The New Greek Government
Last week the formation of the new Greek government was announced. Three parties, New Democracy (Conservatives, 29.66%), PASOK (Social democrats, 12.28%) and Democratic Left (a SYRIZA-split in 2010, 6.26%) now constitute the government, however, not with the same intensity. New Democracy has 25 MPs in the government and the remaining 14 seats are ascribed to technocrats, five proposed by PASOK (among others the Ministers of Environment and Agriculture) and four by the Democratic Left (among them the Ministers of Justice and Administrative Reform). Only two women were appointed, one as a minister and one as a deputy minister.
The inauguration of the new government was not accompanied by the notice of some explicit and clear framework of commitments towards the citizens. In fact, the only thing the government promised to do is trying to keep the country in the Eurozone and to renegotiate the Memorandum. This is a rather inconsistent promise, however, with both the commitments made internationally by ND and PASOK through their leaders and because of the outcomes of the Memorandum policies. As for the first, we know that Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos signed personal commitments to respect the Memorandum, so they do not have the political ability – nor the desire – to change much in it. Concerning the second, it is clear that it is the Memorandum policies themselves that lead Greece outside the Eurozone rather than its annulment. With the GDP falling continuously, debt growing and government revenues decreasing due to the recession, and despite the increase of taxes on middle and low incomes, it is really possible that the country may not meet its internal requirements in the future and either leave the Eurozone on its own will in order to be able to cut its own currency or have even lower wages, pensions and social spending and lead the Greeks to a standard of living far from the European.
It appears that the new government has increasingly focused on lobbying for SYRIZA rather than developing its own plan. Since they failed in their attempt to present SYRIZA as a an irresponsible party because of its refusal to join the government, the next step required from SYRIZA was to participate in a “national negotiating team”, meaning to have all the political leaders get together to negotiate in the Eurogroup, even though they disagree with each other! This funny proposal was of course rejected by SYRIZA and it seemed even funnier when finally the leaders of PASOK and DL decided that, since the new Prime Minister would not attend the Eurogroup due to a health problem, they would not attend it either!
Especially the attitude of the Democratic Left has raised many questions about whether supporting such a government is consistent with the character of a left party. First, the New Democracy now has the most hardcore right and conservative profile that it has ever had, having incorporated strains of the far-right LAOS party. This tendency is also reflected by its leader, Samaras, whose key elements in his political agenda are the issues of crime and immigration, which he wants to fight with repression and police action rather than by fighting its roots, namely poverty and social injustices. Secondly, we may wonder why the DL did not join the government already after the elections in May, when the ND had a lower percentage and its position was a lot weaker. Obviously, the priority at that time was not to govern the country but to have the SYRIZA pressured into the government as not to have to carry the burden on its own. Third, the Minister of Economy, Vassilis Rapanos, has been assigned by the PASOK for the most critical state positions for 15 years. He is a supporter of banking sector’s interests, and recently was appointed president of the National Bank by the former Prime Minister, Papandreou. Using this position he made an improper interference in the election period by publishing an “objective” study, which directly connected Greece’s being part of the Eurozone with the strict observance of the Memorandum, thus contributing to blackmail the people. Perhaps the fact that in 2010, a year of crisis, the income of Mr Rapanos was over 420,000 Euro, is the least important one that should make him repellent for a left party.
Also the new Minister of Economy, who replaced Mr Rapanos after a few days due to health problems, can hardly be accepted by any party of the Left. Giannis Stournaras, has been General Director of the think-tank of the Association of Greek Industrialists for years, and as such had been using his position to frequently state that the Memorandum should be applied in full. At the time when Greece joined the Eurozone (with the famous “creative accounting”, i.e the misrepresentation of the financial condition of the country with the knowledge of the European leaders!) he had a key role, being put in charge for the negotiations with the EU by the government of PASOK. Finally, in cooperation with the leader of a small right-wing party, Mr Stournaras last November founded an NGO for the sale of the property of the Greek state. Even ten days before the election Stournaras, at the moment an interim Minister of Economic Development, sought to promote a series of “fast track” deals for private investment at the expense of the state. After all, it is not strange that Reuters, in a classification of political parties in Greece as pro-Memorandum and anti-Memorandum, failed to incorporate the DL in any of these two categories because of its ambiguous political stance.
Finally, another shock of the government’s early days was the revelation that the new Deputy of Maritime Affairs had been punished with a fine of 200,000 Euro for his business activity. The reason was that he and his partner had established an off-shore company through which they deprived the revenue of small shareholders. The revelation led to the resignation of the Deputy.
The next days are difficult for the Greek government. It has to negotiate for a better deal while at the same time Angela Merkel declares that the Eurobond is an economic mistake and that the policy review of the Memorandum should be passed “over her dead body” only! The most important thing is that the government is asked to change a policy that the PASOK and the ND fully support, having developed it themselves in a close cooperation with the Troika and not under its own enforcement. The need to review their own policies cannot be denied thanks to the most dynamic sectors of the Greek society, which looked with hope to the Left, to SYRIZA. The momentum against the Memorandum expressed in elections forced the two – former big – parties to seek a new way out of the impasse in which they led their own country. And it gave SYRIZA a chance to prepare for its course in the near future by taking the necessary steps for various political procedures all leading to a mass congress, which will take place in the following months to transform itself from a coalition into a united, massive radical left party, aiming at including in its procedures the people who have supported it, providing new examples of democracy and organizing the resistance of citizens towards governmental policy.
We don’t know whether this government will last for long or not. What we know though is that the days to come are important and crucial not only for SYRIZA and the Left, but for all the Greek people and the development of the EU. Above all, however, they are charming. Because what we have before us is a struggle for our lives, our future and for the achievement of a left-wing government. And these struggles are those that are worth most of all. Because they are the struggles that history is written by.