Monday, February 07, 2011

Is Greece the next Egypt?

Angry consumers in protests against rising prices - Thessaloniki, Greece

It seems that Greek farmers are getting ready to protest following the break down of talks with the government. If this does take place then they will become yet another group that has decided that the only way Athens will listen to their demands is to take action and in the case of the farmers this usually means blocking highways.

More and more employees are refusing to buckle down and accept the bitter medicine prescribed by the IMF, European Central Bank and the EU. Doctors are currently on strike and have been occupying the Ministry Of Health offices, public transport employees in Athens are continuing their strikes, teachers and chemists are also following the same route. Whilst the protest movement against massive price hikes in road tolls and bus ticket prices grows ever stronger and despite villification in the mainstream press remain popular.

On the other hand the ruling PASOK party has been reduced to fighting this growing tide of civil disobedience with a mixture of police crackdowns and slurs which are dutifully repeated and amplified by pro - government TV stations in their news bulletins. The reality, however,  is that support for Giorgos Papandreou is at an all time low and the loathing that ordinary Greeks feel for their politicans is so intense that PASOK cabinet members travel only under conditions of strictest security whereby itineries are often not announced till the last minute and public apperances are almost impossible unless those present are carefully vetted. Even then they are accompanied by hundreds of the quasi - military riot squad, known as the MAT in Greek.

While both PASOK and New Democracy parties have once more swept the Siemens and Vatpoedi corruption scandals under the carpet they insist that many of the protests are illegal and that the law should be applied. One can't be helpthink that if that were the case a large portion of Parliament would either be in prison or in exile with Tunisia's Ben Ali.

There is such a huge disconnect between rulers and ruled in Greece that I wouldn't rule out Egyptian style mass demonstrations  before the year is out. In both cases corruption, nepotism and incompetence can no longer be tolerated by people whose living standards are being depressed by those who live in the lap of luxury. It is a bitter irony that Greek MPs whose income is often more than 10,000 euros a month are demanding those who do not earn that in a year make sacrifices in the name of competiveness.How long this massive inequalities can be sustained is a matter of debate and given the intense feeling of anger and disappointment it is very hard not to see Greece as parched forest in which just one spark will set off a wildfire which will quickly rage out of control..

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