Tag Archives: Lucas Papademos

The elections’ aftermath and SYRIZA’s ghost

So the (first) elections are over, the situation is kind of normalized and we’re preparing for the next ones on June 17. Greece is a weird country when it comes to elections. Some years ago New Democracy had won an election but the talk-of-the-town was what was happening in PASOK’s leadership. Two weeks ago, New Democracy did it again. They’ve won the elections but everybody is talking about SYRIZA and its leader, sexy Alexis. So who are they? If you want to get informed, read this by BBC’s Paul Mason, whose reports on Greece are probably the most accurate accounts of foreign journalists on what’s happening here.

Well, Greeks did not become radical leftists within a night, as they haven’t been transformed to fascists either. What most Greeks were looking for in the past election was a way to express their opposition to the bailout measures and the Memoranda, an economic policy and seems more and more inefficient and unfeasible. Traditional right wing voters turned themselves to either the Independent Greeks party (centre-right voters) or the Golden Dawn party (far right party but mainly voted by traditional right wing people who are against immigrants). Though the Left had far more choices, the majority went to SYRIZA, a coalition of leftist fractions with a platform of uniting the Left (a rare motto in Greece and an perennial longing of all Greek leftists) to form a leftist government that will undo the Memorandum and cancel the loan agreements. Very appealing for a suffering Greek, isn’t it?

I personally think that these two goals are not feasible and Alexis Tsipras rather meant that he would try to renegotiate the loan agreements and the relevant measures that must be taken. Which is what he had actually caused with his 2nd position in the elections. Suddenly officials from the EU and politicians from several European countries are discussing the dead end of the current plan and are pointing out the need for a slight change or easing of the measures. There is simply no foreseeable solution and exit from the crisis with the current plan. And this fact is the only victory of Greece on a European level, not just since the last elections but during the past 2,5 years.

A cartoon of Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsirpas by German caricaturist Reiner Hachfeld.

You see, Greeks had seen the Papandreou and Papademos governments passing measures that were dictated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF without any attempt of negotiation. They’ve seen Papandreou going abroad and having new measures in his suitcase upon his return without any complaint. Samaras participated in this theatre not because he believed in the rationale of these measures but because he succumbed to another PASOK’s blackmail (either you’re on Greece side a step before bankruptcy or you’ll be responsible for its suicide) back in late 2011. So now there is a feeling that only SYRIZA and Tsipras can a) unite the Left in Greece to form its first leftist government and b) renegotiate the Memoranda. And Europe? Europe is scared of him. Europe is scared the shit out of him simply because they can’t control him and because he might mean what he says.

It’s true that SYRIZA has been a bit confusing as to what exactly they are going to do if they were to form a government. The party, an until recently small leftist party composed of different fractions that tolerated different opinions within the Left, has seen several of its members announcing contradicting promises. Its ennemies, PASOK and New Democracy basically, have used this to their favor. They started a huge campaign to discredit SYRIZA by reminding us on a daily basis of what would happen if SYRIZA comes to power. The EU has followed suit and here we are now, having daily predictions of a post-apocalyptic, Armageddon-style Greece if SYRIZA wins the elections. The whole joke, apart from a daily news item, has now gone viral, it has its own hashtag on Twitter (#ftaei_o_syriza) and is slowly entering the internet meme sphere.

I decided to create a special category of posts in this blog that would contain only these threats – I called it “The Daily Threat Show“. Come back and visit this page (or simply RSS it), I guarantee a lot of fun and also a glimpse of how Greek people’s brains are bombarded with such absurd prophecies and will then be called to vote as reasonable people. Ask any Greek in the street if he knows what will happen after June 17 and you will understand by the confusion in his answers.

But a confused Greek in the street is probably not an originality. Greeks have been confused since 2010 when they were suddenly called to have mature opinions on issues of high Economics. Europeans have always seen the Greeks as a confused people. They were asking themselves: so what do these Greeks want anyway? Why do they protest? Will they solve their problem by breaking one more bank? A foreign journalist (from a eurozone country) came last year to Athens and asked me: So, explain to me, why don’t you want our money?

Alexis Tsipras in a photoshoot by high school students’ magazine “Schooligans”

If Greeks are confused, Europeans are almost schizophrenic. The narrative they’ve adopted is “Greece is given money, they should shut up and do what we say”. They’ve no time to examine the measures asked from Greece to take. They are not in a position to know whether it’s a feasible plan. They are not here to see the misery caused together with the lack of hope for an exit from the crisis. And as they are confused too, they are also afraid of the uncertainty. Here’s a short story to illustrate this.

A foreign journalist came to Greece and we were discussing the situation. This is the dialogue we had.

Foreign journalist: Greece has falsified its statistics in order to enter the eurozone. I’m sorry to say this but Greece was corrupt, it has cheated and now it’s time to pay.
Me: Yes but people in Europe knew that Greece was cheating. And Greece was not the only country which altered its stats in order to achieve the eurozone criteria.
Foreign journalist: Who knew?
Me: A lot of people knew and certainly several EU officials.
Foreign journalist: Really? Who knew?
Me: Certainly the Germans knew about Greece and Italy. And part of the corruption was carried out with German money, through the scandals with Siemens and the German submarines.
Foreign journalist: Why the hell would Greece want a leader like Tsipras? He is going to get you out of the eurozone. His proposals are not realistic, are not feasible.
Me: I partly agree but you’re contradicting a bit now. I know, you know, the Greeks know that their previous governments, as you said, were corrupt. This crisis is happening because of them, of how they handled the situation for at least the past 10 years.
Foreign journalist: Right.
Me: So Greeks finally realize that these politicians are corrupt and they decided to take them down from power. That should please the EU, if it had a problem with their corrupt mentality.
Foreign journalist:…
Me: Tsipras is a young politician, inexperienced yes, but certainly not the like of the previous ones. So Greeks are choosing a new guy to govern them and the EU gets scared. You know why?
Foreign journalist: Why?
Me: Because they can’t, or don’t know yet if they can, control him. Because he is unknown. 
 

Alexis Tsipras is neither Ernesto Che Guevara nor a European Hugo Chavez. Tsipras is simply Greece’s only bargaining chip.

Exercising the Power of Nightmares

Greek Prime Minister Papademos gave a long introductory speech to his cabinet meeting last Friday (10/02/12). Considering his previous speeches and announcements, he devoted a big part of his speech by describing what would happen to Greece and Greeks should we end up in a disorderly bankruptcy.

Lucas Papademos, Greek PM

Here’s a hasty translation of that part:

A disorderly bankruptcy would throw our country into a disastrous adventure. Circumstances would create economic chaos and uncontrollable social explosion.The adverse consequences of a disorderly bankruptcy would be multiple and extremely painful for the Greek economy and society.

The state will be unable to pay salaries, pensions, to cover basic functions, such as hospitals and schools, while we will still have a primary deficit of 5.2 billion euros. Which means that the state revenues would be insufficient to cover our expenses, even if we would stop serving our debt.

Direct spending cuts which would have to go in case of a disorderly bankruptcy would result in real wages and pensions collapse, especially since it would be even more difficult to collect taxes.

The import of basic goods such as medicines, oil, machinery, etc., would be particularly problematic, as the country, both public and private sectors, will lose all access to borrowing and liquidity will shrink. Businesses would close en masse, unable to raise finance.

The living conditions of Greeks in the case of a disorderly bankruptcy would collapse and the country would drift into a long spiral of recession, instability, unemployment and destitution.

These developments will lead, sooner or later, at the exit from the euro. From the core country of the Eurozone, Greece would become a weak country on the fringes of Europe.

The full speech (in Greek) can be found here.

Never before has he spent so many words to describe what his vision of Greece is. Never before has he used more words to inform us how the situation can improve. Never before, during his duty, has he told us where exactly we are led with this new round of measures. For the first time he chose to describe the worst case scenario, a psychological blackmail trick that has been abused repeatedly during George Papandreou’s two years in power.

It’s not a new or unique phenomenon in politics. British film maker Adam Curtis described it in his 3-part documentary called “The Power of Nightmares”.

In the past, says Curtis, politicians were competing each other by offering a better future. Citizens were choosing the best and more feasible future and would vote it in elections. In the past decade or so this has changed. Politicians are now competing by offering the least worse future for the citizens, who live in a state of fear of what could happen to them.

Lucas Papademos just joined the group.

To watch all three hour-long parts of Adam Curtis’ Power of Nightmares, click here. Adam Curtis’ blog at BBC is available here.

Greek papers describe crucial weekend in panic

Greek newspapers today describe in their headlines the aftershock of yesterday’s resignations and the crucial weekend ahead of us. The general feeling that arises is that of panic. Here’s a quick translation of their headlines.

Ta Nea (11/02/2012)

Headline: Dangerous games on doorstep of the madhouse.

(Funnily, today’s gimmick is a copy of the book of Kama Sutra)

Ethnos (11/02/2012)

Headline: The dilemma is deal or collapse.

Dimokratia (11/02/2012)

Headline: Everything is dismantling.

Kathimerini (11/02/2012)

Headline: Papademos calls SOS amid storm.

Adesmeftos Tipos (11/02/2012)

Headline: Tsunami of resignations.

Eleftheros Tipos (11/02/2012)

Headline: A Papandreou “movement” against Papademos – Venizelos.

Vradini (11/02/2012)

Headline: Greece, zero hour.

Avriani (11/02/2012)

Headline: Revolt in the political parties.

Avgi (11/02/2012)

Headline: Memorandum’s system in decomposition.

Today’s roundup of Greek newspaper front pages

Here’s today’s roundup of Greek newspaper front pages.

Ethnos 10/02/2012

Title: Slow martyrdom for the deal

Kathimerini 10/02/2012

Title: Tough demands abroad, Political theatre domestically

Eleftheros Tipos 10/02/2012

Title: Constant blackmail by Scheuble

Ta Nea (10/02/2012)

Title: The citizens speak “We’ve gone back 50 years”

Dimokratia (10/02/2012)

Title: Whatever the people say; elections is the one and only solution

As a bonus, here’s yesterday anti-German cover of the same, conservative, newspaper.

Dimokratia (09/02/2012)

Title: Dachau; Memorandum Macht Frei

and finally the front page of weekly satyrical newspaper Pontiki.

Pontiki (10/02/2012)

Title: The team is up in the air

-I wonder, what will History write about the deals of the coalition government?

-Money thrown in the air.

Stuck to the euro

"Despite everything, I remain in the eurozone" by Giannis Kalaitzis

Nein! Nein! Nein!

It seems that the editorial anti-German sentiment is returning along with renewed German proposals of how to run Greece. This is today’s front page of Ta Nea newspaper, one of the most widely circulated papers in the country.

Ta Nea (30/01/2012)

From the Ohi Day’s Greek Yeses to the German Nos of today. It seems our politicians are learning something (not).

The three Nos refer to the proposals for a foreign budget commissioner with veto powers on taxation & spending, the abolition of the 13th & 14th wage and the further reduction of the minimum wage.

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.

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.

Backstage talks for new political parties

Sunday paper “Real News” has its main article on the backstage discussions concerning the creation of new political parties. The international commitment on the 6th installment together with new polls showing a considerable decrease of the two main parties’ popularity (PASOK and New Democracy) has encouraged talks between several politicians.

Real News 04/12/2011

According to Real News, a meeting was held at the house of economist Aristos Doxiadis, on Thursday night. Among the many guests were PASOK MPs Anna Diamantopoulou and Giannis Ragousis. The two of them are among the most active PASOK MPs in the secret discussions with New Democracy MPs, as well as citiziens’ movements, for the creation of a new political entity.

The attendees have agreed that the situation in Greece demands the creation of a new party and the circumstances of the Papademos administration benefits such a move. Actually, is is widely discussed that Lucas Papademos can possibly be the leader of this new party. This can happen after or even before the elections, as it has been publicly expressed by Thanos Veremis (Professor of Political Science and the Athens University and Vice-President of the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy – ELIAMEP). According to the article, there are discussions between PASOK MPs Anna Diamantopoulou, Giannis Ragousis, Ilias Mosialos and New Democracy MPs Aris Spiliotopoulos, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Kostis Hatzidakis, Evangelos Antonaros. Another name that should be noted is that of Giorgos Floridis (former PASOK MP and currently a member, together with Aristos Doxiadis, of a political formation called Koinonikos Syndesmos – Social League) who had a meeting with Andreas Loverdos last week.

Meanwhile, according to the same article, George Papandreou was also offered to found a new party and Evangelos Venizelos stated that he would too examine such a likelihood if the country wasn’t in a state of emergency.

In New Democracy, they are examining the possibility of non-majority victory in the coming elections and the option to form a coalition with LAOS. This rapprochement, according to Real News, can also be explained by the fact that Antonis Samaras agreed to LAOS’ participation in the current Papademos government.

At the same time, Dora Bakoyannis (former Foreign Minister under last New Democracy administration and now leader of her own party – Democratic Alliance) “flirts” with Sotiris Hatzigakis who was recently driven out from New Democracy. SYRIZA is examining a possible cooperation with PASOK, again in view of the coming elections. Finally, the Democratic Left under Fotis Kouvelis is also “targeting”  members of the now crumbling PASOK party.

Living in Greece at the end of November 2011

I just checked today’s newspapers and they had few exciting headlines. However, yesterday’s front pages would probably cause either panick or depression to a society somewhere in North Europe. As I stood there, watching all the post-apocalyptic headlines, I realized that in some years I will be saying that this is how it was to live in Greece at the end of November 2011.

Firstly, I will begin with the cover of this week’s Economist which has been reproduced, partly or as a whole, by several Greek newspapers.

Economist

“Eleftheri Ora” newspaper, which is a fringe paper that hardly sells a bit above 2.000 copies per day, has chosen to reproduce the whole Economist front page. Oh yes, with no reference at all. This paper is famous for its populist content, full of conspiracy theories, front pages of dead monks whose prophecies are now becoming reality, and so on. Actually I think that a daily translation of the paper’s front page could offer enough material for a separate blog. Anyway, when I think that usually it should be the last one in these posts of translated front pages due to its lower circulation. I only place it first here because of its relation to the Economist’s cover.

Eleftheri Ora

Title: The evil plan of the New World Order’s “Messiah”

Another newspaper which chose to use the euro meteor illustration is Dimokratia.

Dimokratia

Title: The Wehrmacht is approaching Europe

Overhead title: Everyone is talking about the coming financial Armageddon

“Ethnos” newspaper was the only one to reproduce the whole Economist front page, thus indirectly referring the source.

Ethnos

Title: A whole town is sleeping in the streets

Overhead title: Social shock – more than 20.000 homeless around Greece

Eleftherotypia and Kathimerini highlighted the continuing struggle of the Egyptians at Tahrir square.

Eleftherotypia

Title: The extra tax will be paid too by unemployed who worked even for one day (in 2011)

Picture’s caption title: Tahrir square does not succumb

Kathimerini

Title: Suffocation around the euro zone

Picture’s caption title: Egyptians overwhelm Tahrir square

Ta Nea

Title: Run Lucas Run! (a cartoon depicts Lucas Papademos in the body of Pheidippides, the first “marathon runner”)

Overhead title: A 100-day race for the government

Eleftheros Tipos

Title: Last chance for saving the euro

Overhead title: Germany leads euro zone off the cliff

Avriani

Title: Countdown for the euro