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Thursday, 31 May 2012

PASOK's downfall and the attempts to stay afloat

By @inflammatory_

Say hello to a new era where PASOK's ability to rule with a comfortable parliamentary advantage is over. With the repudiation of austerity policies at the ballot box, it saw its vote plummeting from 43.9% in the last elections to 13.2%. "PASOK is rotten" said its leader -Evangelos Venizelos- to his aides, highlighting the need for readjustment as many of those sustaining the party's state electoral clientèle -nurtured by favoritism, contracts, and subventions- seem to "abandon the ship". With perks cutbacks under the bailout agreements, high-profile members of major trade union bodies cut ties with the party, while others move around on the political spectrum, seeking shelter with hints of electoral success. 

Thanks to Simitis' embrace of neo-liberalism in the mid 90's and Papandreou's approval of austerity measures that kicked Greeks in the guts, PASOK abandoned certain clauses of its own charter and shifted to the right, setting voters deprived of a genuine "socialist" choice. Now Venizelos will have to use his soft media skills to reposition the party in the centre-left, a challenging task considering Syriza's rapid gains in popularity. Putting his six-point plan on the table, he strives to promote the idea of reviewing Greece’s loan agreement and come across as a potent force in politics that has taken stock of negotiations with international leaders over the last year. Although determined to start building the party's reputation from scratch and win back a part of the votes lost to Syriza, Democratic Left or apathy, the feasibility of the matter in hand within a few weeks time remains questionable.

Admittedly overshadowed and squeezed between New Democracy and Syriza, PASOK sees itself playing a secondary role for the first time in decays. To this end Venizelos puts the message of "unity efforts in view of country's troubles" ahead of rivalries. Since the hard-line attack on Tsipras somehow backfires on PASOK but works for New Democracy, Venizelos mellowed down the confrontational rhetoric against Syriza without keeping the divides aside though.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Τsipras gets the international treatment: non-Greek media coverage of the leader of SYRIZA focuses on the man, not the message

By @zoemavroudi

It has been only two weeks since Alexis Tsipras was thrust into the international political limelight after leading the Coalition of the Radical Left-SYRIZA party to a surprising second place in Greece’s May 6 election and major media outlets in Europe and the United States have been hosting a slew of articles about him, in an attempt to piece together a coherent narrative.

This post is also available in French on Okeanews

Greece: the assault on labour

Edited by Andrew Brady for USi

The labour movement in Europe faces its most important battle arguably since its creation.  It’s not sensationalist to make such a statement. There is a global assault on organised labour. The epicentre of an economic agenda that is getting rolled-out on the  continent of Europe is Greece.
For some this agenda is abundantly clear but for the vast majority, its underlying ideology remains obscured. The reason being is that there has been a deliberate and orchestrated ‘fog of war’ perpetuated by politicians, multi-national firms and media outlets.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Reflections on Greece: a social crisis

Edited by Andrew Brady for USi
USi spent six nights in Athens recently to gather momentum for our ‘Solidarity with Greece’ campaign with trade unions and community networks. This article is one of three on our reflections on the challenges facing the City and Greece – and what as trade unionists we must do to assist.
With Greece’s future increasingly in doubt an emergency government was established on Wednesday (16 May) with new elections set for 17 June. Away from the debates swirling around about GDP debt ratios, sovereign debt, and, bond rates something very profound and alarming is happening on the ground.

Unemployment, suicides, prostitution, drug abuse, depression, homelessness and hopelessness are sky-rocketing. You can see the visible impact of the economic crisis when you walk around areas of the City such as Omonoia and Agios Panteleemonas. It is not easy to witness or take in.
Greece’s jobless rate hit a new record in February. Data from Greece’s statistics service on Thursday (17 May) showed unemployment hit 21.7 percent in February. In the 15-24 age group it rose to 54 percent. The data showed nearly 1.1 million people were jobless, 42 percent more than in the same month a year ago, reflecting the huge scale of the human damage. However, the true scale of unemployment and underemployment is higher. The country’s economy continues to contract for a fifth consecutive year.
The New York Times reported in April that in Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. Greece’s financial crisis has also made some families so desperate they are giving up the most precious thing of all – their children – as they can’t take care of them any longer. There are estimates that up to 20,000 people are homeless in Athens.
Prostitution is legal in Greece, with regular health checks for sex workers required, but authorities say only a fraction of brothels are operating with a license. According to the disease control center, 954 new HIV infections were reported in 2011, a 57 percent increase from the previous year. The authorities say they are concerned about the overlap between drug use and illegal prostitution. The Athens City government has said at least 315 brothels are currently operating illegally in the Greek capital. Greece is also the busiest transit point for illegal immigration in the European Union – and for human traffickers bringing women from Eastern European countries.
In conversation after conversation USi was told of the network of grandparents who are holding Greek society together with their pensions and support but this entitlement is continuously under attack to the point of being eroded. Wages have been decimated as you can read elsewhere on our site. People openly speak about moving out their homes (owned or rented) to move back in with family or friends as they can’t afford to pay the costs of living. Solidarity networks have sprung up all over Athens such as the Network for Cheap Potatoes and Convenience Stores to help alleviate the pressure and pain. But people and communities are hanging by a thread.
Society is approaching a critical point. This is the story the vested interests who pursue austerity do not want you to read or hear.  They would rather it remains focused on the perpetuation of myths such as ‘lazy Greeks’ in order to carry through privatisation and liberalisation of the whole state for profit. The human damage is irrelevant or at best secondary to private sector investors being reimbursed for ill-judged financial decisions and the subsequent exposure they bear on other European markets. As has been illustrated elsewhere – particularly by Yanis Varoufakis – the economics of Greece is minor to the financial tsunami that threatens to implode across Europe – and the people of Greece are way down the pecking order.
The imposed conditions of the second bailout will be enforced in June including tens of thousands of job losses and further pay cuts. Those fortunate to still have a job are of course extremely worried about their futures. On the day the agreement was reached in February this year Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: “Today the problem is solved”. To the contrary, unless resistance to austerity continues and increases – the problem may be only beginning.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Greek elections: the politics behind failure and the challenges ahead of success

By @inflammatory_ 

There was media frenzy over fruitless coalition talks and the "last-ditch efforts" to form the so-called "government of prominent personalities". Following Papademos leadership, the option of having unelected technocrats in government again, was under consideration. With the tyranny of pragmatism enslaving politics and society, fully trained economists are seen more competent to spot the right policies. They are supposed to have the skills and experience to ensure successful execution of EU guidelines and maintain effectiveness in a financial environment of ambiguity. Is there any clear evidence to support that? The euro for instance, was launched without significant political institutions behind it, which was not proved to be very clever. However the prospect of a second round of elections, was expected to bring havoc anyway. Under edgy circumstances,  voting -the backbone of democracy- is considered lethal. No need to wonder which section of society might feel threatened when people have their say for their own matters. Apparently a caretaker prime minister took over until elections in June, with a possible "Grexit" making headlines at the moment.

The meeting between the President of the Republic and political leaders on 15/05/2012

Prepared by the #rbnews international team

Below is an English-language summary of the transcript of the meeting held on 15/05/2012 between the President of the Republic, Karolos Papoulias, and the leaders of Nea Demokratia (Antonis Samaras), SYRIZA (Alexis Tsipras), PASOK (Evangelos Venizelos), Independent Greeks (Panos Kammenos) and Democratic Left (Fotis Kouvelis) in a last-ditch attempt to form a coalition government after the failure of consultations held on 13/05/2012 and 14/05/2012. The leader of the Communist Party (Aleka Papariga) declined to attend, while the leader of neo-nazi Golden Dawn (Nikolaos Michaloliakos) was not invited. 
The original transcript of the meeting as published by the presidency can be found here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The meetings between the President of the Republic and political party leaders on 13/05/2012

Prepared by the #rbnews international team

Below is an English-language summary of the transcripts of the meetings held on 13/05/2012 between the President of the Republic, Karolos Papoulias, and the leaders of all the political parties that were elected to parliament following the 06/05/2012 elections, in an attempt to form a coalition government. Papoulias first met with the leaders of the three largest parties (Nea Demokratia, SYRIZA and PASOK) and then proceeded to individual meetings with the leaders of the Independent Greeks, the Communist Party, Golden Dawn and Democratic Left.
The original minutes published by the presidency can be found here.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The day after elections: all the latest developments

By @inflammatory_

With more than two years of cuts, layoffs, unemployment and…suicides’ rising toll, Greeks expressed their resentment over the political establishment yesterday, in what appeared to be one of the most low-key general elections.  There were no massive rallies, not excessive use of promotional material whilst for the first time, socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy avoided setting up in public space their pre-election campaign kiosks, in case passersby attempt to destroy them.

From the beginning, it appeared unlikely for any political party to win a majority. Some believe that the election results officially dropped the final curtain on polity, the time period from 1974 onward, where PASOK and New Democracy succeeded each other in power. With many voters backing small parties and left-wing Syriza achieving its best result ever with sweeping gains in constituencies that traditionally belonged to rivals, there is a merit on that assumption.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

32 parties competing in Greek elections

By @inflammatory_ 

There have been only a few hours left for Greece to hold one of its most important general elections in decades. As the two major pro-bailout parties, PASOK & New Democracy which have been ruling the country for the last 30 years, struggle to get a 40% of the votes together, smaller parties are expected to shine through. In fact for the first time, eight to ten parties are expected to elect deputies in the 300-seat parliament.The following list shows 32 registered parties (and their leader) that compete

Sex, hypocrisy and elections

By @inflammatory_

Greek authorities  released  the name and pictures (along with other personal info) of 17 HIV- positive sex workers, who allegedly provided their services illegally, accusing them for intentional bodily harm. The incident attracted media attention and the women swiftly became subject of mockery, making headlines as “public health time bomb”. In an attempt to crackdown unlicensed brothels  prior to the elections, hundreds of sex workers across the country are being screened for the virus by the state-run Center for Diseases’ Control & Prevention (NCDC). The agency has been reportedly receiving numerous telephone inquiries about sex and safety issues from men seeking to be tested as well. In an interview at Net Radio, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos underlined the severity of  ”AIDS time bomb” which “has now spread outside immigrant ghettos“, although he did his best to tackle the issue on time.
We are used to seeing the familiar narrative of a “social menace” that requires state and media intervention to protect citizens from “disaster”. It’s the backbone of  ”fear culture” and this story of foreign sex workers who were found to be HIV-positive, triggered racist comments against them. However human rights advocates condemned the violation of medical confidentiality and the ruthless stigmatization of women, with apparent signs of abuse, who sell their body for a living. Following undocumented immigrants, sex workers come to fill the “scapegoat scenario” that stirs up media frenzy in an attempt to boost falling popularity ratings of PASOK leaders. It is estimated though that there won’t be a clear winner on tomorrow’s elections and the country might go for a second round within months.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

LIVE BLOG on May Day 2012 in Greece

By @inflammatory_ 

15:50 there seems to be no trouble in the area of Exarchia at the moment
15:05 Riot police in Exarcheia opposite protesters' barricades of trash bins in the middle of the street

pic by @_giant_

pic by @makissinodinos