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Greece set for unprecedented political shakeup


Greece set for unprecedented political shakeup


Clear skies in Greece are in stark contrast to the uncertainty it is going through, under political stormclouds. Voters are asked to elect a new parliament this Sunday, angry and disillusioned.

The main traditional ruling parties have been acutely discredited. A lot of small parties – perhaps as many as ten – are tipped to get enough votes to win seats.

Opinion polls say 85 percent of Greeks are suspicious of their politicians today. One in three have not decided how they will cast their democratic ballot.

Hairdresser Eirini Kostaki only knows who she definitely will not vote for.

She told euronews: “I am disappointed with both the big parties. I used to vote for one or the other, but not this time, because I don’t think they’ve changed the way they govern.”

She is talking about the New Democracy conservatives and the PASOK socialist party.

They alone, in an emergency coalition, are behind the drastic austerity plan Greece’s rescue creditors demanded in return for a second gargantuan bailout.

The leader of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, said: “Even development as a priority was forbidden when they imposed the bailout on us. Now it’s obvious to everyone.”

Both the conservatives and socialists who signed up to the rescue package are anxious to give ordinary people a second wind. This might be by spreading cutbacks over three years rather than two. They are of course trying to reassure the electorate, notably PASOK’s leader.

Evangelos Venizelos said: “No Greek man or woman should live in fear of the next round of austerity measures due in June. We are committed, and we guarantee what we say: there will be no new taxes.”

All the other parties are against the plan. Among the leftists, the Antarsya party is determined to channel the people’s anger.

The left-wing party’s Petros Constantinou said: “From the 7th of May we will have to resist more strongly against them. The message will be very clear: we are resisting capitalists and we have alternative solutions against them.”

From the extreme right, there is a risk that the neo-nazi, anti-immigrant nationalist Golden Dawn party will win seats for the first time. Formed 20 years ago, in 2009 elections it got less than a quarter of one percent. The bar to get into parliament is three percent. Now, five percent of Greeks say they will vote Golden Dawn.

Nikos Konstandaras, the managing editor of the Kathimerini newspaper, told euronews that “fringe groups” will provide an unprecedented political shakeup this weekend.

euronews, James Franey: Nikos, do Greeks expect anything to change after this election, or is it more about giving the politcal class a bloody nose?

Nikos Konstandaras, managing editor of the Kathimerini newspaper: “The Greek voters are very bewildered still. This is the first election in the new austerity period. Everything has changed, the economy has changed. Their lives have changed, society as a whole is changing.

Now politics is changing. But they haven’t got an option of any new parties yet, so they are going into the elections with the old parties, which are themselves bewildered, lost and seeking credibility which they have lost for their policies over the past 40 years, which means that the fringe groups have been gaining a lot.

But the fringe groups everyone understands are not an alternative so we really are not sure what this election is leading to. What it means more than anything is the end of the old order that we had. This was very stable with the two main parties getting 80 percent of the vote between them and alternating in power for the last decades since 1974.

euronews: Isn’t it the case that whoever takes power after Sunday, with whatever coalition, they are going to be forced to implement the terms of this bailout, aren’t they?

Konstandaras: “Absolutely. Now the elections has come down to the parties that have backed the bailout agreement half-heartedly and the parties that are opposed to the bailout. Now the ones that are opposed to the bailout say that everything can be worked out quite fine if we stop payments and we come to another negotiation and so on, which the serious people understand is not an option. I think that a lot of people who will be protesting with their vote and will not back the two big parties will probably be hoping that enough other people will be voting for the two big parties so that there is enough stability for us to be able to keep negotiating with our partners in the international community and keep the bailout on track.”

euronews: “Do you get a sense that the Greek people still want to remain a member of the Eurozone?”

Konstandaras: The biggest percentage in any of the polls that we saw recently was the number of people who want to remain in the eurozone — it was over 70 percent! The issue here is that if we leave the eurozone there will be no incentive to reform the country and the country needs reform because it hasn’t been carrying out any reforms for the last decade. So if we left the eurozone we would be sinking or swimming completely on our own, without friends without any stability coming from anywhere.

euronews: What are your predictions for Sunday? Who do you foresee taking power? Could we perhaps see a marriage of convenience between New Democracy and the Socialists?

Konstandaras: “It seems that they would be the most stable and the most determined coalition to get through the difficulties that we have ahead.
Anything else would be very risky for the parties involved as well. It wouldn’t last very long because the parties are all much smaller and would have to make huge deals to get each other on board and then that would fall apart very quickly.

“We have no experience of coalition or cooperation or compromise between political forces (in Greece). It has always been one party or the other — the fact that they have been very similar on policy just confused the issue. But it was just one party or the other, not a compromise, not a coalition. It’s all new from Monday onwards.”

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