Tag Archives: Karolos Papoulias

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.

A threat, some confidence and a couple of news

Yesterday I received the first threat targeting the author of this blog. Some far right supporter was angry with what I wrote about Mr. Voridis and Mr. Georgiades. I was threatened, among other things, that once the “revolution” takes place, my throat will be one of the first to be slit (if you wonder about the use of the word “revolution”, have in mind that Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos has famously characterized the imposition of the military junta as a “revolution”). Of course the post was not a result of my own research, the Greek blogosphere is full of this story (actually it’s even more detailed). I have merely translated and summarized what is written in Greek blogs and newspapers. Not that I feel like being apologetic for the post but it just strikes me how stupid and narrow-minded some people are. Unfortunately the threat was anonymous and thus I couldn’t reply to its author and it was written in Greek. I thought of translating it and posting it here but my limited translation skills are not enough to fully and rightfully translate the richness of Greek obscenity that was used. I was also embarrassed to translate the detailed knowledge that the commentator had about some of my female relatives’ genitalia.

Time for today’s news. Greece’s eyebrows are going to turn to the Parliament tonight for the vote of confidence of Lucas Papademos’ government. No surprises are expected though as the majority of the three parties that formed the national unity government will vote for it. Some MPs expressed concerns but overall I feel no suspense.

DEI trade unionists outside the Greek Ministry of Health

The Public Power Corporation’s (DEI) trade union, GENOP-DEI, has thrown another symbolic act today. Several trade unionists visited the Ministry of Health in downtown Athens and have cut the electricity supply. They said that the Ministry owes more than 141 million euros to DEI in unpaid electricity bills.

DEI trade unionists cutting the electricity supply at the Ministry of Health

If that looks strange for you, here’s the background. Last September the Greek government announced that the recently decided tax on property would be sent to the citizens through their electricity bills. In that way, paying your electricity and paying the property tax would be connected and if you would deny to pay the latter you would have your electricity supply cut off. That decision was taken despite Mr. Venizelos’ reassurances in June that they wouldn’t use the electricity bills for such a cause. Of course people were furious about it and DEI’s trade union, who were already under governmental and public pressure for a series of accusations and scandals, initially denied to print the bills in question. That rebellious announcement by the union leader Nikos Fotopoulos, which of course wasn’t implemented (I know a lot of people who received their electricity bill together with the new property tax), was followed by today’s show which aims to regain the people’s sympathy towards the trade union. If you want to find out more about the developments in DEI and the trade union’s reaction you can read this. Here’s a short video of today’s show.

Finally, 17 people have been identified for their participation in the events during the cancelled military parade for the Ohi Day, on 28 October. According to the Police, eleven of them come from the far left political spectrum, two from the far right and four have been identified as football fans (probably supporters of the delegated Iraklis F.C. team of Thessaloniki). They will be tried shortly.

Greek operetta

When two of the biggest newspapers of a country publish the same title, there must be some truth in it. Here’s today round up of newspaper front pages from Greece. Enjoy the show.

Ta Nea

Title: Irodou Attikou (i.e. the Presidential residence street name) theatre: Operetta “The leaders, the gardener and poor Greece”

Eleftherotypia

Title: Operetta at the [President’s] mansion

Ethnos

Title: The selection of a PM with stature is the only way out

Vradini

Title: From saviours of the country… to destructors

Eleftheros Tipos

Title: The media and half of PASOK give an ultimatum for Papadimos

Adesmeftos Tipos

Title: Political shadow theatre

Estia

Title: Unnbelievable low comedy

Who is Loukas Papadimos?

Here’s a short CV of Loukas Papadimos, the name which is discussed more for the seat of the new Greek Prime minister in the coming national unity government. He has been the No1 choice in the theoretical discussions for a possible national unity government for months now. He is also respected by George Papandreou who actually appointed him as an unpaid Economic advisor in 2010. Reports on the backstage political tug-of-war which preceded the Greek government reshuffle back in June 2011 were mentioning that he was offered to succeed George Papaconstantinou in the Ministry of Finance, a post that Papadimos has denied.

He was born in 1947 and graduated from the high-profile elitist Athens College (Hellenic American Educational Foundation). The school is often referred to as a power hub, due to its numerous influential alumni who remain closely connected after graduation. He later studied at the MIT earning a BA in Physics, a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Phd in Economics.

In 1980 he worked as an economist for the Federal Bank in Boston and in 1985 he was appointed as a chief economist for the Bank of Greece. In 1988 he became a Professor of Economics at the University of Athens. In 1993 he was appointed by Andreas Papandreou (George’s father) as Vice Chairman of the Bank of Greece and he became its Chairman a year later. From that post he worked for Greece’s preparation to join the euro zone, a project which was continued under Prime Minister Kostas Simitis until the end of the 1990s.

Between 2002 and 2010 he worked as Vice Chairman of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

A funny historic trivia is that the last national unity government in Greece was formed in 1989 under another banker, Xenofon Zolotas, who was Greece’s former representative to the IMF and the European Economic Committee. Zolotas was also a former Chairman of the Bank of Greece (1974-1981). That government, which was called Ecumenical Government, was also formed in order to avoid the  bankruptcy of the Greek state and lasted for less than 6 months. Current President of the Greek Republic, Karolos Papoulias, and New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras, had also participated in that government.

Less than two weeks ago, Loukas Papadimos has written an article for the Greek Sunday newspaper To Vima saying that he preferred a wide restructuring of the Greek debt than a generous haircut.

You can also read a profile of Loukas Papadimos here (The Telegraph newspaper)

Greece spirals out of control

Now this is a situation when the shit hits the fan. Political developments in Greece are getting more and more out of control and in the meantime everybody is trying to understand what drove Greek PM George Papandreou to take the decision for a referendum on the recent bailout plan. In this post I will try to connect the pieces of today’s crazy political jigsaw.

In the PASOK front, the governing party is facing a sort of a rebellion that could itself bring Papandreou down even by the end of the day, some say. The revolt begun with a letter written by six leading members of PASOK who have called on Prime Minister George Papandreou to resign. Later in the day Milena Apostolaki, a PASOK MP, has defected from the party, cutting Mr Papandreou’s parliamentary majority to two seats – 152 out of 300 – ahead of a confidence vote on Friday midnight. “I have an obligation to resist this erroneous political choice that divides the nation” she said in her attempt to explain that she will remain in the Parliament as an independent MP. Eva Kaili also threatened Papandreou that she will follow Milena Apostolaki if the PM proceeds in the referendum instead of a government of national salvation”.  Finally, Vasso Papandreou, a veteran member of PASOK, said in a statement “I call on the president to convene the council of political leaders with the goal of forming a government of national salvation in view of safeguarding the EU package agreed on 27 October, and then to immediately hold elections”.

Opposition leader, Antonis Samaras has met with the Greek President Karolos Papoulias this morning. He later told journalists that he asked for snap elections and stated that he will do everything he can so that Greece and its European course don’t get into trouble. According to reports, there is speculation that the New Democracy party could quit the Parliament en masse during the vote of confidence on Friday, a move that will eventually dissolve the Parliament and cause elections.

SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, said “It seems that the ballot boxes will not be set for a referendum but for elections”. LAOS party chairman, Giorgos Karatzaferis urgently called for Karolos Papoulias to invite all  party leaders and either form a government of national unity or call for a elections to be held within November.

In a strange news report, the political leadership of the Ministry of Defense, Minister Panos Beglitis has called for an emergency meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) in order to change the heads of the Armed Forces. The speculation about this decision was great and conspiracy theory fans saw it as a confirmation of foreign press reports (Handelsblatt newspaper, Forbes magazine and Liberation newspaper) about a possible coup d’état  in Greece.

Politicians! At ease!

An unprecedented thing took place today in Greece’s second biggest city, Thessaloniki. For the first time a military parade was cancelled. It was the military parade for the celebration of the 28th of October National Day (the so-called Ohi Day that signalled Greece’s resistance to the Axis in WW II). Hundreds of people gathered near the VIP stand, where the Head of State President Karolos Papoulias and the Minister of Defense Panos Beglitis were seated, and booed them. Among other slogans they were called as traitors, a political manifestation that becomes more and more popular in the past couple of years.

This is a short video of the moment when the Greek President decided to leave the VIP stand.

Moments before he departed from the VIP stand, Karolos Papoulias said “Who can call me a traitor? I fought the Nazis when I was 15 years old. I regret that they chose such a day to demonstrate. They should be ashamed”.

The group of protesters was composed by public employees, members of Syriza political party and other leftist groups, indignant Greeks and several fans of Iraklis FC (who have been protesting for weeks against the relegation of their team to the Fourth Division).

Some parts of the parade managed to walk through the gathered crowd but the military part of the parade was cancelled.

In Athens, the High School students’ parade was also a target of civil irritation. The City of Athens’ Brass Band paraded with black ribbon on their instruments whilst some students decided to turn their head opposite from the VIP stand when they were passing by it. The Mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis, said that he will take disciplinary action against the members of the municipality’s band.

In the central Greek city of Trikala one man managed to evade the policemen, approached the local PASOK MP Christos Magoufis and punched him.

According to cretalive.gr, similar reactions took place in cities of the island of Crete. In the island’s capital, Heraklion, citizens threw eggs towards the VIP stand and the local MPs were escorted to the nearby building of the Prefecture.

Greece is one of the last countries in the European Union that is still holding military parades during its National Days of 25 March (Independence from the Ottoman Empire) and 28 October (Resistance against the Axis powers). Last year the Ministry of Defense has estimated the cost of such events. Here’s the analysis:

Cost of the 25th March parade: 840.000€
Cost of the 28th October parade: 430.000€

Because you’re on television, dummy!

Now here’s a news item that went largely under-reported in the international news last week. The Greek PM, George Papandreou, was handling a mini crisis. He was ahead of a hot week, a 48-hour general strike, the voting of the latest round of harsh measures at the Parliament and the preparation of the government for the meetings in Brussels last weekend. So he decided to meet the Head of State, President Karolos Papoulias, and then he planned to have separate meetings with the leaders of the political parties that form our Parliament. At some point between these institutionally legitimate meetings he decided to invite the chairmen of the nationwide tv and newspaper networks.

Now in which democratic country does a PM do such an openly Orwellian thing? And what could have been said in these meetings? No one knows. But the PM’s office never denied their occurrence. As Matina Papahristoudi wrote, “the PM has met the real bosses of the country; the Publishers”.

With the current situation of the media companies, most of which are on the verge of bankruptcy due to the decrease in private and more importantly public advertisement funds, the once super-powerful Greek media barons could not deny the PM’s invitation. Meetings were held with Stavros Psycharis and Fotis Bobolas (co-owners of MEGA TV and Publishers of To Vima, Ta Nea & Ethnos newspapers), Minos Kyriakou (owner of ANT1 television), Yiannis Alafouzos (owner of SKAI TV), Themis Alafouzos (Publisher of Kathimerini newspaper). As Matina Papahristoudi noted “we know what Mr. Papandreou asked from them. What we don’t know is what they asked in exchange”.