Τετάρτη, 28 Ιανουαρίου 2015

The expats guide to Greek politics part 2

Note: I'm ditching the "housewives" from the title, it was only a little joke anyway...

Here is a little more on Greece.

Politics.

Like opening a can of worms in ANY country...



But greek politics? more like opening two cans of worms...



I started this article as something slightly different, to give an overview of the situation in Greece currently. Because I like to always do a little research before I put my views about for anyone to see, I did a litlle digging for information...

Here is what I've come up with or know
Let's start with a very quick overview of greek politics over the years..

The ANCIENT Greeks invented Democracy. Real, True, Democracy, meaning justice for all and equality between poor and rich, only lasted for about 140 years. It was a little known man, by the name of Efialtes who managed to create and implement a proper judicial system that allowed the poor a shot at equality and stopped the rich for overruning everything and turning the Democracy into an Oligarchy (where the few rule). The rich of ancient Athens were so in awe of this wise man, Efialtes, that they often saw him, chasing them, in their dreams... and thus the Greek word for "nightmare" came about... Efialtis lost its capital "E" and now means nightmare.

Efialtes in comic book style...
Once they got rid of him and his friends, all ideas of Democracy were forgotten, and Democracy never returned to Greece. Ever. And I'm afraid I kid you not...
In fact, as History is written by the winners, and made to justify the present, they almost managed to "write"  poor Efialtes out of History, altogether...you will see very little mention of him anywhere.

Greece went on to be invaded by Romans, Vandals, Turks, to have kings, to have oligarchs and tyrrants, emperors and dictators... but never again a Democracy... only semblances of one, only bad copies..

And...that wraps up the history lesson for today...

Let's lighten up a bit and take a look at the players in today's political scene...:

NEA DIMOKRATIA
The New Democracy is your classic "Tories". The party was created when it was realised the colonels had to go in 1974 and there was a requirement for a civilian government to take over. A transitory government was formed under Kostantine Karamanlis Senior, and then elections were held which they comfortably won. Nea Dimokratia has since changed a few "proedrous", one of the most famous being Mr Kostas Mitsotakis, who is notorious for being the world record holder in the evil eye. It is believed that if he wishes you  "good morning", you could possibly die within the hour...
Many of its "proedroi" and members were, or had, close ties with Nazi collaborators.
(after election update: ex-PM Samaras, hated by many ND members for being the one who toppled the government in 1992, REFUSED to be present at the handover ceremony of the PM's offices... very bad show I'm afraid...and I refuse to let it go...)
In other news, the notorious Mitsotakis suffered a heart attack on election day and has since had a pacemaker installed (I'm not kidding)
Another take on the New Democracy logo...
PASOK
Stands for Panelinio Sosialistiko Kinima. Started by Mr Andreas Papandreou, George's father. Rumour has it the Americans funded the party originally. The idea is they could see their cronies until then (Nea Dimokratia) loosing ground so they decided to put the "other side" in their pockets too. There are, supposedly, declassified CIA documents proving this.. (bit of a conspiracy theory that, but you know what they say? Where there is smoke, there is fire...) PASOK managed to win a landslide victory in 1981, after which it was all downhill... Money was pouring in from the EU, supposedly for building infrastructures for the country to progress, while all the time the politicians were just lining each others pockets with it, and  taking care of "rousfetia" (political favors) by creating jobs for everyone who had voted for them and their family...(and extended family...) A famous moment was when Papandreou shouted to his then Minister of Finance, Mr Tsovolas, "Tsovola dosta ola!!" (Tsovolas give it all away!) Papandreou's father, George senior is also reported to have been a Nazi collaborator..
PASOK today is a joke. Mr Venizelos the party "proedros", is a prime example of all that is wrong with the politics of this country. Famous for writing (and passing) the law that protects all ministers from any responsibility towards the people and stopping justice from getting them, he once famously changed his surname to make it better for his political career. His real surname is Turkoglou... (now THAT wouldn't do...)
(Election update: After George Papandreou or GAP , set up his own party, they ended up with a meager 5% or less at the elections. That is 5% more than they should have got as far as I'm concerned...)
High time the green sun was swept away...
KKE
The Communist Party. As Communist parties go, seriously hardline... They have fluctuated up and down in percentages, from about 5-11%. Even though they 've taken part in coalitions before (1974) and once even teamed up (an unholy alliance, if there ever was one) with Nea Dimokratia to create the government that would take Andreas Papandreou to court, they are so hardline they refuse to join up with any other party or movement of the Left, even abroad! Something which has not helped them at all... Famous for being one of the few Communist parties to survive the fall of socialism in 1989.
Also famous for apparently having some secret rule that its leaders must be the most bland and uncharismatic people possible. They talk a special language which is called "xilini" (wooden in Greek)  In fact now I think of it, it makes sense..they are a bit like the wooden puppets in Stingray...



SYRIZA
The Left in Greece, has often been broken up into dozens of smaller parties...in 2001, some of these smaller groups managed to put their heads together and create a sort of a common platform... It wasn't easy, Greeks being Greeks... but after a few ups and downs it got to were it is today.. Many of the "more left leaning" and older members are afraid that too many old PASOK members have made their way into the party... This is probably true, as SYRIZA was a middle of the road Eurocommunist/socialist party they could associate with... SYRIZA, like almost every other Greek party has had (and has...) its share of infamous memebers... Two that quickly spring to mind , Petros Tatsopoulos who once, famously, claimed in parliament to have bedded half of Athens.



The other one Grigoris Psarianos, a music producer and songwriter who drives around in little red sportscars and smoke cigars, and has a penchant for making a fool of himself... He was once caught on camera saying the Parliament should be burned down, and another time claiming the "17th November" had the people's support when they were murdering "ex-torturers, killers and proven assholes". When he was young he wrote a popular song, amongst whose lyrics was the following line "oh how I wish I could fart on the seats of parliament" (It actually makes for quite a good rhyme in Greek...)

what did I just say?!!


POTAMI (The River)
Fancy naming a political party after a Bruce Springsteen song... Potami leader Mr Theodorakis, is a lifestyle reporter, famous for his ... "rucksack" and casual dress, who thinking himself pretty clever and with the backup of a big media player behind him, decided to create "The River" party... sounds like fun eh! (His backer is Bobolas, owner of Mega channel and big time contractor of practically every major roadwork in Greece. He is also tied to the infamous "Skouries" gold mine) Unfortunately ole Stav, has all the charisma of a wet rag (always wanted to say that about someone) and you only have to listen to him once to understand how full of himself he is...
(Breaking news...a memo has surfaced, which he sent to his campaigners, during the last few days before the election. In it he proposes that they concentrate on the undecided... and if they are women, that they they should remind them, he was the guy that did the "Protagonistes" reporting show on TV...) he's sad really.
(A little example of how things work with big interests... Bobolas builds the roads, and gets paid for it. Then he also gets the income from the tolls for a certain amount of years, supposedly to maintain the roads..and when due to the crisis the tolls are not making as much as he would like, he puts in a claim for loss of income and gets 350 million Euros compensation! Paid by us!)

stavroeconomy..if we raise wages, the raise will be spent on fuel, and food which are mostly inported so that will increase the deficit..so we say less wages! (and he really did say it...)

KIDISO
Another joke. George Papandreou junior, famous for being the PM that signed ours and our chidrens lives away when he asked for IMF and EU intervention in 2009, has crawled out of the woodwork, and created a new party... The Democratic Socialists Movement... He has some gall...One of his brothers apparently made a fortune out of dealing in CDS at the time...and the other is said to have been some kind of spy... yet here he is, asking us to vote for him again... The only good thing that can come out of this is that maybe, just maybe, with the "split" PASOK and KIDISO will (I do so wish) come out under 3% and find themselves out of parliament... (fingers crossed...)
(Update: KIDISO, I told you so...  they only got 2.4% and didn't get into parliament...yeah!!!)

George Andreas Papandreou or GAP


Golden (frigging) Dawn.
A bunch of thugs, masquerading as a political party. Half of them are already in jail for killing a leftwing rapper called Pavlos Fyssas. They are all a brainless bunch of Nazi-loving idiots, and anybody who votes for them is a seriously  troubled individual... Their leader is in jail too.
(Only in Greece... policemen vote in separate voting centers as they are on duty... So it is possible to sort of see what they vote for... Golden Dawn regularly gets 40-50% in these voting centers..making for the surreal situation where policemen are actually voting for criminals...) Golden Dawn managed to be the third party again...(I will dedicate a complete post to this shame...)

need we say more?
LAOS
Only slightly less fascist than the previous ones, in that they don't make it so obvious... LAOS stands for Popular Orthodox Alarm..and... yes it is alarming... LAOS notoriously joined up to create a coalition government back in 2011 when Papandreou resigned. Two of the party members, Adonis Georgiadis, a true political circus act, and Makis Voridis (axe wielding ex member of a militant extreme right wing group called EPEN) quickly saw what was good for them and jumped ship joining Nea Dimokratia. LAOS is the classic "For God, family and country" kind of party... think Junta and colonels nostalgia, think extreme right wing lovers of Greek tradition, think in some cases even nostalgic believers in the pantheon of Gods! (you know the 12 on Mount Olympus...) Think Republicans...

Adonis Georgiadis ex television book salesman, turned Minister of Health...
ANEL
Led by Panos Kammenos, Greece's answer to Nigel Farage, the "Independent Greeks"  are a bit of a mishmash... Apparently Mr Kammenos is one of those who believe we are being sprayed from above... (chemtrails) (you never know, could be true...) On a more serious note, they are the small party who joined up with Syriza to create a coalition government a couple of days ago. Mr Kammenow was one of the first politicians to start calling things by their name back in 2010, or even before. The fact they talk about the good of the country and patriotism, has left many with the impression that they are slightly nationalistic... also they wish to see a proper solution to the immigrant problem... However I believe it may be a case of some misunderstanding..also the media has targeted them heavily...  I know people who are members and are quite respectful and certainly not nationalists...

Panow Kammenos doing something h is good at. Getting angry!


And that wraps up the presentation for tonight... There a re a number of smaller parties, DIMAR quickly spring to mind who were part of the previous government in the beggining, but lost so much in poppularity, they are no almost nothing...
Also some quaint ones, we will go into in the next part...

Part 3 soon to come... 

Breaking news from Greece...

I said it in my previous post... political time has become incredibly dense...

Here is another thing I've realised much to my amusement... no matter how careful one is, it is still possible to get misinformed...

But more on that in another post.

Ministries are still in the process of being handed over, but changes, symbolic or "real" are already underway...

Here are a few from today:

The guardrails that stood in front of the Parliament for the last two years, permanently, have been taken away!!

I classify that one in the symbolic gestures, albeit an important one.

On the 28th-29th of June 2011 I went to Syntagma Square with some friends, to participate in the protest against the first memorandum. I remember the Parliament building as being this "monolithic presence", with windows tightly closed and surrounded by fences and rows of riot police.
The fences at the time were "temporary" but as the austerity measures progressed and the government increasingly showed it's unwillingness to back off, the fences became permanent.

A permanent reminder that it was us against them..

Today the fences were removed. Because the new government believes they don't need to cultivate a climate of fear... that they have nothing to fear from the people.

An announcement was made this morning on the matter by Minister of Protection of the citizen, Mr Yiannis Panousis, who added that the Police needs to work for the citizen and not against them. Police will keep a lower profile at protests, as in his own words "we need better policing and not a police state"

By 12 o clock, the fences were gone!

before

after

Meanwhile changes have been announced in the educational system, some people are getting their jobs back, mre specifically the cleaning ladies of the Ministry of finance and the school janitors/guards who were laid off. The Minister of Finance, Yiannis Varoufakis, a world renowned Professor of Economy, said the money to pay them will come from cuts in other parts of the ministry budget itself, namely large sums going to various advisors, while the Ministry will make better use of its own resources from now on...

cool dude Yiannis Varoufakis, minister of Finance, explaining how the markets will be taught a greek dance called Pentozali...
The Athens stockmarket, essentially collapsed today, which is a good thing... (personal opinion) enough with the bloody stock markets..let's see economies for real people and not markets...

Τρίτη, 27 Ιανουαρίου 2015

The expat housewives guide to Greek politics, or else an attempt to promote healthier (and livelier!!) tableside conversation

Let me start by saying a big thank you to Min for inadvertedly giving me the idea...
and let me continue, by apologising for not posting more prior to the elections...

Time, and especially political time, is "denser" than ever, more so obviously in Greece, where there has been a change of government, and things are "happening" left, right and center...
I started writing this 'bout 5 days ago, but the news I have to "catch up" with is of a stupendous volume... I think it would be best if I make it in a couple of parts... so here goes part one...:

On Sunday the 25th of January, after one of the shortest pre-election periods ever, Syriza and Alekos Tsipras, won a resounding victory and ousted the right wing coalition government set up after the 2012 elections.

They did this against tremendous odds.

Greece's media, controlled by a rich and corrupt few, did everything it could to create a fear against the Left winning.

As the date came near, we expected to hear that if Syriza won, Godzilla would rise out of the Aegean and trample all over the Akropolis...


In other news today, Akropolis attacked by Godzilla. Elgin Marbles safe in London..

Unless one has a thorough knowledge of 20th century Greek History and politics, it is difficult to realise what a monumentous occasion this is.

For many people, this is or at least we hope it is, a case of the new winning against the old...

Syriza is a left wing party that evolved from a number of smaller Left wing parties gettting together in 2001. Communism and the left have a long, and troubled story, in Greece.

Greece at the beggining of the century was an incredibly "backward" country, compared to the rest of Europe. Under Turkish occupation, there had been no Enlightenment worth talking about, no real Industrial Revolution... The main urban centers were Athens, Thessaloniki, Smyrna and Istanbul. the latter two were Turkish, but had large greek populations.
(My great-grandmother was a big land owner near Smyrna, with about 85 people working for her then. after 1922 though she became one of the 1,500,000 immigrants that flocked to Greece, in order to get away from the genocidal Kurds...because it was they who did the dirty work for the Turks, in the agreement they would get the benefit of the land the greeks left behind...)

Greece was beset with many problems, external and internal. The long occupation by the Turks, had left many marks and they weren't only mousakas, kazan dipi and "greek" coffee... (actually turkish coffee..)

The major part of the population was illiterate, there was not much in the way of infrastructure, and nepotism and corruption, ruled. Large parts of Greece toiled under a kind of feudal system...

In 1918, the first greek Communist party was created. In a land with little if any industry, it struggled to apply the Marxist theory to the greek reality...

Communism never really gained much of a foothold here, until the Second world War. Then the Communists became the Greek resistance.

I should add here a ltiile known fact. There were a couple of Greek fascist parties, and one of them even made an attempt at a coup before the war. In fact even Ioannis Metaxas, who famously said "OXI" to Mussolini's advances and effectively plunged greece into the war, was a dictator himself...

Throughout the german occupation, there were many Greeks who joined with the mainly communist "Liberation Army" and fought the Germans in any way they could. Many would pay for it dearly, with their lives... amongst them 200 executed at the Kaisiariani shooting range, and in many cases whole villages that were burned to the ground in retaliation for resistance attacks.

There were sadly, also many greeks who collaborated extensively with the Germans, many right wing politicians as well.

After the war a terrible thing happened. The Nazi collaborators were initially locked up in order to await trial as many of them had taken part in atrocities and torture. Some of them even fled the country together with the 3rd Reich forces pulling back...

As Athens was liberated, the greek Communist Resistance already had organised a loose form of government to aid reorganisation. Stalin and the allies however had already divided up the world between them.. and Greece was meant to be "Western"... Churchill, fearing the communists would take over and spoil the plan, let the Nazi collaboratoring Greeks free, gave them weapons and set them fighting against the "Liberation army" There ensued a bloody civil war, out of which the winners were the "bad guys"... (with aid by the US and Britain...)

Nazi collaborators were never brought to justice, with few exceptions, and instead they ended up running the country. Almost every government since then has had some ties to them. They were (and are) everywhere...

Thus you might say, there was never any closure in Greece re the war... add to that, there were no damages paid by the germans and also the money/gold they "borrowed" during the war was never returned...

Talk about adding insult to injury...

So when Alekos Tsipras yesterday was sworn in as PM (with a political oath and not a religious one, another break from "tradition") his first visit was to the Kaisariani monument to pay his respects to the 200 comrades who lost their lives there... and he was making a strong point...

Laying a few flowers at the monument


Walking past the names, maybe a little message to Merkel, we have not forgotten our fallen comrades?

And when Mr Samaras in a terrible breach of etiquette refused to show up at the Megaro Maximou and hand over the keys and building to the new left wing Prime minister...he was also showing, just how very very much this hurt... to be the first PM to lose to the Left... (priceless if you ask me... what an absolute jerk, a bad, bad loser)



But what really is Syriza?
Even though I have never been a member I've voted for them in the past and in this election. Many of us are afraid there are too many ex-PASOK members to do any good, for one thing...  Syriza has a Communist background, but the KKE (the greek Stalinist/Communist party wants nothing to do them) I believe Syriza is a more european version of the Left... a more people orientated party.
At the very least Syriza is a break with the old...that is what we hope. Younger Greeks would like to see a distinct separation of church and State, an end to corruption, a state centered around the good of the people and not the chosen few...

Are we certain this will happen? Not by far. But many of us are more than willing to chip in FOR it to happen, and many woke up on Monday feeling distinctly more optimistic. Many of the people who make up Syriza' ranks are people we know, people we trust, people we like. Many of the people who make up Syriza's ranks are exactly that.

People.

These girls lost their jobs to be replaced by contractors. But they can still smile worth a million bucks...