Tag Archives: backstage

The run-up to the nomination of Lucas Papademos

Here’s an interesting article with some backstage information on what really happened during the talks before the formation of the Papademos government. It was published yesterday by Dimokratia, a right-wing pro-New Democracy newspaper.

The article is based on the confidential minutes of the talks between the Greek President, Karolos Papoulias, and the leaders of PASOK (George Papandreou), New Democracy (Antonis Samaras) and LAOS (Giorgos Karatzaferis). The conclusion is that Papandreou ended up in suggesting for the seat of the new Prime Minister the same person he was rejecting at the beginning of the talks, having as  a goal to cause the collapse of the talks and put the blame on Samaras.

The first name that was suggested by George Papandreou was that of former New Democracy MP (now independent after her resignation) Elsa Papadimitriou. The reaction of Antonis Samaras, according to the article, was “I will smile in order not to burst into laughter”. Samaras allegedly later said “I realized since the beginning [of the talks] that Papandreou was cheating, trying to lead things into a no way out situation. His goal was to either force me to say Yes to everything or he’d remain as Prime Minister”. According to the article, Papandreou’s tactic was to ridicule the process by suggesting non-relevant names for the seat of Prime Minister in order to cancel the procedure and keep his position. Another Sunday newspaper, Proto Thema, also had an article about the suggestion of Elsa Papadimitriou. Proto Thema journalists Giannis Kourtakis wrote that Samaras’ reaction that day (6/11/11) was “Do we have anything more serious?”.

Elsa Papadimitriou at the Parliament (discussion on the 2011 Budget - December 2010)

Here’s a funny trivia to understand why her nomination was so surreal. Elsa Papadimitriou was a member of New Democracy – she quit her party in June 2011 when she also gave a confidence vote to George Papandreou in his crucial Medium-Term Program. She is the daughter of Dimitris Papadimitriou, a politician who belonged to the Centre Union party in the 1960s under George Papandreou (the grandfather). Her father was one of the so-called apostates who, as Konstantinos Mitsotakis, undermined George Papandreou and led to a situation which facilitated the colonels’ coup d’ etat in 1967. Thus, after the dictatorship, Dimitris Papadimitriou joined the New Democracy party together with former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis. However, according to an article of Proto Thema newspaper, Dimitris Papadimitriou had personal ties to George Papandreou (the grandfather). His son, Andreas Papandreou was Elsa Papadimitriou’s professor of Economics when she was studying at Berkeley college in the 1950s. And funnily enough, Elsa spent some nights as a baby sitter for her professor’s children (among which was the recent Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou). According to Proto Thema, George Papandreou came up with the idea of nominating Elsa Papadimitriou after talks with his brother Antrikos Papandreou. So, in a nuttshell, during the recent crucial moments for Greece and for the whole of eurozone, George Papandreou (the grandson) -after consultation with his brother, nominated their former-baby sitter for Prime Minister of the government of national unity. How cute.

After the rejection of Apostolos Kaklamanis, on Wednesday night (9/11/11), Papandreou called Samaras to suggest Filippos Petsalnikos. “I’ll think about it and will let you know in 10 mins” replied Samaras according to Dimokratia newspaper. After half an hour the leader of New Democracy, knowing that Petsalnikos would cause great reactions inside PASOK and thus not having to be the one who would veto him, called Papandreou and gave him the go ahead. He also knew that Petsalnikos would strongly be rejected by Karatzaferis.

The reactions inside PASOK did start to occur and some hours later the leaders of PASOK, New Democracy and LAOS headed towards the Presidential Mansion where Giorgos Karatzaferis invented an unbelievable excuse to walk out from the meeting. According to Dimokratia’s article, Karatzaferis arrived at the Presidential Mansion after Papandreou and Samaras. The latter two were already sitting  with Papoulias in the meeting room waiting for him. When Karatzaferis arrived, he ordered from an employee to fetch him an orange juice. A bit later he stormed out of the mansion and went furious to the journalists who were outside the building. See his style while doing that.

“I am extremely saddened that at such a critical moment they are playing tactical games at the expense of the president of the republic,” an agitated Karatzaferis shouted on camera.

When the President’s secretary entered the meeting room and announced that “Karatzaferis departed”, Papoulias, Samaras and Papandreou thought that he was on his way to the mansion. They didn’t believe that he had arrived and left the Presidential Mansion in protest.

Later on, according to the same article, Samaras went to his family home nearby to have some rest for the night. The Prime Minister’s office in the meantime was leaking information to the media that Papademos was asking for several conditions in order to be the head of the new government. Half an hour after midnight Papandreou called Samaras and they had the following dialogue:

Papandreou: Antonis, you must decide tonight! I suggested Papademos.

Samaras: George, are you some kind of dictator to dictate me what I must decide immediately? As for me, I am not.

Papandreou: You don’t understand. Since things came that far, it’s you who decides! Either you accept Papademos or I go on.

Samaras: Tell me George, all these things about the conditions of Papademos… are they true?

Papandreou mumbled something about the way the journalists function and then said that Papademos had set five conditions. Samaras told him that he would reply in the morning. Before they hanged up the phone, Papandreou told Samaras that Papademos would call the New Democracy leader in a bit.

At about 1am of Thursday, Papademos called Samaras. The New Democracy leader asked him if he had set conditions for his nomination. After Papademos said no, Samaras asked him to deny this with a public statement. The current Prime Minister said that he couldn’t due to technical reasons, it was too late and he was all alone in his house, without his team. The next morning Papandreou and Samaras met at the Presidential Mansion, Karatzaferis was convinced to attend too. Samaras was furious that Papandreou lied to him so openly the previous night concerning the alleged Papademos’ conditions. The three politicians, under the President of the Republic, finally agreed on Papademos who later, in his first public statement outside the mansion, did Samaras the favor and denied that he had set any conditions in order to accept the post.

It has begun

Greece’s position within the euro was a historic conquest” of the country that “cannot be put in doubt” and “cannot depend on a referendum. (AP)

Evangelos Venizelos
Greek Finance Minister

It seems that Evangelos Venizelos’ big moment is … now. He has been waiting for this moment for years, since PASOK’s defeat in 2007. I remember his face on tv, speaking with his passionate manner that makes you think that he is shouting. PASOK had lost the elections, Venizelos didn’t wait at all and made statements about the need for a change of leadership in PASOK. He was speaking like a future PM and, paradoxically, he was merely the No2 of the defeated party in the elections.

The recovery of the word “mutiny” from PASOK’s history chest by George Papandreou touched the necessary sensitivities and instincts of the socialists who elected him as a chairman about a month later. It was funny times. We had a new right-wing government but the mainstream media were only talking about the internal elections of the party that lost. This is one of those small elements that can explain the term “PASOK’s deep state”.

Venizelos never recovered since then. Everybody knows that he has always been waiting for the right moment to strike back. After the resignation of Milena Apostolaki and his decision to break ranks from the Greek PM on the issue of the referendum, minutes after they both returned from Cannes last night, I think he will go for it either today or during the vote of confidence tomorrow midnight. In the second case, one cannot avoid to use the Cinderella metaphor and joke about it.

To set the record straight, the emergency Cabinet meeting that took place last Tuesday had unanimously supported the idea of the referendum. Evangelos Venizelos was there too.

The reasons for Venizelos’ indigestion

There has been some discussion about the unfortunate event that Greek Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, had to be hospitalized for a minor appendicitis problem. I have been going through reports and tweets by Greek journalists and there is indeed a mistrust on the medical event. I decided to translate a report published in Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis’s website, To Kouti tis Pandoras (Pandora’s Box) about the possible backstage politics concerning Mr Venizelos’ illness.          *the text in italics is mine

“As it is well-known ill people and travelers cannot be blamed for a sin (Greek quote which forgives sick people and travelers for not attending the religious fasting). Evangelos Venizelos is ill since Tuesday early morning. He went to a (private) hospital having abdominal pains. Those who have been in the army, they know well that when you want to avoid doing a task you just tell the camp’s doctor that you have “abdominal pain” and you are considering sick even if you are not. You just say “it hurts”, making it sound as if they should treat you seriously. If they can’t find anything wrong, they usually conclude that it’s indigestion. In the meantime, your goal is achieved.

However, Mr Venizelos’ pain is not such a pain. He suffers from indigestion for quite a time. He is pregnant. He is trying to give birth to the developments that will benefit him. These are: elections.

Papandreou gave Venizelos the Ministry of Finance in order to make him harmless in the intra-PASOK political struggle and, at the same time, makes him a hateful Minister in the eyes of the public. The PM has bet on Venizelos’ political ambitions in the same way you place cheese on a mouse trap. However, he made a fatal mistake. He gave Venizelos Prime Ministerial powers and a veto right. For the sake of Venizelos, Papandreou got rid of all those people who constituted his political entourage. He neglected that, apart from his own political ambitions, Venizelos had a team of MPs who were following his orders.

The political goal of Venizelos was to hold elections so that Papandreou’s era is over with a defining defeat. When he returned from the haircut’s negotiations, Venizelos said it clearly. “The agreements need a consensus of 180 votes in the Parliament”. Since such a consensus couldn’t be achieved, that practically meant elections

Once more Papandreou did not see it coming. He accepted Venizelos’ proposal to exchange the idea of elections for the its tactical substitute, a referendum. Evangelos Venizelos endorsed the referendum in a live interview with ANT1 on Monday night and managed to inflate the popular and the political reaction. And today, he got sick.

Milena Apostolaki, a Venizelian (i.e. supporter of Venizelos in the years-long Papandreou Vs Venizelos intra-PASOK struggle) who matured politically in the (political) hands of Evangelos Venizelos, disagreed with the idea of a referendum. The political guilts and the political conscience will soon be transmitted as a disease, as an epidemic actually, many other members of PASOK. I assume it will transmit mainly to the ladies who also matured politically in the (political) hands of Mr. Venizelos”.

What will Mr Papandreou do? He will adopt a rhetoric of a domestic intra-PASOK mutiny and, possibly, he will talk of a possible coup d’etat by members of the Army. But it’s too late for tears. If he wants to do something useful, he should read the hundreds of emails who were sent to him by friends and PASOK members, who were predicting the political illness of Mr Venizelos when Papandreou gave him everything. And he should go for elections before they drag him there.

The run-up to the Greek economic crisis (Part 1)

Last week I read one of the most interesting articles in the past months. It was written by journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos for the popular Sunday newspaper To Vima (16/10/2011). I decided to translate it for anyone who is interested in the backstage political activity during the first months of the Greek economic crisis. I have re-phrased some parts in order to facilitate the article’s understanding and, of course, to make it easier for my mediocre translating skills. I also decided to split the 3.000+ words article in four  parts so that it makes it easier to read online. The next parts will be translated and published during the week.

Apart from the journalistic interest, this article can prove to be useful in order to understand the suspiciousness of the Greek public against the current administration and the reasons why so many people react by protesting in the streets. Simply, try to imagine what kind of trust would you show to your government if you knew that your current state of misery is due to the amateur handling of extremely crucial issues. It is also interesting to notice how some of the decisions were not taken under the motivation of doing the right thing for Greece but were rather the results of small-party political machinations.

So here’s the first part of the article.

“We were like prostitutes after their first time” a top government official confessed in his attempt to describe the Cabinet member’s psychological situation during their meeting to sign the Memorandum, on the 5th of May 2010. “We were looking at each other and we were all pale” he says. “We felt very ashamed since we couldn’t believe that we, PASOK, led Greece to the IMF, having chopped the salaries and the pensions”. And then he concludes “Since then we have been completely prostituted. We’ve done the same things over and over again without feeling any shame”. Almost all PASOK politicians admit in private that the Memorandum, despite its provision of some necessary reforms, is synonymous at the same time with the sentencing of the economy to a prolonged depression and with the mortgaging of the country to its lenders. However they recognize that it was the last choice in order to avoid bankruptcy and to secure the savings and the pensions, especially since the government had previously failed to implement the prior solutions.

“The Memorandum was hastily written by us and the troika” admits a high-ranking government official who participated in the (so-called) negotiations. “We had no idea of what we were writing and the troika experts were equally confused, working under great pressure from the European Commission and the IMF”. According to first hand accounts, the slightest preparation hasn’t been made and simply, on the last moment, they isolated part from older IMF Memorandums as those with Turkey, Mexico or Hungary and they would hurriedly adapt them to form the Greek Memorandum. “It’s a bad compilation, a Frankestein-styled Memorandum” says a Minister who admitted that he had less than three hours to read, understand, evaluate and approve the part of the agreement which would commit his Ministry for the next four years.


Only the first two chapters of the Memorandum are purely Greek. They consist the “legal introduction” which was written by professors Evangelos Venizelos and Haris Paboukis in an office at the fifth floor of the Ministry of Development, in Mesogion Avenue.  A lot of government officials found refuge in that 10 years old building, the design of which reminds the optimism of the European Monetary Union’s era. The centre of Athens was impassable because of the tear gas and the riots which concluded that afternoon in the assassination of three young people at the Marfin Bank Stadiou Street branch.

“We’ll become like Argentina. They will enter and they will kill us” Theodoros Pangalos shouted when he was informed of the three bank employees’ death. He was at the Parliament and the MPs next to him who heard him got afraid that the mob will come inside and lynch them. But they haven’t taken into account Aleka Papariga. The General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party, an always suspicious and proactive woman, has given strict orders to the safeguarding team of PAME (the Communist trade union). The strapping communists, instead of invading the former Palace (i.e. the Greek Parliament), obeyed and sheltered it by standing in the way of a united crowd of extreme leftists and parastatal protestors who were trying to break through the police collar at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Once more, the Greek Communist Part had saved the bourgeois democracy.

End of Part 1 – To read Part 2 click here.