Monday, May 26, 2014

Resisting European austerity: Greek version

The European Parliamentary elections don't present any immediate challenge to Angela Merkel's austerity policies that currently dominate the eurozone.

But it does set off some new dynamics that will influence the course of the austerity battle from this point on. In Greece, SYRIZA came out as the leading party in a national election for the first time.

The pro-austerity writer John Psaropoulos reassures us in Left on top The New Athenian 05/26/2014 that the hippies aren't taking over. Yet.

Greece has had centre-left governments before, but never has a left wing party taken the top slot in any election. Syriza was founded in 1988 as a coalition of Greece's two parliamentary communist parties.
They're Commies, people! Also, you kids git off my lawn!!

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras went on the defensive. "Those who tried to turn this into a referendum have failed," he said. "They didn't manage to create instability or uncertainty, nor the ungovernability they sought." However, he did signal a change in government policy. "I have listened to people carefully. I know their problems. I know what has to change and how. And we will proceed apace!"
And that necessary change would be ...??? More austerity with a nicer smile?

Syriza also scored victory in two out of Greece's 13 administrative regions in local government elections, which were held simultaneously to European ones. Those victories offer Syriza a chance to prove itself in the first executive positions the party has ever held.
The follow is a telling paragraph:

Overall, parties that in 2012 espoused fiscally responsible, pro-austerity policies (New Democracy, The Olive and Democrtic Left) shed 16 points in their voter bases; but the anti-austerity parties (Syriza, Independent Greeks, Communists and Golden Dawn) remained neutral as a group. Voter indifference and a fall in turnout claimed four points, but fully one half of the migration went to The River, a centrist new party that has not positioned itself on austerity, and Laos, a party that has flip-flopped on austerity. [my emphasis]
For the Very Serious People, Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning economics in a depression is "fiscally responsible."

Also he notes that the Social Democratic PASOK party, which had so badly discredited itself by embracing austerity policies and knuckling under shamelessly to Berlin had to take on a new identity to be competitive electorally any more:

In 2012 Pasok took 12.3 percent of the vote. Yesterday the Olive, the socialists' new vehicle, took eight percent. Nonetheless, their leader, Evangelos Venizelos, jubilantly declared, "We can keep our head above water. We can breathe as a nation once more. We can set wrongs right. We can recapture lost ground."
Well, sounds good.

But then he adds: "Venizelos said the country had decided to maintain a stable course out of the crisis and austerity policies." Oh, yeah, a "stable course." Meaning austerity policies and depression for an indefinite numbers of years into the future. But with a spiffy new name, I'm sure the voters will come rushing back! I mean, hey, they lost only a third of their vote percentage from two years ago, let the good times roll!

Presumably, the poor showing of the austerity policies - or the "fiscally responsible" parties, if you prefer - has something to do with events since the current conservative-led government was elected in 2012, as Psaropoulos notes: "Although it managed to balance the Greek budget last year and produce an unforeseen primary surplus of almost three billion euros, very little material benefit has reached beleaguered taxpayers." Strangely, the beauty of a balanced budget and the joy of following Angela Merkel's dictates while unemployment is stuck and ruinous highs and the majority of people are experiencing declines in living standards due to internal devaluation - are just lost on a lot of voters. Democracy is so inconvenient!

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is calling for a new general election in Greece. Psaropoulos thinks it's possible that such an election could put Tsipras in as leader of a SYRIZA-headed coalition government. But he's hoping that Greek voters have finally grown up enough to start worrying about all this austerity stuff, though: "Greeks are tired of the pro-austerity versus anti-austerity rhetoric that has defined the political debate for four years. They have put up with austerity for so long, that it is now accepted as an inevitable part of the policy mix."

Sure, jobs and opportunity are soo-ooo overrated! Besides, the lazy kids can move to Germany or somewhere and get a job if they can't find one at home, right?

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