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If I were a Greek ...

25 April 2012 / 22:04:18  GRReporter
4748 reads

Victoria Mindova

Elections in Greece are important not only for the Greeks themselves but also for the foreigners who live in the country permanently. Many of them do not have the right to vote, but they have an opinion about the political and economic state of Greece, which is their second home. GRReporter contacted people from different fields and countries, who know the current situation in Greece well, and asked them what they expect from the elections in May.

The composer: There comes a vote of discontent

"There will be a vote of discontent in these elections," said composer Yuri Stupel. He has been living and working in Greece for 20 years now and knows the Mediterranean country well. He agrees with many of the local people that the measures taken so far are unidirectional and inefficient. People in Greece may have turned their backs on the major parties after the deepening of the crisis, but their smaller rivals cannot take advantage of this situation, said Stupel. Small political parties are deeply engaged in scuffling with each other and cannot unite.

In his opinion, the National Assembly will be composed of seven or eight parties and because Greece has no tradition of multiparty governance, this will bring chaos in the system. The situation is already very difficult and people’s discontent will play a more important role in the elections than the qualities of candidates. "The crisis is almost insurmountable and it is not known whether Greece will remain in the euro area. The country has been assisted so far in order to limit the problem. After so much money has been allocated, it has become clear that it was spent in vain. The more money given, the worse the economy."

According to the composer, the right vote is the one for centre parties that support the European perspective of Greece. The Bulgarian author has the right to vote in the Mediterranean country and intends to do it on 6 May this year. And if things in Greece get even worse, there is always the option to return with his family to Bulgaria. "I do not think the drachma should return in order to decide to leave Greece. This has more a symbolic than practical meaning if the situation in the country worsens to such an extent."

The diplomat: I expect a weak government

"The Greek people do not know how to channel their anger at the old politicians into a choice of competent new politicians. I think that the result will be a disappointing deadlock where New Democracy has no new ideas to offer and PASOK cannot provide enough additional legitimacy to make and combine the government effectively." This is how U.S. diplomat Brady Kiesling described Greece’s pre-election deadlock in 2012. He assessed that it is a healthy process that both major parties in Greece have lost support. However, he did not fail to note that the parties that can offer a genuine alternative are not doing very well in communicating with voters. He gave the example of Stefanos Manos’ party Drasi. "It has some very bright capable people but no one is paying attention to them. That is a disappointment to me," Kiesling admitted.

The diplomat said that he advises his Greek friends to vote for Drasi, because this is the only party that is honest about the situation in the country and the measures to be taken. "It is most clearly stating the obvious, which is that the Greek state is now a fatal obstacle to economic development."  He is clear that until the Greek public sector is radically reformed and becomes almost invisible, the country will not be able to produce and compete. He is not optimistic about the outcome of the elections and the capacity of the next government, no matter what it will be.

"What I expect is a weak government coming out that will essentially be driven by external pressure, by the European Union, by the creditors and it is not a recipe for effective reforms." Kiesling pointed out that people in Greece know that politicians are lying but they expect it and do not get angry at it. That is why they do not pay enough attention to Stefanos Manos’ party. "They all agree Manos is intelligent and honest, he is right about things but the people are very reluctant to vote for him. And part of that is due to the old tradition that you have to vote for one of the parties that will get your child a job in the post office (for example)." The diplomat stressed that any politician who promises that he will find jobs for all is lying. Manos does not lie and maybe he is not so popular among the Greeks for that reason.

The businessman: The vote in May will be difficult

The upcoming elections will be the most important in the last 20 years in the history of Greece because it will depend on the new government whether the country will remain within the euro area and the European Union. This is the firm opinion of businessman Abdellatif Barakat from Egypt, who has been living and operating in the Mediterranean country for many years now. "These elections will determine the future of the Greek economy, the state of the Greek people and the direction we will take from now on." He said that there is currently a large distance between parties and voters - a connection that was much closer in previous years. This gap cannot be filled easily and this makes the election of a new cabinet difficult.  

When asked whom he would support if he had the right to vote in the Greek elections Barakat said, "It would be very hard to decide. This is not an easy decision. I would think it over before choosing to which of the existing parties I would give my vote." The businessman believes that no matter who would come to power, urgent reforms should be carried out quickly and responsibly so as to facilitate entrepreneurship in the country. "We cannot talk about economic growth, given that entrepreneurs are facing huge obstacles, problems and bureaucracy." He explained how cumbersome the procedures in the Greek institutions are. The amounts due to social funds, tax administration and chambers of commerce are growing, while the services offered by the institutions are getting worse. "The next government must consider how to pave the way for entrepreneurs, not how to block it," insists the Egyptian businessman.

The journalist: A second round of elections is possible

If neither party wins the majority necessary to form a cabinet and cannot make a cross-party coalition, a second round of elections will possibly take place in Greece. This is the opinion of ITAR-TASS correspondent Yury Malinov, who has been monitoring the situation in Greece for years and who is aware of the peculiarities of local politics. "Everything depends on Brussels reaction to such scenarios. There is no signal yet that if Greece does not form a government in the first round the bailout will be frozen. Maybe we will not get there and maybe Antonis Samaras will win enough votes to make an independent government, but there is no way to know this in advance," said the Russian correspondent.

Yury Malinov is cautious in his expectations, but hopes that if Samaras takes the power with New Democracy, he will fulfil his promises of Zappeio 3. He does not expect major changes in the economic policy because it is bound by the obligations under the bailout agreement. He said he could not identify a party or a leader who will ensure success. According to him, Samaras will most likely win the elections. "I hope I am wrong, but I do not think anyone could seriously deviate from the framework of the Memorandum at this stage."

Whatever the election outcome, Malinov believes that Greece will not leave the euro area. "Neither Greece nor Europe will benefit from this. The stakes are too high. If they were to allow the country to leave the euro area, they would not have made much effort in the last three years." The journalist noted that haircutting one third of the debt is not in vain and this process is only strengthening the positions of the country within the euro area. Greece is a small country with a huge debt. Once the creditors have agreed to write off around 100 billion euro, then the external forces want it to remain in the euro area. "Currently, almost the entire Greek debt is in the hands of institutional lenders and other European countries. They would not take the risk of allowing Greece to leave the currency union." Malinov is positive. He believes that due to the recovery programme, the country will become more competitive and will slowly begin emerging from the crisis.


Tags: PoliticsElectionsGreeceGovernmentOpinion
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