Tag Archives: Parliament

Athens – Social Meltdown

Here’s a short documentary on the social repercussions of the Greek crisis and an attempt to understand the rise of violence, but also of solidarity in Greece. It’s made by Ross Domoney, a colleague and friend from the UK who did not parachute himself to Greece for a couple of days but spent several months in Athens.

Athens: Social Meltdown – Greek subtitles from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

Teargas in the Parliament

Most Greek demonstrations usually end up in fron of the Greek Parliament. Sooner or later the riot police starts spraying people with tear gas after the usual and occasionaly suspicious scuffle between anarchists and the police. In the past year I have heard a lot of people shouting “Try throwing ONE tear gas canister inside the Parliament to let them know how it feels!”. Well, this is how it would look like…

The run-up to the Greek economic crisis (Part 3)

This is the 3rd part of Greek journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos’ article on the run-up to the current Greek economic crisis, published by “To Vima” newspaper (16/10/2011). The first part of the article is here and the second part is here.

“The Prime Minister regretted for not insisting to have the Memorandum voted by 180 MPs” says a Minister. This was a proposal that came from Mr. Venizelos and Mr. Pampoukis but the rest of the Cabinet members disagreed. Papandreou regretted for not adopting that proposal because, if he had done it and New Democracy wouldn’t vote for it, he could call for an early election. According to converging sources, Papandreou thought that the Memorandum couldn’t be implemented by a one-party government. This is not what he expected when he was counting on an “international solution” (see Part 2 for an explanation of the international solution).

The extraordinary political and social circumstances tested his psychological strength, his close associates were well aware of that. He was feeling trapped in power. In many occasions the men of his security team tried to prevent him from appearing in public which was something he could never think of. He gave considerable thought to the idea of calling an early election at the same time with the local elections in November 2010 but he hesitated once more due to the tight time constraints for the disbursement of the bailout installments.

On the morning of 15 June, the day the Medium-Term Program (the so-called Memorandum No2) was brought to the Greek Parliament, while the prime ministerial car was heading to the Maximou Mansion, some gathered citizens welcomed him with a rain of eggs (see video above). For Papandreou, that experience was decisive. He was personally hurt. He reckoned that the attack was an indisputable sign of destabilization, given the fact that at the same time in Syntagma riots were reaching a climax. When he arrived in his office he called Antonis Samaras. “The country is being dissolved. We must form a government of cooperation” he suggested. “The PM should be a third person” was the answer of New Democracy’s leader. “I have no problem” replied Papandreou with an emotionally charged voice and added “I will not become an obstacle to my country’s salvation”. For New Democracy it was a sudden “cold shower”. They didn’t want this development and they were not ready to govern. They leaked the information in order to provoke the expected reactions which would cancel the deal.

The Prime Minister’s associates called Nikos Papandreou who rushed to the Maximou Mansion and discussed with his brother. They were just the two of them for quite some time. Nobody knows what was discussed. People who know them insist that they are totally aligned politically and they always act after mutual consultation. According to some sources, the Andreas Papandreou’s second son also called Antonis Samaras, whom he knows personally through the friendship of the New Democracy leader with the Prime Minister. “If you form a government of cooperation, you’ll share the price” he allegedly said to Samaras. However, this specific information has not been officially confirmed.

While the drama of a soon-to-resign Prime Minister was evolving at the Maximou Mansion, the hesitant coup of Mr. Venizelos was unfolding at the Ministry of Defense. Already by Tuesday 14th of June, those who had visited the Minister of Defense were left with the impression that he was about to resign. An MP who visited him had the impression that the secretaries were collecting the Minister’s folders. Venizelos himself was implying in his discussions that he could even resign. Of course, he would never mention the word “resign”. “You tell me. What should I do?” was his meaningful question to his interlocutors. This stance inspired other PASOK MPs, as Paris Koukoulopoulos, Kostas Spiliopoulos, Nikos Salagiannis and Dimitris Lintzeris, who were promoting at the Parliament the idea of a government’s overthrow. This “rebellious atmosphere “ is said to have influenced PASOK MP Yannis Floridis who finally decided to resign irrespective of what the Venizelian wing would do. The day after Papandreou’s failure to form a government with Samaras, several MPs who were loyal to the Prime Minister were ordered to appear in front of tv cameras and remember the “ghost of Apostasy” (read more about the history of Apostasy/July events/Royal coup) in order to restrain the Venizelians’ attack. The 46-year-old ghost has once more served the Papandreou family. At the same time Papandreou proceeded to a government reshuffle and at 4am of the 17th of June, he appointed Venizelos to take the responsibility of the economy since, for the second time in two years, Lucas Papademos had declined to head the Ministry of Finance. A historic member of PASOK said for Venizelos: “An apostate in the morning, a vice-president in the evening”.

Greek Minister of Finance, Evangelos Venizelos

Venizelos was reassured by the Prime Minister that night that he could have as Deputy Minister the chairman of the National Bank of Greece, Vasilis Rapanos. However, instead of him, he got Pantelis Oikonomou who, as soon as he accepted the post, took all his speeches off his website. He was against the Memorandum in all of them. Another important point is that Venizelos demanded from the Prime Minister to strip Theodoros Pangalos from his responsibilities. He wanted to be the only vice-president in the government. The Prime Minister invented a “Solomon solution”: he formed a governmental commission without the participation of Pangalos. In that way, Venizelos was “first vice-president”. Thanks to his special political weight, his popularity and his rhetorical prowess, he “passed” the Medium-Term Program from the Parliament. Even if that was partly because he “checked” the intra-PASOK dissident MPs who he himself controls.

The “first vice-president” accepted the Ministry of Finance because he estimated that the Prime Minister would later be obliged to call for elections in which PASOK would be defeated and thus he would substitute Papandreou as the party leader. “I know that Evangelos wants elections but I won’t do him the favor” Papandreou is said to have commented to one of his associates during the summer. Most Ministers in their personal discussions they accuse Venizelos of postponing the implementation of the Medium-Term Program’s commitments while waiting for elections. With the possibility of having him as their leader in the near future though, they are very careful in their public statements. When, on the 2nd of September 2011, the troika demanded the immediate implementation of the reforms, Venizelos unexpectedly suspended the negotiations. The heads of the troika left Athens within a few hours.

The troika’s embargo against Greece lasted for 27 days. The delay of the bailout’s sixth installment was in no way agreed and the responsibility for bringing the state on the verge of a domestic cessation of payments lies completely to the Minister of Finance. Highly respected European sources say that the deviation from the agreed commitments has overthrown the, generous for Greece, deal of 21 July. The new negotiation, with an uncertain and (probably) worse outcome, is under way. According to Greek and foreign officials, Greece has been ostracized from that deal. Two years after PASOK’s election victory, the improvisations are continued and the uncertainty keeps intensifying…

End of Part 3 of 4 – to read the fourth part click here.

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.

Guy Fawkes forgot the Greek Parliament

Guy Fawkes, third from right

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
 

Last night I had the privilege to attend the vote of confidence from the galleries of the Greek Parliament. I was hoping to tweet the details but, despite the Parliament Press Office’s reassurance, there was not wi-fi in the room and cellular networks were de-activated. Anyway, I must say that the theatrical play we all saw last night belongs as a genre to the theatre of the absurd. And it is indicative of how Greek society is functioning and also of how our collective memory is working.

This country is in its worst position for decades and, still, no one has been found responsible for it. No politician, no economist, no banker, no one. However this government was allowed to continue with its policies without the slightest moral problem. We just forgot, as citizens and as a society, to continue pressing for justice on this matter. It’s because we didn’t keep remembering long enough.

Similarly, yesterday everybody seemed to have forgotten how the past week has started. We have forgotten the irresponsibility of Papandreou calling a referendum that drove world markets and leaders crazy. We have forgotten that the question changed on Wednesday and the new question was dictated by the Merkozi couple. We have forgotten that yesterday, only a few hours before last night’s vote, Papandreou had almost resigned and then simply changed his mind. Last night he had the luxury to pose like a winner, because we didn’t keep remembering long enough.

And the result was that we saw 153 MPs voting a vote of confidence for a government that promised the absurd: to resign. Where on earth has such a thing happened before? In the previous days, several MPs have stated that they will vote NO if Papandreou wouldn’t promise to resign. So George arrived to the podium, at 23:00 and not at 20:00 as his office has leaked, and gave us the promise. The marginal majority voted YES. The socialist MPs, them and only them, have voted for their government to share the power (and blame) with the rest of the parties. The rest of the parties rejected the PM’s ideas with a negative vote but will be called today, or soon, to join the new national unity government. Papandreou won. He will resign. Apart from tragedy and chaos, paradox is also a Greek word.

We must finally understand that this government, together with the parties which will eventually co-operate to produce the next government of national unity, belong and represent the establishment which brought us here. This establishment cannot correct the situation, it cannot afford the metamorphosis. They are talking about the corruption, the clientelism, the debts, the wasting of public money as if they were phenomena from another planet. As a famous Greek blogger wrote, “Greece should not only be thrown out of the euro zone. Greece should be kicked out to another planet”.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
 

Papandreou also outlined all (his) policies that the new government of national unity will have to do. It’s our obligations toward the IMF/EU/ECB in order to continue receiving the bailout package’s installments. So not only he will resign, but his ghost will still haunt the next government. It will be a government committed not to the people’s verdict but to its predecessor’s policies. Speaking of inheritance, an emotional Papandreou said yesterday “From my grandfather, I inherited just a watch. From my father I inherited nothing but the name”. And the new government will inherit his policies.

By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!
 

Epilogue. I respect Maria Houkli. She is one of the most serious persons in Greek tv today. She is the anchorwoman in ANT1 TV. When the marathon coverage of the political developments finished in the early hours of Saturday she came up with this farewell to the viewers:

“Goodnight and… what else can I say? Good luck to all of us.”

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.

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.