With the election drawing near, Greece is very much in the spotlight across Europe and in the executive suites of the globe’s financial houses.
Through the fear-mongering pronouncements, which grow more intense by the day, leading politicians of the European Union’s North are campaigning furiously against what they rightly see as the threat of victory of the Left — which would challenge the dominance of a regime that demands all in the name of debt.
We’ve got lots to report, including the latest europolitiking, a new rash of austerity suicides, and a wave of violent attacks by the fascists of Golden Dawn.
It’s all about fear and loathing
We’ll begin with an excerpt of an analysis of the fear tactics deployed against Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza Left coalition from The Guardian’s Helena Smith:
For over two years, Greeks have been bombarded with the talk of crisis, with each week in the seemingly never-ending Euro-drama being “more crucial” than the next. Now, they have reached a defining point, with the vote being seen as a conclusive test of their desire to stay in the eurozone.
In characteristically feisty mood, the Austrian foreign minister, Maria Fekter, whose comments have been replayed by the Greek media, summed up the dilemma: “Greece will not receive any more economic aid if the election on 17 June results in a government that refuses to keep to the terms of the memorandum.” She added, by way of explanation: “Europe has the desire to help, not to lead a country to bankruptcy.”
This time, the politics of fear – articulated best by Antonis Samaras, the leader of the conservative New Democracy party – appear to have given the “pro-European” conservative bloc the upper hand. “The drachma equals death” is now the mantra of Samaras, who leaves no one in any doubt that Tsipras’s “dangerous, irresponsible, third-world policies” will ultimately lead to Greece’s exit from the eurozone and return to the drachma.
The suggestion that Greece may be sacrificed by Germany anyway – a bombshell the British chancellor, George Osborne, delivered on Tuesday – is bound to ensure that the local banking system is emptied out even more. And as that happens, the fear of uncertainty will grow, until Greeks cast their ballots in a poll that, one way or the other, is unlikely to end the journey of fear.
Nick Malkoutzis of The Guardian’s Greek election blogger makes a key point:
As they sink into this economic morass, Greeks are being advised to make sure New Democracy, which wants to renegotiate the loan terms, beats leftist Syriza, which intends to discard the austerity measures. This would allow New Democracy and Pasok, likely to come a distant third, to form the basis of a new coalition government to keep Greece in the euro. But the idea of the responsible vote going to two parties that failed to show responsibility is also a contradiction.
New Democracy and Pasok have ruled Greece since 1974 and carry the largest share of blame for the country’s failed economy and self-serving political system
Merkel: We’re making an example of Greece
The most fervent campaigner for the return of the Same Old Scoundrels is the Iron Chancellor, Germany’s Angela Merkel.
In a singularly ill-timed statement, she’s finally made clear what everybody with a lick of sense has already known: She wants to use Greece as an example for what doesn’t happen to countries who placidly sign on to her agenda to strip sovereignty for European Union member states and consolidate in Brussels.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Masks have fallen with in a manner of unprecedented boldness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel openly admitted that the austerity programme imposed on Greece was necessary just to set an example to the other euro zone countries.
Here is the story from Deutsche Presse Agentur:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Tuesday the austerity imposed on Athens, five days before Greece’s general election, as necessary to set an example to the entire eurozone.
“The question of whether Greece carries out its programme is not just a question of whether the programme succeeds or not, but rather of whether obligations will be observed in Europe in future,” Merkel told an audience of Christian Democratic Union-supporting business leaders.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer: Sacrifice Greece
Britian’s got the best of both worlds: They’re members of the European Union but not os the single currency eurozone. British banks, the real power in Old Blighty, have no desire to hitch their wagon to the euro, and they’re staunchly opposed to the measures now being floated to force Brussels oversight and control of the banking sector.
They also loathe the notion, backed by both France and Germany, of imposing a tax on each securities transaction.
But that doesn’t stop the Chancellor of the Exchequer [money minister] from joining Merkel and her pals in the fear campaign.
From The Guardian’s Larry Elliott, Patrick Wintour, and Jill Treanor:
George Osborne has floated the possibility that Greece might need to be sacrificed to save the euro after a fresh day of jitters on the world’s financial markets saw Spain’s long-term borrowing costs hit their highest level since the launch of the single currency.
In a highly unusual step, the chancellor suggested that Greece may have to leave the eurozone so Germany could convince voters that it was worth pouring more money into the troubled currency. Speaking at a summit of chief executives organised by the Times newspaper, Osborne said: “I ultimately don’t know whether Greece needs to leave the euro in order for the eurozone to do the things necessary to make their currency survive.
“I just don’t know whether the German government requires Greek exit to explain to their public why they need to do certain things like a banking union, eurobonds and things in common with that.
“I would suspect that if you had a eurozone finance minister here, they wouldn’t really know the answer to that.”
German Finance Minister: I feel your necessary pain
In his latest campaign blast, Germany’s money man joins the foot-in-mouth chorus with one of the more bizarre statements to come out of the crisis.
He feels the pain of Greece’s poor, he says, but it’s necessary to punish the yachting crowd.
Do these guys actually want Syriza to win?
From Deutsche Welle:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Wednesday he was well aware of the pain felt by ordinary Greeks facing harsh austerity measures. He told the Stern news magazine that he felt “huge sympathy” for those people.
“Things are rarely fair in a crisis; the little man suffers and the rich feather their own nests,” Schäuble quipped. “It’s not easy to cut the minimum wage in Greece when you think of the many people who own a yacht.”
But despite the sympathy expressed for ordinary Greek citizens, the minister said austerity across the board was required to get the country back on track.
Schäuble played down Greece’s forthcoming election on June 17, which will be watched nervously by policy makers and market players amid fears that the troubled southern European nation may ditch its loan agreements with international partners.
“The Greeks are free to vote for what they want,” the minister argued. “But an election result will not change anything about the real situation of the country, which is in painful crisis owing to decades of economic mismanagement.”
After the stick assaults, another carrot
One pattern to emerge from the campaign has been that after a furious beating on Greece, and carrot, limp and moldering though it may be, is thereafter on offer.
The latest carrot from Spiegel:
The European Union is planning to discuss softening the terms of its international bailout for Greece, regardless of the outcome of the June 17 election, German business daily Financial Times Deutschland reported on Wednesday.
The paper cited unnamed EU sources saying that there was no way around a renegotiation if Greece was to remain in the euro zone. It is unclear how many concessions the EU is prepared to make. “We will do our utmost to keep Greece in the euro zone while it is respecting its commitments,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said on Tuesday.
But Greece is already in breach of those commitments, Financial Times Deutschland reported. It said that the troika of EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund believes that Greece has made virtually no progress on the reforms and cutbacks it agreed to in return for receiving the second bailout package totalling €130 billion ($162 billion). “The program is off track,” one official told the newspaper.
The EU’s signal that it is ready to allow Greece more leeway is aimed at boosting Greek support for the two former governing parties, conservative New Democracy and Socialist party PASOK, which agreed the bailout terms.
Yet another Greek bailout in the pipeline?
As the rash of scare-mongering stories about the potential financial chaos that might engulf Europe in the event Greece eurozone exit [Grexit], now comes word that keeping the birthplace of democracy on the euro may cost yet another bailout, presuming New Democracy and Pasok can cobble together a government when Monday comes around.
From Greek Reporter’s A. Papapostolou:
Greece might soon need a third financial aid program from its Eurozone peers, the German weekly Die Zeit reported Wednesday, citing unnamed financial and government sources.
As Greece has fallen behind the goals of the consolidation and reform program agreed with the EU and the IMF, especially regarding tax revenue and privatisation proceeds, discussions are underway in the EU to give the country more time to reduce its deficit, the paper said.
In order to extend the deficit-reduction timetable, Greece would need tens of billions more in aid, Die Zeit said. The German parliament might already have to deliberate on a new program this summer.
Eurozone officials have told MNI that if the new Greek government shows sincere commitment, “some adjustments could be made to the bailout program.”
The Great White Hope
The Eurocrats are betting the chips on New Democracy, the Greek version of the GOP, the only party to rival Syriza in pre-election polling.
But can New Democracy capture enough votes to ensure a coalition with the formerly dominant socialist [sic] party Pasok?
That’s the question posed by Dina Kyriakidou of Ekathemerini:
Antonis Samaras swallowed his fear of hecklers, took off his jacket and mingled with the crowd, part of an energetic makeover that the veteran conservative leader hopes will win Sunday’s election and save Greece.
In a country where politicians are routinely spattered with yoghurt or pelted with eggs by furious voters, his walkabout in the town of Corinth over the weekend counts as a bold move.
After spectacularly botching an election last month that he called himself – with a muddled message and a misfired campaign against the wrong enemy – Samaras, 62, now appears to have learnt his lesson and is hitting his stride.
But with just days left before a repeat election that could determine Greece’s future in the euro currency, he has little time left to end a surge by a radical leftist who could ride anger against economic crisis into the premiership.
The newly-focused Samaras is determined to persuade Greeks – nearly 80 percent of whom want to keep the euro – that his New Democracy party is the only choice to prevent economic collapse and a catastrophic return to the old Greek currency.
Syriza’s Tsipras says he’s confident of victory
And when they come out on top, says Alexis Tsipras, they won’t form an alliance with any parties who favor keeping the existing bailout agreement, the austerian diktat imposed on the New Democracy/Pasok coalition.
From Athens News:
The Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) will win Sunday’s election, its leader said on Tuesday, but ruled out forming a government with pro-bailout parties.
Instead, Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras said that, if elected, he would lead a government of the left – mentioning the Democratic Left and the Communist Party as potential partners – against the austerity measures demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Tsipras, who wants to scrap a 130bn euro bailout deal signed in March, rejected what he called an “all-party ragtag” following calls for a unity government in case next week’s vote proves as inconclusive as the last one held in May.
“After two consecutive elections, people demand a clear direction,” he told reporters, rejecting an approach by Evangelos Venizelos, leader of Pasok, who said at the weekend that the country risked social unrest unless all parties were involved in making the hard decisions which lay ahead.
He pledged that a Syriza would “put an end to the rotten, corrupt and ineffective political and economic system that threatens Greece’s eurozone membership,” promising to replace the memorandum with a national plan for economic restoration, which will guarantee dignified living standards, job security and fair wages.
New wave of austerity suicides plagues the nation
With their paychecks and pensions cut, their medical care in jeopardy, and the future looking increasingly grim, despair has driven growing numbers of Greeks to chose to death.
Keep Talking Greece reports on the latest rash of austerity suicides:
One more Greek man decided to put an end to a life without perspective. A 36-year-old man jumped to a tragic and immediate death from the balcony of the family home in Sepolia suburb of Western Athens.
Greek media citing neighbors of the man, report that the former tax driver was without job for the last two years and that he was living with his parents. His father, also a taxi driver was without a job and the family had economic problems having to come along with the small income of the mother.
He committed suicide on Tuesday afternoon, while his parents were away from home.
A pensioner,75, shot himself with a rifle in the middle of the street on Tuesday morning in Athens, while a 70-year-old farmer killed himself by swallowing pesticide in Crete.
It is the third suicide within the last 24 hours, and the fifth since the beginning of the month…
Keep Talking Greece has more on the street suicide in an earlier post:
It was short before 7 o’ clock in the morning when the 75-year-old retired military man took his hunting rifle and left his home in the noble Kifissia suburb of north Athens. He walked some one hundred meters, set the rifle on the asphalt of the peaceful and picturesque street and pulled the trigger. He was immediately dead.
Neighbors, alarmed by the shot, rushed to the street to find the man in a lake of blood.
The man left a note saying that he was unable to cope with his debts and the economic crisis and gave instructions to his wife what to do with the family’s savings.
The man, a chemical engineer, was a retired army serviceman. He had two children.
When your strip the smug neoliberal cant from the austerian rhetoric, what is left is a doctrine of death, with human lives sacrificed for the profits of banks and brokers.
More on the latest immigrant beatings
We cited this attack in yesterday’s GreeceWatch, but more details are surfacing.
From Julie Jalloul of AlYunaniya, a Greek Arabic language newspaper:
A new attack against immigrants living in a home in the industrial suburb of Perama, southwest of Piraeus took place at 3 AM in the morning Tuesday.
According to Mahmoud Abou hamed a resident of the area and responsible of the official page of the Egyptian community of Greece who took photos of the incident said 20 members of Golden Dawn including one woman attacked a house where five Egyptian fishermen lived, causing damage and injuring seriously one of them.
“They broke their cars and seconds later they entered the house and beat them using bats and other makeshift weapons catching them off guard. The four managed to escape but the one who was at that time at the roof sleeping did not have time to escape, and now he is hospitalized in serious condition. His situation is between life and death.”
The seriously injured Abu Zeid Mubarak Abu Zeid 24 years old has been transferred to Tzanio hospital but due to his serious health situation is soon expected to be transferred to Evangelismos.
According to police reports, 6 people have been arrested including a woman and are being questioned since early in the morning.
From the Greek Streets has more here.
Another violent assault by New Dawn thugs
When they’re not beating immigrants, New Dawn’s stormtoopers are assaulting rival political parties.
The latest incident via Keep Talking Greece, which has been doing the best job of English language blogs of documenting the rising violence of the latter-day Nazis:
According to Greek media information, on Tuesday night, two men with a pitbull on the leash approached the elections stand of Greek communist party KKE and without a reason they threw water and orange juice at the microphones chanting “Communists, you will die.”
People at the square of Agia Paraskevi suburb of North Athens, started to move away from the many election stands there. Giorgos Tsimpoukakis, KKE member of the city council from a left party approached the men demanding explanation for the attack.
Immediately, the men started beating him on the face and the head. The injured and bleeding man fell on the ground while the men fled. The victim was taken to the hospital.
Mayor of Agia Paraskevi, Vasilis Zorbas, who was eye-witness of the incident, told news portal NewsIt.gr, that the two men were from extreme-right Chrysi Avgi and that the city counselor was beaten most probably with an iron fist [the Greek version of brass knuckles — esnl].
Also other eye-witnesses said that the men were carrying emblems of Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn).
The news portal cites information according to which the two men had previously destroyed the elections stand of left-wing SYRIZA.
Hedge fund manager says drachma’s already here
Whether or not Greece formally exits the eurozone doesn’t matter as long as the Same Old Scoundrels remain in power, says Jason Manolopoulos, an emerging markets specialist with Dromeus Capital Group.
The threatened reality of a Grexit posed by the Europols is already taking place, he says.
From Greek Reporter’s Andy Dabilis:
While many Greeks fear that if anti-austerity parties win the June 17 elections that Greece could be forced out of the Eurozone, noted hedge fund manager Jason Manolopoulos, who wrote a well-received book on the crisis, said the effect of deep austerity measures demanded by international lenders in return for $325 billion in two bailouts has already returned Greece to what the value of its ancient drachma would be if it’s reintroduced.
In an interview with Bloomberg news agency, Manolopoulos, who wrote “Greece’s Odious Debt,” said that apocalyptic-like warnings from pro-austerity parties, the New Democracy Conservatives and PASOK Socialists, who teamed up to impose pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on workers, the elderly and the poor while allowing the country’s politicians and rich elite to skate free, has crushed the standard-of-living.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, whose party has hit new lows and is locked in a neck-and-neck duel with anti-austerity champion Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has said his rival wants to force Greece to give up the euro and said that if the country is forced out of the Eurozone that incomes, bank deposits and property would lose at least half their value within days, food prices would soar and shortages of essentials such as medicine and fuel would cripple the country. But Manolopoulos said Greece is already at the door to disaster because of the policies instituted by New Democracy and PASOK, who want a mandate to return.
“Greece is already going back to the drachma, partially,” Manolopoulos said, noting that by his estimates for the private sector that “devaluation has happened to some extent. Wages are down approximately 35 percent and taxes are up. So disposable income is down 50 percent at least. Rents are down between 35 and 40 percent.” Manolopoulos, who specializes in emerging markets at Dromeus Capital Group, argued in his book that Greece had no business joining the euro. So what does he mean when he says the drachma is back?