Tag Archives: referendum

International press collage

Following the Information is Beautiful post, here’s another example of how you can creatively show the bigger picture. This is  a collage with front pages from the international press on the 4th of November (some days after George Papandreou’s announcement for a referendum and days before the appointment of the new national unity government). It was made and sent to me by street artist Absent.

International Press - front pages collage

Greece, a Baklava Republic

An interesting overview of today’s Greece, by Vanessa Andris for the Huffington Post.

It is not at all unreasonable that any intelligent person trying to make sense of Greece’s recent maniacal antics is now desperately asking, “What is this, a banana republic?”

Well my friend, no, not exactly. This is a Baklava Republic.

Welcome to a country stuck in its own syrup. A place where a prime minister, Mr. Papandreou, calls for a public referendum on a bailout deal without even notifying the finance minister who has spent months negotiating the deal with the lenders and his fellow Greek ministers. A republic where one egomaniac, Antonis Samaras, can autocratically hold an entire terrified nation and trembling world markets hostage by refusing to sign an agreement- which he publicly says he agrees to.

Greece, a country which a year ago seemed centuries ahead of the Arab Spring is now regressing so quickly into the most hideous practices of Baklava Republics that any kind of spring for them seems light years away.

The Greeks have exasperated their supporters and all but exhausted even the EU, the stakeholder with maybe the most to lose from their demise. They have displayed such primitive responses to difficulties that no one in the global community really wants to deal with them anymore.

In one year, and particularly in the last month of unpredictable counter-productive episodes, the Greeks have virtually alienated themselves from the civilized world they themselves fathered centuries ago.

If you think that what Sarkozy and Obama said about Netanyahu while their microphones were on was bad, imagine what they and the EU and IMF might rightfully be saying about the Greeks. And note the Baklava parallels between the Greek and Israeli leadership, starting with a lack of transparency and ending with complete impossibility.

Since the debt crisis began, we have watched our beloved Greece, dizzy with fatigue and despair, teetering on the fulcrum of its future, leaning first northwest like an insecure sophomore posturing to fit in with the polished seniors of the EU.

Then suddenly like all people under stress, reverting to her primal training on how to survive. Swooning now east to circle around the Mediterranean tragically re-identifying herself with cousins from ancient civilizations that have made minimal progress in their development; Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and even Libya.

These are the Baklava Republics, a continuum of countries related by variations on one pastry, characterized by a pathetic lack of process skills, rule of law as it serves individual agendas, leaders incapable and disinterested in self-regulation, and proud of their willingness to destroy any and everything in the name of defending their dignity.

A string of countries differentiating themselves from the rest of world with a combination of primary commitment to face-saving, a need to create drama, and a defiance of reality so insanely illogical and destructive that people world-wide see them as nuts.

Not sure whether a given country could be considered a Baklava Republic? Here’s a litmus test: Are the leaders instantly insulted by anything that can be construed as questioning their honesty or good intentions? Is their best defense acting as if they have been monumentally offended? Do they regularly elevate issues to fight or flight dramas?

From Samaras to Ahmadinejad, we see the masters of Baklava Republic tactics regularly enact a predictable but no less maddening three-act drama.

Act One: Outrage: A question about duplicitous behavior is met with incredulous anger; “You dare to question me?”

Act Two: Arrogance: “You have insulted me and anyone who would be so ill-mannered is so far beneath me that they are unworthy of my cooperation.”

Act Three: Threat: “I am a victim, rightfully volatile now because of your behavior. Either provide me a face-saving way to get out of this or I will sabotage this process, set fire to the whole country, commit mass invasions, and/or make my child a suicide martyr. It’s dignity or death.” (Additional Baklava Republic specialty: Add concocted conspiracy theory and implication that the alleged perpetrator is evil, sinful, or crazy to Act Two).

To read the whole article click here.

The Greek public opinion on Papademos

Greek opinion poll company, Kapa Research, has made a research on behalf of Sunday newspaper To Vima about the Greeks’ stance on the selection of Papademos as our new Prime Minister.

72,9% finds the decision on choosing Papademos a “right” or “probably right” one. Around 20% of Greeks believe it was “wrong” or “probably wrong”.

78% of Greeks find the formation of the new government a “positive” or “rather positive” step while 20% characterizes it “negative” or “rather negative”.

Another aspect of Kapa Research’s/To Vima’s opinion poll is the emotions which were caused to the interviewees on learning a specific event. I found the information extremely amusing.

The formation of the new government under Lucas Papademos caused:

Hope 42.2%
Calm 17.4 %
Concern 8.6%
Indifference 8.5%
Anger 7.5%
Pessimism & fear 5.4%
Sadness 1.9%

Joy 1.4%

During the period between the 27th of October agreement (Brussels’ deal) and the days that followed the referendum’s announcement, the emotions felt by Greeks were:

Anger 40.9%
Concern 19%
Pessimism & fear 15.7%
Hope 8.9%
Sadness 5.9%
Calm 3.8%

Joy 0.8%

A 78,6% of Greeks now feels that the new government reassures Greece’s position inside the euro zone while a 9.8% believes the opposite.

Finally, 63.4% of the interviewees states that a national unity government was a better idea than heading immediately to elections. The opposite was supported by 34.4% of those asked.

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.”

ΧΑΟΣ for Chaos

Yesterday was an interesting day, full of political developments and news fever. I thought I should translate today’s most notable Greek newspaper front pages to give you a clue of this mornings atmosphere. But allow me to begin with a French cover which I found extremely to-the-point as well as aesthetically beautiful.

Liberation

No need to translate.

Eleftherotypia

Title: One resignation, an appendicitis and… The King of Chaos

Ta Nea

Title: Greece in spiral

Subtitle: Merkel-Sarkozy: “Come for explanations”

Kathimerini

Title:  The government is faltering, everything is fluid

Dimokratia

Title: Collaborationist during peacetime

Adesmeftos Tipos

Title: Countdown for government and G.A.P. (i.e. George A. Papandreou)

Estia

Title: A triumph of irresponsibility

Aggelioforos

Title: Political thriller

Subtitle: Referendum causes electric shock to Greece, Europe and the markets

Avriani

Title: The international speculators profited billions from George’s decision to call a referendum

Red box in header: The women of PASOK wore trousers

Eleftheros Tipos

Title: He is not leaving, he’s driven out

Vradini

Title: The referendum brings Papandreou down

The reasons for Venizelos’ indigestion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.