Sunday 20 September 2015

Greek elections - caught between Scylla and Charybdis

I have just come back from the polling station, having cast my vote, the first time I have voted in Greek national elections. It should have been an historic occasion except that this is a non-vote. The agenda was set by former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who signed a third punishing bailout agreement and which was supported overwhelmingly by the Greek Parliament. This effectively gives Greece's sovereignty away with the country becoming a semi-colonial appendage of the EU. This full capitulation to the demands of the Troika will mean more suffering for the Greek people. Every 'red line' the Syriza government had maintained has been crossed, from pensions cuts to VAT increases, whilst the pace of spending cuts mandated guarantee continual misery.
Even worse, the deal contains two measures that strip Greece of its economic sovereignty. Greece will place £50bn of its government assets in a special fund, held as surety against its future good behaviour. The deal also demands that the Greek government 'consult and agree with the Institutions on all draft legislation in relevant areas with adequate time before submitting it for public consultation or to Parliament'. This is something more akin to a deal forced on a nation defeated in war. For all this, Greece gains almost nothing. Greece's debt is unsustainable on any plausible timescale. The 'bailout' is money for Greece to pay off its debts. The bailout, in other words, is a bailout of the banks, not of Greece.
The government that gets elected today will have to implement all of this. No wonder no one is excited about this election. Apathy and disgust are the predominant feelings. Most people I know are still undecided. They intend to either abstain or make a decision on the spot.
The turn-out looked good. Voting in Greece is compulsory.
Some of the parties had set out their stalls outside the school that served as a polling station.


Popular Unity: NO will prevail.

KKE (Communist Party): 'There is a way forward'.

Syriza: 'We will win the tomorrow'.

New Democracy: no caption, just a photograph of Vangelis Meimarakis.
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Two images from social media encapsulate the situation:

'Who do I vote for tomorrow? The thief or the liar?'
Syriza's electoral victory was in part a reaction against the previous governments, New Democracy and PASOK, whose corruption, concern with lining their own pockets and total disregard for the suffering of the people of Greece were seen as totally unacceptable. PASOK is finished, and now, despite their crushing defeat in January New Democracy are seen as possible winners in this election. Meanwhile, the disillusionment with Syriza is overwhelming, and Tsipras is seen as a liar.

 'No problem. You can vote for whoever you like'.

A triumphant Wolfgang Schauble in this image has no worries about this election. Greece's sovereignty has been signed off - the result of this election is immaterial.

Greece is stuck between Schylla and Charybdis and whoever wins this election will make no difference to the situation the country finds itself in. Punishing measures will have to be implemented. The die has been cast. It was cast weeks ago by the so-called left wing government of Syriza, and its leader Alexis Tsipras, who lied to the Greek people.

Outside one of the classrooms of the school that served as a polling station is this mural, a copy of Guernica by Picasso. Appropriate for the occasion? I think so.


  1. I am fascinated to learn what the result will be - especially after the referendum and its aftermath. I heard on the radio the other day that a Grexit seems even more likely these days. I'm not sure why - they were talking about something else, and that was said en passant.
    Oh to have an overview of history from 100 years hence, to see where this European Union goes, and what happens to the constituents. Of course, as ever, people en masse do not matter! So much is always evident.

    1. Olga, I surprised myself earlier when I decided to do this blog post. All summer I have been feeling so depressed, so dejected, have felt so betrayed by the Syriza government - it felt like being in mourning. Such an overwhelming majority voted for OXI and yet, Tsipras did not listen - as you say, people do not matter. I really did not think I would be able to write anything about this.

      For a very long time now I have felt that Grexit is the only solution to the country's problems because it became clear that the EU and Germany in particular, would not budge. I hope that that is still the case. It will mean hardship and insecurity in the beginning but eventually Greece will be able to recover. The way things stand now, recovery will not happen for decades.

      The debt is unsustainable, even the IMF have said so. I, too, think that Grexit will happen in the end, but the question is, how much more hardship, before we take that road.

      What will happen to the EU - an intriguing thought indeed. The whole project is unravelling, not just because of the situation in Greece, and to a lesser extent in all of the countries in the South, but also, the EU's inability to deal with the refugee crisis - it all points to disaster.