Greece is heading towards new
Article added on May 8, 2012 at 11:08 Paris time
The good news out of
Greece is that voters have finally punished the totally incompetent, major
parties, the socialist PASOK on the left and the conservative Nea Dimokratia
in the right.
The not so good news is that Greek voters have not found new reasonable
parties to vote for but instead went for the extremes, including Communist
and other for left-wing parties as well as extreme-right, nationalist and
even openly national-socialist parties.
Only the formerly two major parties, PASOK and Nea Dimokratia are so far
ready to cooperate with each other. Unfortunately for them, the voters have
- rightly - punished them to the point that even when joining forces they
have no majority in the Greek parliament with its 300 seats in total; in
fact, they miss the target by just 2 seats, controlling together 149 seats.
In the May 6, 2012 parliamentary election, Nea Dimokratia won 18.9% of the
vote, compared with 33.5% in 2009. As the strongest party in the current
parliament, Nea Dimokratia was awarded an additional 50 seats. Therefore,
the conservative party now controls 108 seats compared with just 91 seats in
On May 6, 2012 the center-left PASOK slipped to third place in voter
appreciation. In 2009, already in the middle of the economic and financial
crisis, they had managed to win 43.9% and 160 seats. By 2012, voters had
become totally disenchanted with a party that had imposed one austerity pack
after the other upon them. The result were meager 13.2% and only 41 seats.
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In search of a coalition government
Antonis Samaras, as the leader of the biggest party in parliament, was first
offered the choice to form a coalition government on May 7. Only PASOK was
willing to join forces with him. All the other five parties refused to align
themselves with the two discredited, formerly leading parties of Greece.
Antonis Samaras would have had three days to form a government. He gave his
negotiating mandate back the same day. All the other parties in parliament
are fundamentally opposed to the austerity measures imposed by the Troika
formed by the EU, IMF and ECB.
As the second largest party in the Greek parliament, the Radical Left (Syriza)
is now exploring the possibilities of forming a government. It is highly
unlikely that they will go anywhere.
In 2009, Syriza was just a marginal party, which had won 4.6% of the vote
and 13 seats. In 2012, with 16.8% and 52 seats, it has become a major force
in Greek politics. Will the fame by short-lived?
Syriza is committed to keep the Euro, if possible, but strongly opposed to
pay back the Greek debt. According to surveys, 70% of the Greek want to keep
the Euro and remain a member of the European Union. But they are opposed to
the harsh austerity measures. No wonder, the Greek have lost 25% of the
income compared with 2007. Despite that brutal downsizing, they are far from
being competitive again; in fact, they have never been competitive within
the EU. The structural reforms have only begun. A lot of painful
restructuring has still to follow.
Alexis Tsipras (*1974), the Syriza leader called the EU-IMF
to reform Greece a “Memorandum of barbarism.“ According to Tsirpas,
the austerity plan is leading into the abyss. The economic prognosis for
Greece by the Greek government and the Troika have proven false many times.
But Alexis Tsipras has not come up with a credible,
alternative plan himself. There is no easy, harmless cure for Greece.
Already in May 2010, in a
French article (La crise grecque), we have pointed out that
Greece is a failed state in the heart of Europe. Subsequent articles, for
instance in November 2011 -
The new Greek government,
Papandreou wins confidence vote,
Greece is bankrupt - have described the
disastrous situation. Greece needs a functioning government, administration,
tax collecting system, land-registry, etc. In short, the EU should send down
some German, Dutch and Swedish experts to build a new, functioning Greek
state from scratch. Reforms have begun, but they are still in the early
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Fringe parties on the rise
If you thought that Nea Dimokratia, PASOK and Syriza were
terrible parties, you have not yet had a look at the other forces in the
The right-wing populists Independent Greeks (Anexartiti
Ellines, ANEL), a party founded on February 24, 2012 by the former member of
the Nea Dimokratia, Panos Kammenos (*1965), managed to win 10.6% and 33
seats in parliament. Panos Kammenos has categorically rules out any
collaboration with “Memorandum Parties“.
The Communists (KKE) are still dreaming of socialism as well of leaving the
eurozone, with the latter being a real option, but not one that would make
everything easier. On May 6, 2012 the KKE managed to win 8.5% of the vote
and 26 seats. With or without the euro, many Greek still have not arrived in
the economic reality. The Communist leader
(*1945) has stated that her party will not work together with Syriza. A
left-wing government including parties such as Syriza, PASOK
and KKE and currently be excluded.
The most worrisome new entry into Parliament is Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi)
with 7% and 21 mandates. For the first time in history, the nationalist,
extreme-right managed to pass the 3%-hurdle. Party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos
(*1957) said an election night, the ones who had betrayed Greece should be
worried, his party, the national-socialists, were coming.
The smallest party to make it into parliament is the Democratic Left (Dimokratiki Aristera, DIMAR),
which garnered 6.1% of the vote and 19 seats. All the other parties did not
pass the 3%-hurdle. Closest came the Green Party with 2.93%.
In total, 36 parties wanted to participate in the May 6, 2012 election. The
Supreme Court admitted 32. 7 finally made it into parliament.
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Time is running out for Greece
Currently, chaos is ruling Greece. No government is in sight. The biggest
party had already 3 days to form a government and failed. No it is up to the
second largest party. They have no chance whatsoever either. If a new
government should be formed, it would have to be confirmed by parliament on
May 17, 2012. Otherwise new elections will take place.
The 9.7 million Greek voters have gone through rough times. Most of the pain
is self-inflicted. No one questioned Nea Dimokratia and PASOK, while they
were distributing goodies to voters on credit. In the last months of the
crisis, the two parties have turned around and stated that the austerity
plan was without alternative. They meant of course that their parties were
without alternative. Finally voters have decided differently. Unfortunately,
they decided to back parties that are even less convincing, quite a task to
Greece is de facto bankrupt. If the Troika - EU-Commission, IMF and ECB -
comes to the conclusion that there is no functioning government and,
therefore, they can no longer send money, which immediately ends up in the
hands of foreign banks and other creditors anyway, official default will
Will new elections bring a solution with parties ready to form a credible
coalition government? Time is running out. The Troika checks Greece's reform
progress every three months. EU and IMF cannot watch the Greek tragedy
unfold for much longer. Merkel, Sarkozy and others have mismanaged the Greek
crisis, which risks to threaten the entire EU in the long run. Should tiny
Greece sink Europe? No. Decisive action is required. A default two years ago
would have been the best solution. A fresh start is needed. As we say in
German, rather a painful ending than endless pain (Lieber ein Ende mit
Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende)!