Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reflections on the crises in Greece and the Greek Elecions

For those keeping a close eye on events unfolding in Greece Yanis Varoufakis offers a thoughtful and reasoned but deeply pessimistic analysis in this piece in Open Democracy.

Varoufakis is Director of the Political Economy Division at the University of Athens and has taught political economy and economics all over the world, including 20 years at the University of Sydney.

As Vroufkas points while the majority of Greeks voted for anti-bailout parties, a pro bailout Government is about to be formed, which explicitly excludes the radical leftist party Syriza, the party which received the second highest number of votes and with the second highest majority in the Greek Parliament.
Greek voters gave their contradictory verdict: While 55% voted for parties that stood explicitly against the ‘bailout’ terms and conditions, a pro-’bailout’ government is about to be formed – such is the nature of Greece’s electoral system (which rewards the largest party with a bonus of 50 additional MPs in the 300 seat chamber). 

The New Democracy party will lead the government even though it is utterly clear that at least one in three of the voters who backed it think very little of the party and its leader but felt they had no option but to vote for them simple because the alternative, a Syriza government, might bring upon the nation the combined wrath of Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels. This is as inauspicious a beginning for a new government with a mountain range of challenges as one could have imagined.
Varoufakis is in no doubt that the new Government's will support another European driven bailout package (Bailout Mark 2 and Bailout Mark 3) and that such acquiescence to European (particularly German) agendas will fail, causing more hardship and suffering for the majority of the Greek people. Rather than solve the problem it will worsen the crises.

What is also deeply disturbing about the new Greek Parliament is the entrance of Fascist and Third Reich Nazi parties. Whilst this rise of fascism in Greece is partly attributed to the frenzy over austerity and the financial crisis, the other factor is the strident anti-immigrant rhetoric used by mainstream Greek politicians. Salama Boukala writes
"Just a few days before the general election of May 6, members of the coalition government and the mainstream media took to scapegoating migrants who were now accused of being responsible for the sociopolitical failures of the country. Together they orchestrated the broadcasting of a range of racist comments. The minister of public health labelled migrants a ‘sanitary bomb threatening the Greek people’ and the minister of public order proudly announced the opening of concentration camps for migrants. The use of xenophobic discourse by public authorities and the participation of the extreme right wing formation LAOS in the coalition government spread the fear of the ‘Other’ in the Greek society and legitimized further voting for the far right. These 7% of Greek voters who opted for Golden Dawn may have been experiencing an extreme collapse of their financial security, and they blamed the migrant 'Other' for it – too easily forgetting that any attack against this Other is also an attack against democracy. In today’s Greece, both of them are in danger"

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