On elections, parties, crisis, euro
It seems to me that Greece confronts not only an economic crisis but far worse, a political one, with the latter supporting the roots of vast and pandemic corruption. Political parties are little better than gangs of special interest groups devoted to their groups' own interests rather than the nation at large. So the only way out of this emergency seems to me, again, in my humble opinion, in finding a swift and decisive way to find strong leadership, perhaps outside of the normal electoral process -- if swift enough the larger problems might be dealt with more quickly.
But how? I would suggest disbanding all political parties for the time being, under an emergency national unity act, with a time deadline, and giving voters the chance to decide in two elections, each a week apart. This referendum would in the first phase, select the public's popular vote for a national leader, free of party affiliations. In the second phase, the top two contenders would face off against one another. Their time of tenure could be decided in the first phase. State media and private radio and television could be required to afford equal time for campaign policy statements, along with the press, during the final stage.
If the patriarchal-patronage tradition is not crushed, nothing will ever change. This a possible first step. Greeks could vote for respected individuals firstly and not parties. And quickly. It is not without drawbacks, but it might at least reflect the true will of the people.
The sad fact would be that most Greeks would have no idea of any illustrious individuals to choose from. Common individuals with uncommon skills and principles, would have no national presence, and therefore have scant chance of reaching most regions of society for a timely vote.
Perhaps then, a king, or a general might be found. Or even someone with more efficiency such as a Turk?
George Dillon Slater
As a frequent traveller to Greece and as someone who has worked there for time to time, I have a great admiration for SYRIZA (and its earlier manifestations) and have had for some years. Of all the parties in Greece that can lead a coalition that can give dignity back to Greece and its working people it is them, so I can see quite clearly why they must wait for a second election, if the opinion polls are to be believed.
However, before a government of the people can emerge, the KKE must drop its sectarianism and work towards a united left front. Only then will a government that can have the confidence of the people to lead them against the measures imposed by globalised capitalism, will have a chance.
On another issue, that of the ultra-right memories of the Nazi occupation in Greece and the brutal dictatorship of 1967-74 are still very much alive. I have not seen many statements from the left on the dangers to democracy and social stability posed by Golden Dawn. Who on the left will state publicly that their defeat politically (and if necessary on the streets) is important and that there must be a stand taken to ensure that they are defeated? This is now imperative.
Party leaders fail to reach unity deal, president to try next
There was never a chance for a Greek coalition government. And Greek president Karolos Papoulias is just a figurehead president like Israel's and Germany's with no authority whatsoever to influence or push the Greek parties for solution. Then, there are the egos of the parties leaders. New Democracy's leader Antonis Samaras, with 103 seats in the parliament, won't serve in any coalition except as prime minister. And the Syriza party that polls project will get 22% of the vote and 128 seats in the next election is bound to boycott any coalition to get a shot a the prime minister's post afterward. The previous governing party, Pasok, was trashed in the May 6 elections, and now is just a side-show player.
During the European bailout negotiations with Greece, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the then Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou that "the austerity measures must be painful, to make sure that the Greeks put their house in financial order." Well, they are! And coalition governments won't be able to provide anything other than rhetoric and anesthetics for years to come!
Nikos Retsos, retired professor
(First published on CBS News, USA.)
On liberalism in Greece
A very nice article about liberalism in Greece.
Greeks always say they are free, but like many other people they are caught in frames they do not see or do not understand. In Greece there are still two important tits in order to stay alive: the State and the Church. And liberalism wants to free people of both of them, by making and letting them be self-responsible. But it’s introducing a Protestant ethic in a Catholic / Orthodox setting. Something like pissing against the wind: You only do wet yourself. That’s why it s so difficult to get momentum in Greece today, but they will, because I think the wind has to and will change in Greece.
So I hope also in Greece liberalism will make people aware of the importance of being responsible -- for themselves and for their country. Especially today.
Hans van der Schaaf
Greece at the waterfront
Monica Lund asks what the advantages and disadvantages of Greece being a member of the eurozone are.
The principle advantage is stability and access to money from the European banking system. But this access comes at a price: the need to abide by the rules of the "club." In my post yesterday I said that Mr Tsipras has the energy and vigour of youth needed to provide the leadership this country needs. But he also needs to take a realistic view of the situation Greece finds itself in. If his unyielding stand on the refusal of any government he is a member of, to accept the terms of the memorandum, are followed through to their logical conclusion then there will be no money to pay for the medical services, pensions, public transport, education, defense, law and order and all the other other responsibilities of the state. Neither your lifts nor your lights will work. No petrol will be available for your car. The country's infrastructure will grind to a halt and the tourist industry, which is already seeing an expensive drop in customers, will evaporate completely.
Do you want this for your country?
Greece should never have joined the eurozone in the first place, particularly in the light of the dishonesty and mendacity which accompanied the country's application. But the political greed and temptation was too much to resist. Or if it was to have joined, the way should have been properly prepared and the consequences thought through. But it is no good crying over spilt milk. We have to deal with the "here and now."
Actually quite a lot of progress has been made, but not enough. There needs to be unyielding will in completing the work of trimming the civil service, eliminating waste, selling off state assets and bringing Greece into the 20th century, even if the 21st seems hard to reach!
To judge from the crowds in Trolley, a popular coffee shop and bar in Loutsa, the nearest seaside resort to central Athens, there are people with plenty of money still around. My friend Annie, who works there, said she has never known it so busy! I hope this is just an expression of relief at the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and not a frenetic last fling before Armageddon.
Oh yes -- and the main disadvantage -- if you borrow money you need to pay it back.
Into the Drachma
If Greece goes into the drachma and loses the ability to import food -- as Greece depends on importing 50% of its food -- will the Turks and the Swedes again send ship loads of food to save millions of people from death as they did in 1942? Will Greece loose the ability to have credit cards used by tourists? Will Greece have fuel for transport?
It’s a bad time to be poor, and to import food as the price of food is going up every day. I cannot believe one kilo of standard rice is now worth $4.00 plus.
Everybody I speak to is afraid of booking airline seats to Greece because of the fear of civil war and strikes by air-control in Athens leaving them stranded for days or weeks.
The president of Greece should put out a decree banning all strikes, and long jail terms for those that plan them. If anyone does not like their job they can look for another one.
Anyone undermining the Greek economy and peoples livelihood are traitors.
The statement of Bundesbank chief is contradictory. Could someone ask him if he believes in Democratic taken decisions after Greek elections or not? And if abides by democratic principles then threatening with undemocratic measures contradicts himself!
Tsipras has nothing to lose by not joining the coalition. If a government can be formed he can carry on as before along with his friends from the KKE, organising demonstrations and strikes, at the same time encouraging riots and bad behaviour. In other words, disrupt any effort to take us out of this economic crisis. Then at elections in June, he hopes to sweep away the opposition, with the help of KKE voters and suffering Greeks, with promises he cannot keep. We were so close, we had funding and many EU officials and even bankers agreeing that austerity had to be implemented alongside assistance for growth. All the hard work from Papademos down the drain for another arrogant politician without a program.
Re: More airline carriers dropping Greece from itineraries
Where are the striking unions now? I would really like to know what they have to say when the job cuts come around.
I've lived in Greece and tried to make a go of it from 1985 to 1990 and have family there which I see 2, 3 times a year so I know the country pretty good.
Everything is the same now as it was then. The only solution is the military. They should come in, throw everyone (especially in the government) who cannot account for their wealth in prison, clear out the parliament and start over again.
They haven't changed in all this time they will not change now, same s***t, different day.
The euro has been a disaster for Greece
Germany has a lot to answer in having Greece admitted to the eurozone knowing that the structural reforms were never in place. The Germans should have done more research on the Greek political system in their inability to change work practises and collect tax.
Mr Simitis, the former PASOK PM and his administration, have a lot to answer in how the "fudged" the figures to get into the eurozone. Greece has experienced recession in the last five years and the unemployment rate in 21%.
The current political parties from the far left to the far right to the in-betweens are more or less useless in fixing the current crisis. The German finance minister is also saying the EU can take the hit if Greece leaves the eurozone. Many economists predict Greece leaving the eurozone before Christmas.
Re: Airlines dropping Greece
I have never seen a country commit national suicide on the scale and speed that "modern" day Greece is doing. The efficiency of this national undertaking is simply beyond human comprehension. The trend of airlines cancelling flights to Athens is one more symptom of this. No one wants to visit a country that is corrupt (80th place in the world behind such all-stars as El Salvador and Pakistan), violent downtown (riots/demonstrations), crime ridden (central Athens), strike ridden, ghetto-like (Omonia, Victoria square etc.) and politically unstable (holding elections at the beginning of the tourist season).
The point being that the damage to this country has been done regardless of one meaningless election after the other. It is permanent. Not only Europe, but the whole world sees us as being a tourist version of Chernobyl.
New York City
The man without a tie
Alexis Tsipras maybe charismatic and good-looking for some but he needs to wear a tie. The SYRIZA leader refuses to wear a tie as it is seen as a capitalist symbol. The Greek Parliament needs to have certain standards applied to all male members such as wearing a tie.
It is unheard of in more advanced countries that male elected representatives do not wear a tie. Having watched Mr Tsipras casually walk into the President’s office without a tie showed total disrespect. Mr Tsipras also does not attend national day celebrations such as 25th of March and 28th of October. Mr Tsipras was a member and product of the communist youth. I would have thought a chairman Mao or Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez outfits may suit him better; after all the suit is also a capitalist attire not just the tie.
The fish stinks from the head
So Venizelos reckons the party is "rotten." The fish stinks from the head, sir. Your every move since May 6 seems desperate and you look decidedly lost. You and your party invited the troika into Greece and signed the memoranda, which have decimated the country and sent millions into poverty, and you were ready to flog us with more. All of this with no mandate from the people, no accountability and enforced with industrial doses of chemical gas and grenades to disperse protesters from central Athens. All the while you thundered aggressively in the parliament that austerity is the only way. Neither Pasok nor New Democracy are fit to rule. We have had enough. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Porto Rafti, Attica, Greece
Tsipras unfit to rule
Among the political pygmies in public life -- Kammenos, Karatzeferis, Papariga, Plevris, Samaras, Theodorakis -- a special place of ignominy is reserved for Tsipras. A bully, irrational, and historically ignorant personage, his appointment to rule will hasten Greece's march to irrelevance, living a future in poverty, a pariah in the financial markets, alienating to our allies in Europe, the eurozone, and, most important, the United States!
The alternative is to have Papademos continue until next month's second round of balloting, organizing to expel the odious Nazis of Golden Dawn, reduce the influence of Communists, and vigorously defend democratic values -- promotion of tolerance, protection of minorities, especially the meager Jewish community. Thus will Greece shed our collective humiliation, embarrassment, and shame felt by us, as expatriates, and decent citizens in our native land.
Sincerely, and with fraternal affection,
Prof. Asher J. Matathias
Woodmere, NY, USA
Germany to lead Europe
Germany does not want and also is in no way prepared to lead Europe.
All the people that are claiming though should self-reflect and maybe they will find that it’s them in the end that are desperately looking for someone strong to lead them out of this crisis. Germany is simply not the one you are looking for! The reason is that Europe itself never wanted (for good reason) it to be that strong (again).
We do have a situation now that all crisis-shaked countries are focusing their hopes on Germany as the biggest and economically strongest (not the richest though) country of Europe. Germany simply has no other option but to fail in all of those expectations. Even more since expectations go simply in the way of demanding more money without presenting reasonable solutions (Tsipras) but rejecting other hand any offered practical help as an assault on sovereignty (Reichenbach, KfW, Tax System etc).
It might be surprising for some, but until 1990 Germany was not even a sovereign state but officially still occupied by the allies and is, since 1981, embedded in a EU that gives over proportional power to its small member states. This situation has made Germany an economic giant but politically it always stayed a dwarf after WW II. Germany is the fourth biggest national economy in the world but on the political world map it is absolutely unimportant.
We, as normal people, understand now that the EU has massive problems in its constitution and with the first quake we had to realize that the whole construction started shaking. If it finally falls it is not the failure of Greece or Germany but it’s the failure of a Europe that was simply not brave and trustfull enough to build the house we call EU on solid and common ground.
I can understand that most foreigners are shocked at the results of the Greek elections, however, this is due to the fact that the foreign media in particular, and much of the Greek media, are not seeing the true picture.
The truth is that all sensible and patriotic Greeks, did not want elections. Of course 70% wanted to stay in the euro, the other 30% had either nothing to lose or listened to the propaganda fermented by the left parties in Greece, that if Greece was forced to leave the euro, it would damage the world's economy. Well, they believed Papandeou when he stated that Greece had funds, whereas with common sense they should have seen if banks aren't lending for mortgages, stopped loans to businesses and are no longer giving credit cards without collateral, obviously there is no money, as that is what they are there for.
If you look at the election results we had 35% of the voters didn't vote. Many voted for small, mostly liberal parties, which didn't gain enough seats. On a map showing the voting in colour you can clearly see that Greece is virtually all blue, votes for New Democracy. Where SYRIZA gained its seats was mostly Athens, the union and public workers' strongholds, and from young impressionable voters. Yes, the anger was aimed at our two main political parties for the fact that over the years they ignored corruption especially in the public sector, and brought the economy of the country to bankruptcy due to mismanagement.
However, the main complaint was the fact that rather than follow the measures recommended by the EU & the IMF, namely to cut public spending by reducing the number of public workers, removing their perks and additional benefits and cutting high pensions, they preferred to delay until it was necessary to introduce taxes and reduce private workers wages. Over the past few months, we saw changes which should have been made years ago simply because we had Greeks working with foreign technocrats’ assistance.
Now are we to watch while Tsipras faces the EU, international bankers, IMF, experienced politicians and economists, without the support of the majority of Greeks. This is pathetic.
Respect the people
Hellenic people have their fingers crossed. Not for something specific but for things to go well. It’s a matter of surviving from here on and that doesn’t leave us with a lot of choices. We will forget our manners, we will forget our history, we will forget who we are if things continue as they are.
The rest of the Europeans have to decide what is Europe: a strong alliance of countries or Germany and helpers? Because I respect the opinion of Germans for austerity but things have got out of hand, we also need growth; for what is a country without its people? I will not beg, I will not kneel -- I owe this to my ancestors. I will only wish to all the countries that when they get to this position (for any reason) everybody else treats them the same way they treated me.