Three masked mustachioed men holding Kalashnikovs and a pistol are in the bedroom of this middle-aged couple who look at them in horror tucked in their bed under a pink duvet. “Wife, the robbers are uncompromising! They want the money now and then want to renegotiate the robbery,” he says.
Two men are sitting at a coffee shop, discussing politics. The one on the left says: “The only person who deals with criminality correctly is Tsipras [the leftist leader of the opposition]! By returning to the drachma… the robbers will be bankrupt and we will turn to development!”
And the third one: Two men are discussing politics, sitting on a bench in a park. The one says: “In 10 years half of the Greeks will have committed suicide and the other half will have been victims of Kalashnikovs! Only politicians, thieves and crooks will survive who, of course, will form a tripartite government of national salvation...”
Of course, these are not real dialogues. I picked them up from yesterday’s satirical strip by the ingenious Greek cartoonist, KYR, published every Sunday in daily To Vima.
What a political cartoonist does cannot be done even by the best commentator: He condenses the political reality, focuses on the main issue, analyzes it and presents a message in a comprehensive format.
The new tripartite government formed in Greece a month ago is making its first difficult steps, trying to present a credible image toward the country’s international lenders. They have to be convinced that the new political administration will honor the agreements signed by the previous leadership with the EU-IMF as a condition for the huge bailout loans and the write-off of more that half of Athens’ private debts. These conditions translate into a major austerity package of public sector shrinkage, huge spending cuts, tax rises, pension and benefits cuts, labor market reforms and, above all, ambitious programs of privatizations of public assets and organizations. By applying all these, the Antonis Samaras government hopes to kick-start the country’s economy.
All three parties campaigned on a platform of renegotiating the terms of the austerity package with Greece’s lenders. Playing on variations of the terminology, they let the electorate believe that they were involved in some unofficial negotiations with the main players in Europe, like Germany or France, and the IMF that could result in some alleviation of the intolerant burden of the austerity measures. The idea of an extension of the repayment agreements was also put forward before the elections as a major target, yet the new economy minister, Yannis Stournaras, in his first meeting with his counterparts in the latest Eurogroup meeting days ago, had a tough time trying to explain how difficult it is for Greece to achieve the expected targets with a persistent recession approaching 7 percent.
After voting twice in the space of three months, the Greeks realize now that their politicians did not tell them the whole truth, they did not tell them that what has been achieved so far is staying in the euro – for the time being – and that there is little choice but to swallow the pill of austerity in the hopes of some minor pain-killing measures. They did not tell them either that the whole project may not be successful in the end or that the danger of exiting the euro is still present if the lenders lose hope and “stop sending the bailout checks.” The first polls after the recent elections show an increase in support for Samaras’ government, with more than 55 percent considering the coalition a “positive development.” However, the new government starts its term with a society that is fatigued, desperate and mistrustful at a time when a bigger crisis is hitting the rest of the European south: Spain, Portugal, Italy and – eventually – France.
KYR’s cartoons tells us all that in a much better way.