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19 February 2012
DEMOCRACY ABOLISHED IN GREECE
Democracy has been officially abolished in Greece, the cradle of western democracy.
Both main political parties – the Panhellenic “Socialist” Movement (Pasok) and the conservative New Democracy (ND) party – have signed statements pledging that – no matter what happens in the Greek parliamentary elections in two months’ time – they will not renege on an austerity package just approved in the Greek parliament (Boule).
On 12 Febuary 2012 the Boule, which is controlled by Pasok and ND, ignored mass protests and voted by 199 votes to 74 to adopt the savage cuts in public spending demanded by Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington in exchange for an international bail-out loan to stave off national bankruptcy.
The troika negotiating the bail-out with Greece – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – made it crystal-clear to the Greek party bosses, George Papandreou of Pasok and Antonis Samaras of ND, that unless they signed a pledge that the austerity measures were irreversible, regardless of the democratic vote in April, there would be no bail-out.
Papandreou, who is slated to lose the election anyway, apparently signed unconditionally but – according to a report in the Guardian newspaper on 16 February 2012 – Samaras, whom opinion polls expect to win most seats in the next Boule, added to his statement the following rider: “Policy modifications might be required to guarantee the full programme’s implementation. We intend to bring these issues to discussion along with viable policy alternatives.”
It remains to be seen whether the eurozone ministers who are due to meet tomorrow 20 February will agree to gloss over Samaras’s weasel codicil and give their okay to the bail-out.
It also remains to be seen, given popular revulsion at the austerity package, whether Samaras will in fact do as well in the April election as the opinion polls have been suggesting. Given the turmoil in Greece over the past couple of years, it would be a wise man who could predict the outcome. The hard left, for instance, have been threatening an upset. We shall see.
The situation in Greece proves the truth of the old adage: “If voting changed anything, it wouldn’t be allowed.” The troika is allowing the elections in Greece to go ahead provided that they don’t change anything.
Some 2500 years ago – in Athens in 462 BC – the powers of the Areopagus, the conservative-leaning judicial and political council composed of elder statesmen and old freddies and championed by the influential military commander Cimon, were transferred to democratic institutions (popular courts, elected councilors and an assembly of all citizens) in a reform engineered by Ephialtes (who was murdered for his pains in 457 BC, Cimon living on until 449 BC).
Ephialtes! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
the Hellenic Democratia hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient Grecian dower
Of inward happiness………
With apologies to Milton and Wordsworth.