Forum Post: The majority of Greeks are against austerity but many still fear the final break with Germany.
Posted 2 years ago on June 18, 2012, 2:40 p.m. EST by frogmanofborneo
from New York, NY
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
The majority still voted against austerity. Part of the problem is the Greek masses still think they can have a fair deal inside the Euro and they can't. The Euro is set up to benefit Germany and keep the less developed countries like Greece the way they are. The left socialists bottom line was to stay in the Eurozone, but (try) to get a better deal. Starting with that premise the argument becomes what party can get the best deal from the Germans. The conservatives barely got a plurality that said they can get a better deal than a bunch of radicals who don't want to make the final break. Only the Communists and the outright fascist Golden Dawn actually said they want to dump the Euro.
In the Greek electoral system the party that comes in first (not meaning the majority as there are several parties) gets fifty extra parliamentary seats. If people over sixty five were barred from voting the left socialists would have swamped the Parliament. The oldsters are very frightened of losing the little they have so went for the devil they know.
Anyhow, the bailout is not going to fix the facts that 50 percent of Greek youth are unemployed, many more underemployed, that the Gross Domestic Product is shrinking at six percent per year or that a majority still is against the austerity deal. Watch the streets of Athens. It ain't over.
Before Sunday's elections, I asked many of the people I had met and interviewed during the past 10 days or so in Greece to send me their reaction to the results, once they were known. Here are some of their replies. I will post more later in the day.
George Efstratiadis, the boss of a family-owned business in Patras, has seen his turnover halved (he expects it to halve again this year), and has been forced to make nearly 40 of his 70-strong workforce redundant. He confessed to crying when he told many of them of his decision; the firm had never fired anyone in its 50-year history.
George is uncompromising and fears the worst: "Political terrorism by the masterminds of austerity won the election," he says. "I do not expect anything other than harder strikes, bigger riots, and an unstable future. All those who voted New Democracy for the sake of stability will soon find out that the worst is yet to come. A coalition is possible, in the name of patriotism, but governing the ship will be very difficult – not only for the captain, but also for the passengers. You can put the cross over the grave now, and pray for the dead."
Dominique Vitzileou is a civil servant, working for the organisation responsible for channelling Greek farmers their EU subsidies. She has suffered a 30% pay cut and told me when I met her in Athens that she wasn't sure she would have a job in three months, so couldn't plan a holiday even if she could afford one, which she can't. "I am anxious," she told me. "The fear comes slowly; it kind of crawls into your mind."
But she is also so angry ("What do they want?" she asked, "to see people starving in the streets, throwing themselves off balconies?") that she helped organise her neighbourhood's opposition to the much-hated additional "house tax", incorporated (in a move now declared illegal) in electricity bills: "I couldn't accept old people, unemployed people, with children, having their power cut off because they couldn't afford this unjustified tax."
Of the election result, Dominique says it was "as everybody who follows politics expected".
"My main observations: first, Syriza failed to gain most people's trust – difficult when it has risen from just 4.5% in a few months, and has the Greek and international media against it. Greeks abroad were so terrorised that they suggested their relatives here not to vote for it!
"Second, the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn retained their force. It's true, we have approximately 400,000 fascists in Greece! Third, the Greek orthodox Communist party is much weakened. And lastly, nearly 40% of Greeks didn't bother to vote."
Dominique predicts New Democracy, with the troika waiting impatiently, will form "the coalition from hell. They will be obliged by the troika to vote for atrocious, anti-labour austerity measures. The elite will back 'necessary sacrifices', and Syriza will be urged to show 'goodwill' but refuse, so will be blamed for not collaborating (in the crime) and delaying the process. Meanwhile, the neo-Nazis will continue to stab immigrants and leftists.
"How long will the coalition last with practically everybody in the streets and unemployment soaring? Not long, in my opinion. If the troika doesn't change its approach to the so-called 'Greek problem', things will end very badly. New elections will take place in the autumn, and in a very different context. The worst is yet to come of these imposed neo-liberal measures.
"Speaking of neo-liberal measures, by the way, I gave food to the asylum for people with terminal illnesses in Kypseli. The staff haven't been paid since February, and 260 patients are not properly fed. This crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old are dying, and the new cannot be born: in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear (a quote from Gramsci that I find, in the circumstances, very appropriate)."
Hilary Diamandopoulou, who introduced me to George, is a retired ophthalmologist from Scotland, married to a Greek doctor, Thanos, and has lived in Patras for more than 30 years. Thanos is still owed overtime from the 1980s, his pension has been cut by 40%, and the government has simply seized the retirement lump sum for which he contributed, into a special state fund, all his working life – tens of thousands of euros. The couple are succinct: "The fear campaign worked, eventually. So near, and yet so far away. We are both disappointed. We will see what this week brings, if a government can in fact be formed."