After six years of recession and damages to the economy that many compare to a defeat after a war, Antonis Samaras, the Greek prime minister, called for early elections for President of the Hellenic Republic in December.
Stavros Dimas, the candidate of the ruling coalition of the New Democracy party (ND.-conservatives) and of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK – the social democrats), is a respected politician and a former minister, Environment Commissioner and current vice – President of ND He is a typical product of the Greek political system, as is his own son who “inherited” his father’s seat in the Parliament in the region of Corinth. Yet Dimas’ profile was inadequate to attract the magic number of 180 MPs needed out of 300, given the fact that together ND and PASOK had 155 MPs in the Greek Parliament and that are around 25 independent MPs. Rumors had it that millions of euros were offered to ‘undecided’ MPs in order to have a new President elected and avoid early parliamentary elections that could jeopardise many MPs desired reelection. This is yet another sign of a deeply sick democracy.
After failing to win the required number of votes to stave off early elections, we now know that there will be parliamentary elections on January 25, 2015. The new Parliament will have to elect the new President with the support of at least 151 MPs this time, according to the Greek constitution. Indeed, while the constitution places little importance on the presidency as an institution with actual powers, similar manipulation of presidential elections as a political tool for early parliamentary elections had occurred in the past.
This time though, things seem different.
The end of the game
The traditional two-party ‘game’ between ND and PASOK now seems a memory of the past. Samaras’ ND doesn’t score higher than 25% in polls, while Venizelos’ PASOK will struggle to pass the 3% threshold to gain seats in the parliament. George Papandreou, former prime minister in the beginning of the crisis and former president of PASOK, created his own political party, the Movement of Democrats and Socialists KI.DI.SO., and this will definitely make things more difficult for the so-called center-Left. Polls show that the radical Left party, SYRIZA – and its allies, among which are the Ecologists Greens, the Greek green party – is close to a record high result that might result in the first ever radical Left government in the country.
Orchestrated waves of fear seem to have been unleashed in Greece, Europe and the rest of the world surrounding such a possibility. Cold War-type arguments are mixed with today’s existing or imagined fears about political instability. Will the markets “allow” for maneuvering? Will the current leadership in the EU discuss and perhaps reach a deal with a Greek government of the radical Left? Will such a deal not only benefit the Greek debtors and the banks but the hundreds of thousands of everyday citizens? Greeks have not abandoned mainstream political parties because of political blindness but because of their government and the Troika’s initiatives that have destroyed their lives and killed their future. All those who have been observing Greece in recent times should be looking for the reasons behind political behavior of citizens and not metaphysical or stereotypical explanations that bring us decades back in political thinking.
What is at stake?
Readers must understand that catastrophe has already happened in Greece and that the radical Left has never ruled the country, with an exception of some months in a coalition government with ND in the late 1980s. The over 1.2 million unemployed or the almost 200,000 mostly younger Greeks who have migrated largely to Germany are just two pieces in a puzzle that constitutes a humanitarian disaster. The desire of the current leadership in the EU – ‘Angela and friends’ – to go on with austerity and apply a by-and-large punitive approach translates into more poverty and even less positive feelings for our European project.
The electoral strategy of the government and of its allies seems to lack imagination. This strategy tastes like “used gum”, no sugar, no taste, no hope. The radical Left might not a have a clear answer to the problems but it sounds like a bad joke when it’s unleashed as a criticism from the side of those who designed, executed and still insist on the value of the current austerity programs throughout Europe. Let us not forget that similar processes of political radicalization is taking place in other austerity stricken EU Member States, most of which are among the Troika’s “success stories” (see the Podemos party in Spain).
What is at stake though in the upcoming national elections in Greece? Why is there such an orchestrated attack on SYRIZA? Is Hannibal really “ante portas” or is “Peter” once again screaming out about the coming wolves? In the final analysis who is ‘the wolf’?
Greece has been in intensive care for years. As expected, numbers seem to have improved but this says little to those who look for food through leftovers. The arrival of ‘development’ in a country in ruins has been the most popular joke in Greece. At the same time Greek public debt is higher than at the beginning of the crisis. Greek millionaires still evade taxes and find a safe heaven for their tangible and intangible wealth in Swiss, Luxembourgian, or Cayman Islands’ banks. Greek ship owners might love summer time in the Greek islands but still prefer Panamanian or Liberian flags for their vessels. Whether one likes it of not, austerity has touched very few – if any – of those who benefited greatly during the ‘good old times’. At the same time everyone now understands that being reminiscent about the recent unsustainable past is not enough to feed children or warm up homes.
SYRIZA and government
Does SYRIZA bring tangible solutions to Greece’s problems? The answer is ‘no,’ but one has to put the same question to those who have been “saving” Greece since 2010. Have the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB brought tangible solutions to Greece’s problems? Don’t bother answering – the question is rhetorical…
There is a structural difference between SYRIZA and the government. The former talks in terms of justice while the latter acts in terms of injustice. SYRIZA places importance on citizens while the government focuses on presenting numbers and tables to the Troika. SYRIZA points out to the destruction of the social fabric in Greece and Southern Europe at large, while the government seems to be satisfied by positive comments made by Mr. Schaeuble or Mr. Fuchtel, Minister of the German Federal Republic government for…Greek Affairs. The last post, that of ‘Greek Affairs’, must be the most recent addition to the history of neocolonialism. Keep in mind that emotions run high in this part of the world and I can’t see why Greeks should abandon being emotional, given the fact that Germany still owes compensation to Greece from the World War II period.
One needs to free him or herself from the dominant mindset if s/he wishes to understand realities away from his/her own country. We all need to realise that we have been indoctrinated by neoliberalism and its unchallenged ‘truths’. We all need to pay attention to the media with skepticism, as most of them are in the hands of those who benefit from austerity, of those who profit from the pain, destitution and insecurity of others.
Where the Greens stand
What about green political thinking in Greece? Is there space for green ideas in a country that desperately seeks ‘growth at any cost’? Could Ecologists Greens, a member party of EGP, run in the upcoming elections on their own? Should Greens in Greece form alliances and if yes, with which political parties? Should the Ecologists Greens consider inviting splinter groups? Would unlimited personal ambition – as it has been exhibited in the recent past – prevail once again in Greek Green politics? Would Greek Greens perceive the possibility of a radical Left government as an opportunity to put forward a Green agenda or would they place more emphasis on existing differences between the two political forces?
These were some of the questions which accompanied Greek Greens, as they convened for their electoral conference in which they decided with an overwhelming majority of above 60% on Sunday, January 4, 2015 to participate in the upcoming elections with green candidates in the electoral list of SYRIZA.
Reds will not turn automatically to green, and nor will all greens shift into red – that’s the agreement. All of the 22 key points which had been set forward by Ecologists Greens as ‘green lines’ for possible collaboration earlier on in November 2014, at a national conference, were accepted by SYRIZA. The Ecologists Greens will attempt to elect its first MPs ever since 1989, when the first MP from the then Ecologists-Alternatives was elected.
Although many suggest that the victory of SYRIZA and its allies have ‘locked’, Samaras is running a ‘negative campaign’, as there is very little if any at all he can be proud of during his tenure… The only certain thing is that the radical Left has a great potential of ruling Greece and possibly challenging the dominant neoliberal agenda in Greece and Southern Europe. As the radical Left approaches power, it comes closer to reality and maturity. Citizens across Europe and the world who have seen the mockery of democracy in the past 4-5 years should support the democratic will of Greek citizens and democracy itself. Citizens across Europe should start imagining a different Europe that serves its citizens and not its millionaires. ‘Project Europe’ is in danger not because of the radical Left’s possible coming to power but because of its current neoliberal political leadership.
As for the Ecologists Greens, it remains to be seen whether they will live up to the historical moment in-the-making or whether they will behave in an immature political way. The terrain is new, the Ecologists Greens of Greece are a small party which has seen the creation of two splinter ‘green parties’, both of which target the center Left political audience. The Ecologists Greens have to play a pivotal role in bringing the European Green Party into the picture. The Greek ‘new paradigm’ has to be discussed, studied, enriched and ‘greened’! The big political space left by collapsing social democracy, now seen as equally neoliberal by the voters, has to be filled in. Green politics has to enter its adulthood and see the big picture. That picture should have a green background.