Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You the people....Or not as the case may be. Greek government vote of confidence

You the people.... by Teacher Dude's BBQ
You the people...., a photo by Teacher Dude's BBQ on Flickr.
Against my better judgement I found myself staying up late to follow the Greek government vote of confidence last night. Not so much to find out the result, that was a foregone conclusion after prime minister,Giorgos Papandreou's cabinet reshuffle/meltdown last week. But rather to follow the reaction of Greeks on Twitter and those gathered outside parliament in Syntagma Square, Athens.

Despite the presence of a huge crowd outside parliament the local media and especially state run TV news did their best to ignore the fact, meaning that any Greek wanting to gauge the reaction of his/her fellow citizens would have been better off going to foreign news sites than his own national media. This is a sad indictment of how mainstream news in Greece, like its political institutions considers only those within its own tight orbit worthy of attention. The rest of the population is looked upon as creatures as distant and exotic and galloping gazelles in Kenya.

I don't think many Greek Twitter users believed that the ruling PASOK government was in any real danger of falling despite the breathless commentary offered by TV stations worldwide, but their anger over the politicians in parliament flew back and forth with ever increasing intensity, tinged with a particularly Greek mixture of frustration,anger and satire.

Outside parliament Greece's indignados used laser pens to project the word "thief" on the walls of the building, that is when not trying to blind TV cameras, another indication of the level of antagonism this movement feels towards local mainstream media.

At 2AM the final vote came in, 155 in favour of the government, 143 against and 2 absent, including rather mysteriously Dora Bakoyianni , ex - cabinet minister and the leader of the newly minted Democratic Alliance party .

"The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead." - John Maynard Keynes

Of course the markets and Grece's creditors will take the vote to mean that parliament is on track to pass the new austerity measures being demanded by ECB and German politicians and so the smart money will make a quick killing selling off position acquired during this week's market funk, knowing full well that the vote is essentially meaningless, as was last week's cabinet reshuffle in terms of winning over the Greek electorate.

The reality is that the austerity package is deeply unpopular and seen as a slow death for the Greek economy, any political group alligning itself with it faces political suicide in the next elections.Even if the legislation is passed the level of resistance towards Papandreou and the troika of lenders dictating terms is likely to grow making attempts to put it into action difficult and in the long term probably futile.

The most likely result is more street protests, large scale industrial action and the resurgence of civil disobedience campaigns such as the "I won't Pay" movement which successfully encourages drivers to not pay highway tolls and public transport passengers to ride without buying tickets.

The insistence of foreign and especially German polticians and bankers that Grece knuckle under is also feeding a groundswell of nationalist feeling, always a powerful and unpredictable element in Greek political life, though still not clearly formulated the continued pressure from Berlin and Frankfurt is drawing comparisons with Greece's painful occupation by Nazi Germany during the Second World war, a volitile analogy that does not bode well for future European  co-operation.

The real showdown will come next week when the austerity package comes to a parliamentary vote, then we'll see if Papandreou will be able to hold together his fragile party alliances in the face of massive public protests and the prospect of MPs returning to their constituencies and outraged voters during the summer recess..


Scorchers said...


I agree with your assessment. I too stayed up to watch the vote (on ERTsat, which we get here in the UK), becaue my other half is from Athens. I can't believe, though, that Papandreou isn't playing a harder game with the EU - after all, it's more in their interests now that Greece doesn't default.

teacher dude said...

I don't think those outside Greece realise how little credibility Papandreou has left even within his own party, outside that tight circle he's been written off by the electorate as a dead duck leader in the best case as a traitor in the worst.

His ability to guide events is minimal.