Lineup changes for Greek political parties
Greece should apply the necessary reforms, otherwise it “should not expect acts of solidarity,” stated Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the Eurogroup during an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. He added: “If the economy ministers of the eurozone come to the conclusion that everything goes badly in Greece, there is not going to be any new aid package, this will lead to a declaration of a default.”
Nobody, Greek or European, has any doubts that Greece is at a tight corner. The second bailout of 130 billion euros, which was agreed with EU, IMF and ECB, is conditional on the toughest-ever austerity package which will lead to mass dismissals of public employees, abolishment of minimum wage limit, abolishment of bonus payments, and a long series of other painful measures. If the government does not agree on these, the country may default on its payments in a few weeks.
For the past week, Athens has been involved in the toughest “two-tier” negotiations both with its creditors, i.e. international banks who are trying to agree on the terms of a large write-off or “haircut” of at least 100 billion euros of its debt through a bond swap. At the same time, another set of tough negotiations is going on with Greece’s debt inspectors –the “troika”- from IMF, ECB and the EU for unlocking the bail out money which was already agreed in October. Both sets of negotiations are linked to the demand for a firm commitment by the temporarily appointed prime minister Loukas Papadimos who is heading a coalition supported by three parties.
As I write these, the three party leaders had not given the go-ahead to the deal and the whole operation was stalled. On top of that, latest figures regarding the depth of the recession in Greece have added to the argument that the money offered by the “troika” will not be sufficient and that a further injection of perhaps 20 billion euros could be needed.
Europeans and the IMF, though, put all the blame on the Greek politicians. They accuse them for not “playing straight,” for not doing what they agreed to and for not collaborating with each other for the good of the country. They also stress that Greece should be treated –and “punished”- as an example in order to avoid contagious side effects. However, they know that the Greek politicians are their main interlocutors and it is with them that they have to agree.
Ironically though, while the foreign representatives continue their negotiations on the details of the new economic and social map which will shape Greece in the near future, the political map of the country has mutated into a different shape and character.
Few would disagree that the past two years-which coincide with the rule of PASOK government-, will go down in Greece’s history as one of the worst periods in terms of handling an economic crisis against a European and global recession. The country has been barely surviving on bail out agreements with Europe and IMF which have pushed the country further to recession.
For its poor leadership and lack of will to reform a malfunctioning infrastructure not to upset its electorate, Papandreou’s party is already at the point of disintegration. Latest figures show that in the coming elections it may lose as much as two thirds of its deputies. At the same time a large portion of the Greek electorate has moved to leftist parties, old and newly formed. In a recent poll, the newly formed party of Democratic Left shot up second with 13% after the party of the center-right main opposition of New Democracy which has also lost many of its followers once it modified its oppositional line to the austerity program.
As political preferences stand at the moment, and provided that elections are to be held in the spring, perhaps as many as 10 parties may enter the new parliament – six more than before - and no party will be able to gain overall majority. What is more interesting is that if New Democracy becomes the first party, who will be its coalition partner as all three leftists parties which appear next in line are opposing any agreement for an austerity program?
Obviously, this is a time for compromises but whichever of those leftwing parties enters the coalition should know that any diversion in their line should not go beyond the expectations of its electorate.