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Greeks are ready for change, but tired of government inefficiency

22 December 2011 / 01:12:29  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

About two months after the coalition government of the technocrat Lucas Papademos was composed, it cannot boast of special achievements from its functioning. Instead of focusing on the tasks assigned, the participants in the office continue to engage in partisan interests. This has made the Ministry of Finance recognize that it was not able to meet the targets. Then, immediately followed rumours that after the holidays, new economic measures are expected to be announced. At the same time, more and more Greeks, who were initially satisfied with a recognized financial expert from the West taking the power, are now disappointed with the lack of results and prefer elections.

GRReporter turned for comment to the head of one of the largest Greek polls agencies MRB, Dimitris Mavros. Here is his very interesting analysis.

"At the beginning of their mandates, governments always have a large percentage of citizens’ approval. It decreases significantly in the middle of the term and grows again at its end due to people's hope for something new or to pre-election promises, depending on whether the government will be re-elected or whether it will meet initial expectations or not. The same, but in a very short period of time, is happening with the present Greek government, the term of which is about three months at least formally. That was presented and formed in the minds of people who expect elections to be held in February or March, despite the continuing political and media discussion about the length and existence of today's government. Its performance is evaluated according to this criterion. Therefore, when there is a decline in public opinion after a month and a half, this means that the government is in the middle of its term.

In recent days, I hear the media say that polls show conflicting assessments of whether the government and the Prime Minister are successful in their work, because the percentage of positive answers to some questions is very large, but to others – it is not. When asking questions related to the respect in Lucas Papademos as a person, the results are positive. The percentages are not about 70 as at the beginning, but still about 50 per cent. However, when asking more "difficult" questions such as "how do you assess the position and actions of Mr. Papademos regarding the situation with which the government and country have to deal," things change. People's assessment is based on managerial criteria; it is related to what they have experienced as a change in their lives after Lucas Papademos was appointed Prime Minister. In practice, there is almost no change. The problems are still here, the adoption of new economic measures is being discussed, and there is no progress in performance on different issues for different objective and subjective reasons. In this case, the assessment is based on the performance of the cabinet and approval rates are about 35 per cent."

On the other hand, Greeks clearly prefer a coalition government. "Nobody from the public is convinced that a single-party government is able to solve the problems. This is the reason for the huge percentage, about 60-70 per cent in favour of "nobody" concerning the face of the future prime minister and the formation of single-party government. The implication is that it would be possible to take some decisions that would have an effect if all parties were locked in parliament, the key thrown away and they were required to understand each other. Therefore, asked what kind of government they prefer, the main response of the Greeks is a government with the participation of all parties. When we ask them whether they would elect Lucas Papademos prime minister in such a government, he does not receive the percentage of respect and affection but the percentage of performance and he "falls" again to 35 per cent."

Given the internal party bickering tearing apart PASOK, which is the key player in the Greek cabinet and the frequent outbreaks of various opinions in New Democracy, the views have become more frequent lately that the end of the two-party system in Greece is coming. Do the Greeks support such an option? "Not only today but even a year ago, we reported trends in the emergence of new political formations. Let me explain with an example: When a diabetic gets a low blood sugar attack, the person needs sugar. However, does this person have to eat something sweet? Of course, he does not. In this sense, people feel that there is a lack of leadership in Greece. They understand that the political system, which they asses with a negative rate of about 70 per cent, is not effective. Therefore, because people reject it, they say they prefer something new. This something new, however, does not necessarily have to come from "pure birth" as we very well know. To do this, we will need to go through a revolution, i.e. this new thing should come from the streets or from abroad, or to talk in terms of today, the media should not find skeletons in the trunks of this new form of government. But it takes time to build something new, otherwise we have to go the way of Argentina. I recently had a discussion with the Minister of Economy in 2001 - 2002 Domenico Cavallo. Argentina experienced such processes, but there were 42 victims until it got to the point at which both major parties were dismantled and it reached today's government. However, we are not in this situation. We can use our own perception, for which there are no specific data, but we report it in indirect ways. I would like to add that when people are scared, they seek stability rather than new things unless they have already passed to the opposite bank and now, they are looking for anything. I think the Greek has not reached that level; we are still looking for stable things. This explains the choice of Lucas Papademos. He was not unknown to the Greek public. We knew very well who he was, what he was in Greece, what positions he held abroad and we chose him precisely for his abilities to administer certain situations. Therefore, the Greek is rather seeking to create an intermediate stage of some familiar, forgotten, worthy "materials" until the country manages to stand on its own two feet and when this happens, to seek a new and revolutionary solution rather than to proceed directly to it. Nevertheless, if things in the country continues to evolve in the same way, and leaves the eurozone, etc., then such a scenario is probably possible."

The dynamics, which the Movement of Discontented in Athens and Thessaloniki had gained shortly after its appearance, gave impetus to the proponents of the idea of ​​the full twist to believe that they were able to achieve it. Although it was one of the first in the world, the Movement of Discontented faded. I asked Dimitris Mavros what the reason was for this outcome. "In May, when the movement was at its climax, we conducted a survey of the discontented. We detected the presence of two main features. The first was that the movement had no internal structure at the level of political ideology. This means that it involved supporters of all political range and this made it difficult for them to understand each other. There were moments when the people up the square were talking about one thing and those down the square were talking about something quite different – i.e. only the general problem connected these people. The second feature is the belief of the people, which is the main reason why they are not out on the street in the expected scale. "Nothing will change whatever I do. We have to go through all that is happening now," responded 66 per cent of them. Therefore, we could say that people let things take their course. To this, I would add the feelings we have reported recently in the results of the latest trends. The first feeling is anger, which mobilizes people and makes them go out in the streets, and disappointment. It is one of the indicators of letting things take their course that I mentioned. It is not easy to stir up revolutionary process in such a mood among people, although when we ask whether they expect a rebellion in the future, 70 per cent answer positively. However, we reported this result in the last year but this rebellion has never occurred."

Dimitris Mavros’ answer to the rhetoric, which has intensified during the last period, that if left forces in Greece manage to unite they could make their own government, is definite. "In September, when the government was still stable, Domenico Cavallo asked about the sum of left-wing parties in Greece. I answered that the centre-left rhetoric in Greece might take precedence, but in reality, it is a deeply conservative side, developing in this way. A separate issue is whether the left is ready to start governing, but in any case, we cannot ignore the fact that this discussion is in the public space.

The reason for its appearance was mainly the higher rates of public support for leftist parties. "If we add the percentages of the Communist Party, the left coalition SYRIZA and Democratic Left, the sum is 30 per cent." According to Dimitris Mavros, this sharp increase is mainly due to the outflow of supporters of PASOK to them. "Currently, 12 per cent of the Greeks support PASOK. And because it is a left-centre party, it is quite ordinary for its followers to turn to left formations. The younger and more left and revolutionary voters of PASOK have turned to SYRIZA and the people of mature age with a centre-left orientation and more conservative profile support the Democratic Left. If we look at the internal structure of PASOK, we will see that a third of the voters still support it, a third has turned to all other parties and 33 per cent belong to the group of "indeterminate vote." The Greek Left is not mature; it is still a teenager. Remember that during 2007-2008, the coalition SYRIZA had reached 17-18 per cent, which it lost later. Therefore, we cannot know how those 30 per cent of PASOK, who currently are "immigrants", would vote. Their vote will depend on the change or non-change in party leadership, on whether the country will have a stable government the next period."

But what do the Greeks think of the crisis and the outcome of it? Do they believe that failure is near and fear the probability of the country exiting the eurozone?

"Yes, fear of failure is growing. It is currently about 65-67 per cent. When we ask people whether they would prefer Greece to exit the eurozone, 80 per cent of them respond negatively. When we ask whether the decision to join the eurozone was right, the ratio of supporters and opponents is 46-46 per cent. This means that now they understand how difficult issues had to be solved differently in the period when we joined the eurozone. I am not an economist, but I do say, was the drachma - euro ratio incorrect or was there something else. Citizens understand this instinctively and say, "we had to do some things differently then." But today, when we are in the eurozone and have arranged our lives around the euro and Europe, people are startled by the thought that Greece could exit the European structures.

Here we see absolute confusion: I see the collapse coming, I do not want to exit the eurozone, but I am not sure whether it was the right decision to join it. If there is no one who could explain these things properly and make us understand very precisely, what the consequences would be of returning to the drachma, of staying in the eurozone and of the printing of money by the European Central Bank, we cannot gain a clear notion of ​​what should happen.

The first emphasis of citizens and companies as a prerequisite to have confidence in the government again and in the implementation of measures is the punishment of all those, who squander public funds. Currently, Greek society wants "blood", whether those to be blamed that things have come so far will be punished, or those responsible for today's situation will be punished. This course is a bad basis if considered as a basis for protests."

According to Dimitris Mavros, currently, the Greeks are seeking not only hope but also stability in what will happen ahead. "The PASOK government had the support of citizens, even after signing the memorandum with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, because they felt that we need to do some things for our country. Things changed when people realized that the government is not sufficiently efficient in the implementation of measures and because of this inefficiency, more and more measures are continuously applied. And it is not at all clear whether the new measures that will be applied now should not have been implemented earlier, so their response is not correct. I.e. the requirement for stability includes government stability. The second thing that people in Greece are seeking is restoring their personal and national dignity, which is now torn."

Despite the widespread opinion in international media, Dimitris Mavros is convinced that the Greeks are ready for reform. "I think the head of the action group Horst Reichenbach rightly considers that he must use the mentality of the Greeks, not to confront it. Recently, he said that whether they acted right or wrong in the past, the Greeks have made double sacrifices compared with the Portuguese and Irish to cope with the financial problems. This is a very sound approach to get the Greeks mobilized. Yes, the Greeks have realized that they have to fix some things, which they did not do properly in the past. But what they are not able to forgive is that while they are making sacrifices, the government is not efficient and this is leading to new additional austerity measures."

Tags: SocietyPoliticsPollDimitris MavrosGovernmentChange
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