with intensive spin, and with threats. The national and international blackmail machine went into full swing. Grexit (Greek exit from the EU or Eurozone), or military coup, are again openly discussed. Rating agency Moody’s has warned that an election will be interpreted as a “credit negative” and will result in Greece being downgraded. And Goldman Sachs has warned that the plug may be pulled on Greek banks if we vote the wrong way. Meanwhile, Bloomberg has accused Samaras of inviting bond vigilantes with euro exit talk.
One of these vigilantes makes no bones about it. Yannick Naud, a money manager at Pentalpha Capital in London tells us the policy to tell the electorate ‘it’s our way or chaos.’
The thumb screws are being turned by the likes of Paul Poulson declaring that his hedge funds have “withdrawn” from investment in Greece because of the distinct possibility of a far-left government. Poulson was mainly engaged in buying resources on the cheap, like harbours, airports, etc. That source of goodies will dry up immediately as soon as Syriza comes to power. We don’t particularly care about him not “investing” any longer, in fact, we applaud his decision. The right wing press is in full swing, predicting that Greece will run out of money within 2 weeks if we dare not accept the Presidential candidate and insist on a general election etc.
Personally, I believe this was the whole idea. It would not surprise me that the move by Samaras was Troika inspired. Despite all the “good news” put out in terms of our “progress”, which was accepted by the Troika, they suddenly turned the screws, looking for more cuts and ‘reforms’. This, that and the other, or else. I’m just waiting for what the sweetener is going to be if we decide to “vote correctly”…
As expected, things are hotting up a little. Since the start of the election campaign, an explosive device went off in the entrance of the tax office in Thessaloniki. Minor damage, no casualties, but a very clear warning that people are not prepared to take much more of this. Bomb defused outside a bank in Athens, Kaisariani (Athens) town hall damaged by bomb attack, 296 people arrested for rioting in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras, police officers in hospital, rioters in hospital, Alpha bank torched, molotov cocktails galore… Syriza’s offices were cleared December 22nd because of a bomb threat. This is going to be a proper Greek election marathon. We’ll miss Loukanikos, Greece’s recently deceased riot dog…
Today, Monday we will know the results of Samaras’s Presidential election gamble. He will need to show 180 votes supporting his candidate, Stavros Dimas, or call an election. Dimas received 168 votes in the second round of voting last week – well short of the 200 required. Today, he must receive 180 votes to be elected. There are numerous reports of vote-buying.
Tsipras is telling us we can look forward to a SYRIZA-led government from January onwards.
Ephilant 29th December 2014
Update: Monday 29th December – Samaras could only get 168 votes for his Presidential candidate, Dimas. A General Election must now be held and has been announced for 25th January.