Tagged Syriza

Five observations on Greece

example                                                                  By Alexis Boutefeu-Moraitis and Jack Copley

Misery is palpable in Athens: the increase in ‘closed’ signs outside small shops, the long queues at soup kitchens and the growing numbers of homeless and drug addicts in the streets. Currently, there is no visible change on the ground. However, optimism has replaced hopelessness in everyday discussions. In the context of brutal austerity, the victory of Syriza in January’s electoral battle came as a slap in the face to European elites.

Starting from the recent Tsipras – Rajoy war of words, on who sabotages whom at the Eurogroup and in electoral politics, I attempt to put together evidence that shows a major shift in European politics. Building also on an increasing number of satirical videos about European politics, and from my personal experience, I reach an anecdotal, not so scientific but most probably correct conclusion: We are getting a European demos, in which we all feel comfortable enough and are knowledgeable enough about each other to be able to make jokes, break the ice, get on each other’s nerves occasionally, but basically express what we increasingly realize that we are: a diverse, noisy, funny, stubborn, intrusive and generous section of humanity that one could call “the Europeans”.

Greece continues to be financed with the help of the European Union. Eurozone Ministers of Economy and Finance have approved the new package of economic measures presented to Brussels by Athens. This then paves the way to extend Greece’s bail-out. The spokesman for the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, said that the proposals are “sufficiently complete” and are a “good start”. The same expression was used by Mario Draghi in a statement, however the ECB president added several ‘buts’. According to Draghi, what counts is the current memorandum.

The press conference that followed the meeting of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and the head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem captured the attention of the European public. It was a media performance on both sides. Varoufakis drew his government’s hard lines and stated that they would no longer negotiate with the troika. Instead he put forward the demand for a conference to discuss debt relief. Deiselbloem’s performance of the infuriated eurocrat was out of protocol and has been largely understood as colonial by the Greek public. In a later communication with the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Dijsselbloem referred to the episode as a misunderstanding.

Back to basics

The high drama that is unfolding following the coming to power in Greece of a new government led by left-wing SYRIZA, and similar trends in Spain with the most recent massive show of force by Podemos at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, signal a new era in European and possibly global politics. This is no passing phenomenon but rather an inevitable result of the unsustainability of the existing financial system and the way it is managed in the European context and beyond. This sort of “European Spring”, thankfully not bloody nor as chaotic as its Arab counterpart, can bring good and bad things, depending on how it will be handled by the main protagonists, including the Greeks themselves but also the Germans, other EU nations, and the EU and Eurozone institutions…

Syriza and the Independent Greeks will jointly have 166 MPs, but Mr Tsipras is looking to secure a wider support in order to start the promised renegotiations with Greece’s creditors.

With all the votes counted, Syriza won the Greek elections with a 36.34% of the electorate, against a 27.81% of its rival Nea Dimokratia. The noe-fascist party Golden Dawn came third with 6.28%, followed by the centrist The River with 6.05%, the Communist Party at 5.47%, the Independent Greeks at 4.75% and Pasok at 4.68%. George Papandreou, the former Prime Minister, failed to re-elect into Parliament with his new party.

According to the exit polls that were conducted on behalf of the Greek tv networks Syriza is the winner of the Greek elections. This is the exit poll for Mega Channel that has Syriza in the lead with a comfortable margin. According to the statistical scenarios Syriza would need to gather 36.5% in order to get the majority in the Parliament. At the moment this seems a very likely development.

Syriza 35,5 – 39,5%

Nea Dimokratia 23 – 27%

Golden Dawn 6,4 – 8% The River 6,4 – 8%

Pasok 4,2 – 5,2%

Chaos has always been a scenario for Greece, ever since the bailout. The mix was there: a bankrupt country, crippling unemployment, violent riots, weekly strikes, neo-Nazis in parliament, a rapid decline in living standards that turned into a humanitarian emergency. Outside Greece, in public analysis and private conversations, the possibility of the destabilisation of democracy came up every now and then, some kind of coup that would send the country to the extreme left or right. For those who indulged in these cassandric predictions the rise of leftist Syriza was a vindication: surely this is a rogue party, self-positioned on the Radical Left, with communist roots, and a populist rhetoric? Discussion of the Greek problem has always involved a degree of fear-mongering, which is useful in the manipulation of public opinion, but rather redundant in adding any nuance to our understanding of a foreign context. A useful key-phrase, if one truly wishes to understand Greece in crisis, is “structural reforms”.

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