Monday, October 05, 2009

New Greek PM continues family tradition

Γιώργος Παπανδρέου - Giorgos Papandreou

With just half the vote counted US president, Barack Obama became the first world leader to congratulate Giorgos Papandreou on his landslide victory in Greece's national elections yesterday.

In many respects the two have much in common, as much in terms of their their political outlook as their personal background. Both were born outside the mother country to parents of mixed heritage and grew up in foreign cultures. However, whereas Obama was the very epitome of a political outsider, Giorgos Papandreou's family background meant that he was, from the beginning given insider status as the son and grandson of previous Greek prime ministers, Andreas and Giorgos Papandreou.

Born in Minnesota in 1952 to socialist firebrand Andreas Papandreou and his American born wife Margaret Chant, Greece's newest prime minister followed his father's career as it took the family from America to Sweden and subsequently Greece. Like his American counterpart, Papandreou's international outlook and childhood has garnered both admiration and criticism at home where right wing critics are quick to point out any deficiencies in his Greek language skills as evidence that Papandreou is not 100% Greek.

As leader of the left of centre PASOK party which now has a comfortable majority in parliament Papandreou has announced a 100 day action plan to drag Greece's ailing economy out of recession by increasing public spending.

Critics, however, claim the country's massive public debt and crippling interest payment mean that money for such a strategy does not exist and the government will be forced to implement an austerity package to bring down public borrowing to 3% of GNP from its present 8% high.

In addition a widespread culture of corruption, lack of transparency in the state's dealings with big business, a chronically underfunded education and health system and a pension scheme on the verge of collapse means that Papandreou will not be short of difficult choices for the foreseeable future.

For more pictures check out my Demotix page.

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