Tag Archives: LAOS

Greece leaning more and more to the Left

I just read an interesting opinion poll that tells some of the developments in post-election Greece. It’s main element is that SYRIZA’s popularity has grown in less than a week since the elections. The poll was carried out by MARC and I found it here. So here are the numbers accompanied by some comments of mine.

SYRIZA’s leader, Alexis Tsipras.

SYRIZA’s popularity, according to the poll, is now standing as high as 23,8%, the highest the party has enjoyed since its birth. In the recent elections, SYRIZA scored 16,78% of the votes. The rise in popularity can be attributed to the fact that an alternative government (other than PASOK and New Democracy) seemed possible after Sunday’s results. In addition it’s possible that the continuation of the small-party political games that PASOK and New Democracy have been playing for the past two decades have radicalized people a bit more. If SYRIZA had a more clear and realistic plan to get out of the crisis then this rise would definitely have been bigger.

According to MARC’s poll, New Democracy comes second in preference with 17,4% (they won the elections with 18,85%) and PASOK is down to 10,8% (from a mediocre 13,18% in the elections). Independent Greeks gather 8,7%, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 6%, Golden Dawn 4,9% and the Democratic Left has 4,2%.

LAOS, the Green Party, Creation Again, Democratic Alliance and Action Party are all below the 3% threshold needed to enter the Greek Parliament.

An interesting aspect of this poll is this rare question that was added to the questionnaire: If you knew the result in advance, which party would you vote for?

Now, in a linear time world, it might look a bit absurd to ask this question unless voters have access to the technology of time travel. However, the results support my comment a couple of paragraphs above which is that many Greeks have never until now believed that a leftist government could be possible, especially through elections. Almost two generations grew up watching PASOK and New Democracy rotating in power.

Hence, 23,2% of those asked replied that they would vote for SYRIZA. The people who got afraid of SYRIZA’s rise in the elections (and of the possibility of a leftist government) were much less than what I would personally expect. This can be seen in the 19,6% of the interviewees who answered that, if they knew the result of the elections, they would vote for New Democracy (i.e. only 0,75% more than what New Democracy actually received in Sunday’s ballot boxes). Funnily, or tragically for some, PASOK would be voted only by 12,5% (as if the PASOK voters themselves wished a greater defeat of their party which got 13,18% in the recent elections). Another interesting fact is that some people did indeed get scared of the rise of extreme rightist Golden Dawn, especially after this week’s publicity which included a Golden Dawn press conference where one of their members asked journalists to stand up when their leader would appear in the press room. Speaking of it, here’s the video from the press conference, including the leader’s fiery speech, all with english subtitles:

So, the people who would vote for Golden Dawn, If they knew the elections’ result in advance, were down to 5,9% (from 6,97% that they got in the elections).

There were a few more questions but they are a bit dull and I can’t be bothered. I’ll just go and take a nap now.

The Greek elections’ aftermath in the newspapers

Here’s a quick translation of today’s newspaper front pages in the aftermath of yesterday’s Greek national elections. My general impression is that the newspapers kept a low profile, in contrast with their emotional headlines in the previous days. Despite the historic changes in the Greek political scenery, the feeling is a bit numb, I guess in fear of an uncertain future.

Ethnos 07/05/2012

Headline: A vote of anger overturns the political scene

Kathimerini 07/05/2012

Headline: In search of a government

Eleftheros Tipos 07/05/2012

Headline: People’s anger, Change the Memorandum!

Vradini 07/05/2012

Headline: Austerity defeated in Greece and France

Ta Nea 07/05/2012

Headline: Nightmare of being ungoverned with new elections in the background

Adesmeftos Tipos 07/05/2012

Headline: Elections of great anger

Dimokratia 07/05/2012

Headline: Where are you heading to, Antonis (Samaras)?

Avgi 07/05/2012 (SYRIZA’s newspaper)

Headline: Left mandate

The People’s Front of Judea

What do you know about political pluralism? Or about political surrealism? Greece loves to call itself the cradle of democracy and, yes, politics here are not as boring as a Democrats vs Republicans kind of dilemma. No, in Greece you can choose between more than 5 leftist/communist parties, a selection that dazzles even the most aware Marxists of the world. Actually you can’t get closer in reality to the famous People’s Front of Judea excerpt from the Monty Python’s movie “The Life of Brian”.

For the coming May 6th elections Greeks cannot complain about the lack of choice any more. Get ready for this year’s Greek tour de force of political pluralism. Here is the list of the 32 candidate parties (the parties in red are all leftist, no kidding). In your face.

1. PASOK (Greek Socialist Party)

2. New Democracy

3. Communist Party of Greece

4. SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) Unified Social Front

5. LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally)

6. Democratic Alliance

7. Social Pact

8. Independent Greeks

9. Democratic Left

10. Action – Liberal Coalition

11. Green Ecologists

12. Centrists’ Union

13. Liberals’ Party

14. Popular League – Golden Dawn

15. Dimosthenis Vergis – Greek Ecologists

16. NO (coalition of the collaborating Democratic Renaissance and Unified Popular Front – Stelios Papathemelis)

17. The “I don’t pay” movement

18. KEAN – Movement of National Resistance

19. Electoral cooperation of the Communist Party of Greece Marxist-Leninist and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece (no seriously, they are two different parties!)

20. Anti-capitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow (ANTARSYA – the abbreviation means Mutiny) – Front of the Anticapitalist Revolutionary Communist Left and of Radical Ecology

21. Organization of Communist Internationalists of Greece – OKDE

22. Labour Revolutionary Party (EEK Trotskyists)

23. OAKKE – Organization for the Re-establishment of the Communist Party of Greece

24. National Unity League

25. Society of the Political Formation of Kapodistria’s Continuators

26. Pirate Party of Greece

27. Creation Again

28. Panathenean Party – PAN.KI.

29. Dignity (independent candidates)

30.  Regional Urban Development (PAA) – Nik. Kolitsis, single candidate

and now get ready for the best, the most creatice and probably the longest party name in history

31. Independent Reformist Left, Reformist Right, Reformist PASOK, Reformist New Democracy, No to War, Party Enterpise “I donate land plots, I write off debts, I save lives”, All-farmers’ Labour Movement of Greece (PAEKE)

I am not kidding and neither does PAEKE’s founder. He was a candidate in the last elections too and he had received a bit more than 1300 votes.

For the history, there is a 32nd party which was called “Tyrannicides” but the High Court prohibited the use of this title because “it implies the intention of a punishable act”. Which makes me think, following the absurdity of this madness,  that the High Court did not reject the existence of the tyrants but only prevents the expression of some people’s will to exterminate them. It’s funny how the words of such statements can be interpreted. And then, I continue with the absurdity, why isn’t the Pirate Party of Greece not implying a punishable act? Or the disobedient “I don’t pay” Movement?

Another notable progress is the Electoral cooperation of the Communist Party of Greece Marxist-Leninist and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece. These are two completely (?) different political parties, with different structures. At a time when Leftists in Greece complained more than ever about the Left’s denial to unify its current popularity into one leftist coalition, only these two parties have managed to get united. In fact the Democratic Left, now scoring around 10% in polls, has splited from SYRIZA which also scores another 10%. And with KKE’s more than 10% one only needs to do the math in order to understand what all the bitterness is there for.

On yogurts as a form of political protest in Greece

The co-ruling PASOK party had its national conference today. Its goal is to elect the new party leader who will succeed George Papandreou and will lead the Socialists in the coming elections. The candidates are Christos Papoutsis and Evangelos Venizelos. At some point, an old man, member of PASOK himself, approached Venizelos, complained about the cuts in his pension and then threw him a yogurt before being carried out by bodyguards outside the hall.

This is the latest in a series of food throwing that has reemerged during the past two years of the crisis as a means of political protest.

Greek yogurt

Originally, “yogurt throwing” was a means of protest against authority by Greek youngsters in the late 1950s. They were called “Teddy Boys”, a name borrowed from the homonymous British subculture. You see, food throwing was traditionally a form of protest (preferable rotten eggs or tomatoes) but it was only in 1950s when the plastic cup substituted yogurt’s classic ceramic pot, a marketing move that made yogurt a non-lethal weapon. The trend of yogurt-throwing was fiercely fought by the authorities with the legendary “Law 4000/1958” according to which offenders were arrested, had their heads shaved and paraded through the streets of Athens.

A teddy boy is paraded in the streets of Athens with his head shaved.

The law also inspired a movie (Law 4000). Here’s a great excerpt that needs no subtitles.

The law was withdrawn in 1983, by Andreas Papandreou. In 1997, a builder who was member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) threw a yogurt on the then Minister of Employment, Miltiadis Papaioannou (now Minister of Justice) and his then Deputy Minister Christos Protopappas (now PASOK’s Parliamentary Group Representative) . The court decided that yogurt throwing was not an offense that had to be tried automatically but only if a lawsuit is filed by the victim.

During the past two years of the Greek crisis, attacks by angry citizens against politicians have become a frequent phenomenon. At the beginning there were verbal attacks, in restaurants and in the streets. Politicians began to walk less freely in the street without bodyguards, especially after Kostis Hatzidakis, a New Democracy MP, was brutally attacked by protesters in December of 2010.

The verbal attacks are still the norm wherever politicians appear in public (e.g. see what happened in the 28th October military parades – btw these days the government had a meeting to assess the security situation in view of the 25th of March Independence Day parades) Soon food throwing reappeared. The most popular “weapons” have been yogurt, eggs and, at times, tomatoes.

According to an article of Eleftherotypia newspaper, written by Georgia Linardou, in 2011 two members of the government and one MP have been attacked with yogurts. Last March, the vice president of the government Theodoros Pangalos was attacked while having dinner at a town just outside Athens. Some months later, Minister of Interior Haris Kastanidis was attacked in a similar fashion while watching “Midnight in Paris” at a cinema in Thessaloniki. Liana Kanelli, an MP with the Communist Party of Greece, has also been attacked with yogurt in June 2011, while she was trying to get through a block of protesters in order to reach the Parliament for the vote on the Mid-Term Program.

As for attacks with eggs, the list is longer, probably thanks to the different characteristics of this sort of food when used as a missile (their position on the day of the attack):

  • Manolis Othonas, Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection
  • Ilias Mosialos, Minister of State
  • Kostas Skandalidis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture
  • Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Health
  • Anna Diamantopoulou, Minister of Education
  • Giorgos Petalotis, Government Spokesman

Also:

  • Asterios Rontoulis, MP with LAOS
  • Dora Bakoyanis, Democratic Alliance party leader
  • Spiros Taliadouros, MP with New Democracy

In 2010 Alekos Alavanos was also attacked, with yogurts, during SYRIZA’s campaign for that year’s local elections.

Many politicians have criticized this form of protest. KKE’s leader, Aleka Papariga, has said that yogurt-throwers are people who have voted for PASOK or New Democracy and that the act itself is not some particular act of resistance but rather a bourgeois reaction that defuses the social discontent. Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Sokratis Xinidis, preferred some self-criticism when he said “The time has come for all of us to pay the price. I am ready to be thrown a yogurt…”

There’s a great article about the presence of food in Greek politics. It’s called “Bread, Milk, and the Greek Parliamentary Record” and is written by Leo Vournelis, here. Another interesting aspect can be read in “Eating in Times of Financial Crisis” also hosted on the website of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Finally, let me remind the readers of a historical recurrence. This is the second time that Evangelos Venizelos is trying to win the leadership of PASOK. The first time was back in 2007, in a mutiny-styled manoeuvre when he appeared as a candidate practically on the same night his party, then led by George Papandreou, lost the elections. In the following days few cared about the newly elected government – the top story was what was happening inside PASOK. In those polarized (for PASOK supporters) times, another party member threw a coffee on Venizelos while he was entering the party offices.

What I still remember from that video is Venizelos’ reaction. See at 1:33 for a better a view of it. Scary isn’t it?

UPDATE: Another interesting read is “The Dangers of Yoghurtification as a Political Movement in Greece“.

Potato wars

Here’s a story of a citizens’ initiative in Greece that intended to fight high prices and the politics that rose around it. It’s a promising initiative but the politics gave me a pessimistic feeling and reminded me that we can’t wait much from our political parties. They remain so disconnected from society, caring only about their small political gains rather than the well being of the citizens.

Potato Wars: May the spud be with you

Some weeks ago a volunteer group from the northern town of Katerini decided to bypass the middlemen and the big super market chains in order to get lower prices for a basic good. The potato. In a normal country you would expect capitalism, competition or the state (sic) to work in the benefit of the consumers. In Greece, with its middlemen and cartels, this is not happening. So the Volunteers’ Action Group decided to contact potato producers from Nevrokopi, Drama, in order to ask for a lower price. The citizens from Katerini declared on the group’s website what quantities they needed and the group informed the producers from Drama. The latter hired a couple of trucks and the drove all the way to Katerini to distribute their products in 10 kg sacks. Until then, the citizens of Katerini were buying the same sack for 7 euros but the volunteers’ group initiative they bought them for 2,5! According to the group, a local supermarket responded to the initiative by lowering the price of potato to 0.35 euros (i.e. 3,5 euros for a 10 kg sack).

The success of the initiative was followed by many other citizens’ groups all around Greece who ordered several tons of potatoes. The potato movement reached big cities like Athens and Thessaloniki too. The story was shown by several mainstream media, in a fashion that praised the citizens’ initiative. I was so surprised to see this happening, especially since big super market chains are some of the top advertisers on tv, that I even got a bit suspicious. But before I understand what was happening, there came politics to fuck up the story.

Firstly, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a statement with which it accused the state and the multinationals’ monopolies and cartels for trying to disorientate the people. According to KKE the problem of poverty is not going to be solved by such initiatives and the mainstream media promoted the “potato movement” in order not to let them identify with the labour movement. The real reason behind that statement of course was that KKE did not organize or control the initiative and thus felt the need to criticize it in attempt to limit its success. For the newbies in Greek politics, it’s enough to say here that KKE hates everything it doesn’t control as it believes that only itself is the true leftist and revolutionary party and that only they can and are going to bring the socialist change. Something like a copyright to revolution.

As one can imagine there was an uproar with this statement and some saw this situation as an opportunity to serve their own interests. For example, another leftist party and longtime opponent of KKE, SYRIZA praised the potato movement in an attempt to approach them in view of the coming elections. So did a third leftist party, the Democratic Left. Even the extreme right LAOS issued the following statement:

“Some people are bothered by the potato movement for one reason: They can not control and check it. We believe in these initiatives that can be overcome  the fears and inhibitions of the government towards its customers, the middlemen and wholesalers”.

Someone must remind LAOS that they were part of this government for some months and did nothing about its customers.

Finally KKE issued a second statement on the issue and said that they have been misunderstood. Few people were convinced and thus we ended up talking more about the parties’ statements and less about the power of such initiatives, since the state is absent, to make daily life a bit easier.

The initiative is now taking place in at least ten different cities all around Greece and is spreading to other goods as well. Olive oil, beans and rice are among the next in the Greek price wars.

Like a virgin

This is a great example if you want to see how a responsible Greek politician behaves in times of crisis. In May 2010, when Greece was about sign the IMF/EU/ECB Memorandum, Michalis Chrysochoidis was not just another Socialist MP but the Minister for Citizen Protection (one of the high profile government posts). Yesterday he was invited to talk to a news program at SKAI TV. The discussion was around a recent criticism on the terms of the Memorandum, highlighted by former Prime Minister Kostas Simitis’ speech at a conference in Berlin. This is the video excerpt from SKAI TV and below a quick translation.

Journalist: Let me ask you directly. How many hours did it take you to read the Memorandum? Because Mrs [Louka] Katseli (the then Minister for the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping) said yesterday that she was given the Memorandum on Saturday night and spent two hours on reading it and this is how she went to vote on it. Have you read what the creditors have written down and did you have a different opinion than theirs? Were you aware of what you were about to sign?
Chrysochoidis: Are you serious?
Journalist: Absolutely.
Chrysochoidis: These things were discussed in the Parliament… No, I haven’t read the Memorandum at that time because, simply, I had other obligations. I had other duties…
Journalists: Excuse Mr. Minister, this is very serious. How did you sign it? Did you sign a text that commits the country for an eternity and that is responsible for the mess in which we are now and you are telling us that you didn’t read it? How can you say this so easily?
Chrysochoidis: Look, in politics things are not like that. 
Journalist: How are they?
Chrysochoidis: Some of my colleagues had negotiated, some of the responsible members which represented the government had negotiated and brought that legislation into the Parliament and, as you remember, it was voted by the majority of the Parliament, by PASOK and LAOS if I remember well.
Journalist: Is there a direct responsibility on the economic staff of the then government [i.e. the Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou]?
Chrysochoidis: As I told you before, it was done so under a state of panic in view of a possible suspension of payments which was a threat over our head. My job at that time was to re-organize the Police, the Fire Brigade, to create the DIAS team [a Police group which patrols in motorbikes], to fight crime. It was not my job to study the Memorandum.

So Mr. Chrysochoidis just said that he signed one of the most important legislation passed in this country without even reading it. He just went the next day to the Parliament and voted for it like an amateur politician. Like a virgin! He didn’t have the time because he was re-organizing the Police which indeed showed a great zeal to crush the demonstrations taking place in the center of Athens. It was the same days when three people were burned in the fire of Marfin Bank, a collateral damage of that day’s violent chaos. The DIAS team were roaming the streets like horses of the Apocalypse, attacking protesters. And yes, crime, there wasn’t much of it that day because the political head of the Police devoted all his time on the issue rather than having a look at the Memorandum.

Katseli & Chrysochoidis

Louka Katseli and Michalis Chrysochoidis getting bored during some speech (it was probably an important one)

Some key things to note which will make some (more) sense. There is a widespread criticism on the terms of the Memorandum even by PASOK MPs, now that the old PASOK (that of George Papandreou) is crumbling. Everyone one is trying to clear his/her name, to distance themselves from the shame of “having been part of it”, preparing for the next day, or simply for the coming elections. Let’s not forget that Mr. Chrysochoidis has declared that he intends to challenge for the PASOK leadership which will be decided very soon. But let’s not be in a hurry and put all the blame to Chrysochoidis for simply telling us the truth. Most, if not all, of the MPs had literally a few hours to read the Memorandum. Among the virgins, there were some prostitutes too.

Here’s an excerpt from an older post that I’ve wrote (The run up to the Greek economic crisis) – it is a translation by an article of To Vima’s journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos.

“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.

Obviously this Minister was not Chrysochoidis.

Michalis Chrysochoidis is currently Minister for Development, Competitiveness and Shipping.

A poll for Papademos

PM Lucas Papademos at the Greek Parliament

A new opinion poll is presented today by Sunday’s Ethnos newspaper. It’s questions (and the results as a consequence) are constructed in a way to show that Lucas Papademos is the best we (can) have. Here are the results and some comments from me (in italics).

The participants were asked to choose between two politicians on who is the most appropriate for Prime Minister.

Current PM Lucas Papademos scored 54,3% against New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who got 21,7%, while 24% denied to give an answer.

Against PASOK’s George Papandreou, Lucas Papademos was preferred by 71,8% to only 3,8%. Another 24,4% did not reply.

Between Antonis Samaras and George Papandreou the score was 38,3% to 10,7%. The remaining 51% did not reply.

This looked a bit dodgy to me as I haven’t seen this practice for a long time. Placing Papademos in a dilemma against worn out politicians, bearing their sins from the past, makes him look like the Messiah. Indirectly what I can see is the need for new political parties rather than the legimization of the technocrats around Europe. He is not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.

On whether the co-operation government under Lucas Papademos is a positive or negative development for our country, 40,4% replied “Positive”, 16,6% replied “rather positive”, 9% replied “rather negative” and 37,7% gave a negative answer while 6,8% did not reply.

35,7% of the interviewees had a positive view of Papademos, 27% had a “rather positive” view, 10,4% was rather negative and the stance for the 19,3% was simply negative. A no-reply was given by 7,6%.

Surprisingly there was a question on whether the interviewee wished that the new government’s efforts suceed. An 83,6% replied “Yes”, a 4,4% did not want to give an answer and a whole 12% wished that their efforts will not suceed.

You might wander, why on earth are there Greeks who wish to see their country failing? well, this is a characteristic of this nation since antiquity, it never unites until it’s inevitable or until there is a common foreign ennemy. A reason for wanting this government to fail might also be a need to show that technocrats’ governments are not efficient. In any case, it’s not just the “irresponsible” citizens/interviewees who think that way. One simply has to see behind the current government’s (of cooperation?) sluggishness and he’ll discover Ministers sabotaging one another in view of the next elections. An illegitimate government that feels that way and has its mind in the elections.

Back to the poll, 13,2% would like to see Papademos becoming a politician with one of the existing political parties after the end of the current administration, a 35,3% wishes to see him stepping down from politics and a 30,5% wants Papademos to found a new party. The rest 21% had no opinion on the matter.

As for popularity, here’s the ranking.

Lucas Papademos: 62,7% positive/rather positive view and 29,7% negative/rather negative view.

Fotis Kouvelis (Democratic Left): 47,3% positive/rather positive view and 44,7% negative/rather negative view.

Giannis Dimaras (Panhellenic Citizens’ Chariot): 36,8% positive/rather positive view and 52,4% negative/rather negative view.

Alexis Tsipras (SYRIZA): 35,5% positive/rather positive view and 62,4% negative/rather negative view.

Antonis Samaras (New Democracy): 31,4% positive/rather positive view and 66% negative/rather negative view.

Giorgos Karatzaferis (LAOS): 27,5% positive/rather positive view and 70,5% negative/rather negative view.

Aleka Papariga (Communist Party): 24,3% positive/rather positive view and 72,6% negative/rather negative view.

Dora Bakoyannis (Democratic Alliance): 19% positive/rather positive view and 78,5% negative/rather negative view.

George Papandreou (PASOK): 15,6% positive/rather positive view and 83,7% negative/rather negative view.