January 20, 2015
With Greek election only a few days away, I am reminded of a friend’s prediction that this time even loyal voters may vote for a different party that they used to. After having to leave Athens because of the crisis, he is struggling to keep his doctors practice afloat on the small island of Aegina.
Since the early 80’s the Greek state has been managed in a deplorable way by the two major parties in the republic. A closed circle of politicians monopolized power and alternately governed the country. During these years, they developed an extreme political clientelism with as result the creation of two parallel administrations.
This practice, which de facto substituted the official state, is one of the major factors of the actual social and economic bankruptcy of Greek society. If we add to that : (1) the large amount of debt accumulated by public and private spending ; (2) the reckless lending to Greece by dangerously under-capitalized northern European banks and ; (3) euro zone’s blindness and visionless economic policy dictated by Berlin that imposed unsustainable demands, then we understand Greek reality.
Greece enters the eighth year of deep recession. The human toll of the economic crisis is huge. Unemployment is above 25 per cent, and among those aged 15 to 24 it is close to 60 per cent. A study published in the European Journal of Psychiatry in March 2014 provides evidence of a 55, 8 per cent increase in suicides between 2007 and 2011.
Despite the austerity, that has been extremely intense and inhuman, the Greek public debt has increased and now exceeds 170 per cent of GDP. The country lost 25 per cent of its GDP since it has been undertaken by the Troika program.
Here are 5 reasons why Greeks will vote for anti-austerity in the upcoming election:
Greeks don’t buy the fear campaign of #Grexit
The strategy of fear that the actual government is campaigning on clearly does not work. Endorsement of this strategy by European politicians and EU institutions does not help. In the contrary, it has a boomerang effect. Greek citizens are not buying that the opposition constitutes a danger. The EU institutions failed to take into account the social and political implications of the severe austerity programs they imposed in countries like Greece.
Lack of trust towards government coalition
The simplest definition of trust from the perspective of the citizens is the personal confidence and absence of disbelief. When trust is absent, like in Greece, it is replaced by uncertainty, lack of confidence, and the expectation that actual political leaders will do things that are adverse to the interests of the people. Greece has much more debt than the country could ever hope to repay. Denying this reality condemns Greek citizens to a very long period of misery.
EU and the euro lost their credibility
In May 2012 Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, declared that the crisis had exposed the inadequacy of the financial and economic framework set up for the euro monetary union launched in 1999. The euro was meant to bring convergence to the economies of the EU. Yet it has caused even greater divergence. The emphasis on austerity might have been politically necessary when the debt crisis began, in order to discourage governments from expecting more EU bailouts. However, this policy has also brought EU growth near to zero, encouraged deflation, fed exasperation across the continent and led to the impoverishment of large parts of the Greek population and, other euro zone countries. Under present conditions, the question of staying or not in the euro zone may not be very relevant to the average Greek. Nevertheless, Greece will probably stay in the euro, whoever wins the election. If it doesn’t, I am sure that there is life after euro, even if this will demonstrate complete lack of cohesion and integration inside the euro zone.
Troika is seen as foreign intervention
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission (EC), form the so-called Troika, which intervened in 2010 to keep Athens from defaulting on its debts and having to leave the euro zone. Greece was put under a system of forced administration. In 2013 the IMF admitted that it made major mistakes on the first bailout, setting excessively optimistic expectations for the country’s economy and underestimating the effects of the austerity measures it imposed. The rescue package kept the country afloat, but it came in exchange for exaggerated austerity measures that have deepened recession and encouraged extremist political parties and polarization.
Leftwing Syriza is moving to the center
In every opinion survey leftwing Syriza is in the lead. The difference with the second party is 3 to 4 per cent and it does not seem to close. Syriza, is retreating from leftist rhetoric by confirming that no unilateral decisions will be taken on obligations towards creditors. It would not be the first party to become more pragmatic once in power. However, many of the party’s policies are unlikely to be accepted by the Troika, despite Syriza’s position having moved to the center recently.
The belief of the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras that there should be a transparent and sustainable re-negotiation of debt, has won applause from other parties in Europe and may lead to a pan-European large-scale anti-austerity strategy. Nevertheless, Tsipras will be obliged to do business with other euro zone countries if he wins the election.Author : Stavros Papagianneas