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Greece is heading towards new elections
Article added on May 8, 2012 at 11:08 Paris time

Discredited established parties
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 2009.

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 stages.

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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 Greek parliament.

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
Aleka Papariga (*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 accomplish.

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 loom.

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)!

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.