Greece: Election campaign marked by lies and blackmail

Issue 
A protest in Greece against austerity, March 21.

The people of Greece will go to the polls on May 6 to replace the unelected government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos imposed by the Greek and European elites on November 10.

The imposed government was a three-party coalition, consisting of the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), traditional right-wing New Democracy (ND) and extreme-right Popular Orthodox Alert (LAOS). LAOS left the government in February.

The Papademos government came to the rescue of the system when the government headed by PASOK PM George Papandreou buckled under the weight of widespread popular opposition.

Government officials were frank about the purpose of the appointed administration. They said its aim was to implement the October 26 European summit agreement package.

Sure enough, the unelected government delivered. It pushed through more of the same austerity measures that had ravaged Greece since the first memorandum imposed by the troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union.

The measures included wage and pension cuts, huge tax rises, as well as slashed funding for health, education, welfare and culture.

The government and the troika have made no secret of their wish to postpone elections indefinitely. They called for elections because of the huge unpopularity of the undemocratically imposed government.

By holding elections, they hope to defuse the situation, as ND leader Antonis Samaras admitted publicly. They also aim at to legitimise their brutal policies by stealing the vote of electors in Greece.

Not surprisingly, the political parties responsible for this disaster are polling poorly. The final pre-election predictions of four different polling groups show PASOK has risen in support to 14.5%-19%, after plunging to about 8% a few months ago.

ND is ahead of PASOK with 19%-25,5%. LAOS is polling 3.5%-4%.

A great percentage of the intended vote goes to the left. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) come very close with 7.5%-12% and 8%-11% respectively. Democratic Left, a split from SYRIZA, has polled 5.5%-9%.

About 20% of the voters were either undecided or would not reveal their preferred party.

The rest of the intended vote is diffused between other parties. There is a total of 32 parties contesting the poll, most of which sprang up as alternatives to the discredited pro-memorandum forces. Some were set up by expelled members of PASOK and ND.

Up to 10 parties are expected to reach the 3% threshold needed to be voted into parliament. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (CA) is expected to exceed the threshold with an estimated 4.5%-5%.

Having a neo-Nazi organisation in parliament is great cause for concern, especially in the light of its criminal activity. CA members have often attacked and injured leftists, union members and migrants.

Some of the group’s top members have been implicated in shady dealings with the underworld, including murder.

A lot of people are not aware of CA's neo-Nazi profile and may see the group as an anti-memorandum alternative. Others are attracted to its racist rhetoric. This is not surprising, given the constant bombardment with racist propaganda by the mass media under successive PASOK and ND governments.

The acute problems facing people in Greece, as well as the failure of the left to reach broad layers of society, have made people all the more receptive to the racist propaganda.

The poll figures indicate that neither PASOK nor ND will get an absolute majority in the elections. This could lead to the formation of a coalition government of the two big pro-memorandum parties.

The mass media have been preparing the way, presenting a coalition government as a solution. They also favour a government of technocrats that could be appointed by the new parliament.

It is possible that other parties would also lend support to a coalition government. Those posing as popular patriotic right-wing parties are particularly likely candidates.

Even Democratic Left cadres, while ruling out any cooperation, with PASOK have said they would honour the country's memorandum commitments.

The odds for a pro-memorandum coalition government are very high, especially since such an outcome is favoured by the country’s undemocratic electoral law.

The law stipulates that non-voters, the undecided and protest voters are excluded before counting the individual parties’ results.

That could give the two main parties close to 40%. What’s more, a law amended in 2008 gives the winning party 50 extra seats in the 300-member parliament.

Troika officials have openly interfered in a bid to influence voters. They have urged people to vote for either PASOK or ND, predicting chaos for the country if the election result turns out differently.

The scaremongering about the country descending into chaos if the two parties are defeated is a favourite tactic of capitalist politicians and their friends in the media. It is quite effective, as many voters, after years of pro-Europe propaganda, still have illusions about Europe and the eurozone.

The mass media have been supporting the pro-memorandum or ideologically vague political forces at the expense of the anti-memorandum parties.

At the same time, there has been a campaign against the left by PASOK, ND and LAOS representatives with the usual media backing. They claim that working people and the left are responsible for the capitalist crisis.

Certain news items on TV seem to be created just for the purpose of slandering the left and popular resistance to austerity. For example, a recent news item showed a reporter interviewing tourists with questions such as: “Are your friends back home reluctant to visit Greece because of the popular unrest, the strikes and the demonstrations?”

It is amusing when the interviewer is struggling to force a certain answer out of the interviewee, but still the answer is not quite the one aimed for.

Another argument against the left is that it lacks a concrete policy program. This is not true, as the left has very specific proposals that would benefit ordinary people and regenerate the economy.

The powers-that-be would not tolerate anything that goes against their plans. The survival of their class and political system depends on the memoranda and the accompanying bailouts. For them, the austerity package voted for in February has to be implemented at all costs.

The planned measures include privatisation of public assets, hundreds of thousands of public employee sackings as well as further wage and pension cuts with the expressed aim to eventually bring wages down to 200 euros a month or less.

All this is to come on top of the already unprecedented barbaric measures that have devastated the country and plunged the overwhelming majority of people into misery.

The dire situation can be seen in the steep rise in suicides in Greece. Health ministry data show the suicide rate jumped about 40% in the first five months of 2011 compared with 2010.

An estimated 40% of the population live below the poverty line, the official unemployment rate has exceeded 21% and is rapidly increasing, while democratic and workers’ rights have been violently taken away.

At the same time, further intensification of repression is expected to help the government implement the anti-people measures.

PASOK and ND are lying about the policies to which they have committed themselves by signing the February 12 loan deal. Interestingly, PASOK ministers linked to harsh policies have been lying low during the election campaign.

The two parties are concentrating their pre-election propaganda on issues of safety and order, pledging more repressive practices. They have also raised the so-called “illegal” immigrant issue, with considerable help from crypto-fascist LAOS.

They have recently made a big fuss about the issue, announcing their Nazi-like plan to establish 31 concentration camps, euphemistically called “hospitality and reception centres”.

This would mean the inhumane jailing of thousands of migrants (most of whom want to get out of Greece), who would be the first victims in the state’s scapegoating campaign. More victims would possibly follow, quite likely those who challenge the system’s barbaric policies.

In the midst of this anti-immigrant hysteria, pensioner Dimitris Christoulas’s public suicide on April 4 brought the important issues back to the fore. However, the racist poison had been spread.

Other methods of manipulating public opinion are also used. For example, in a big show of justice, the ruling elites had former PASOK defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos arrested on charges involving bribing, money laundering and tax evasion scandals.

The scandals related to Tsochatzopoulos have been known for many years and there are more people involved in them and similar scandals. The timing of the arrest shows it was a bid to appease people’s indignation and boost the government’s image.

However, people are very aware of the government’s criminal policies as well as the fact that many other corrupt politicians remain unpunished.

Given the propaganda and blackmail to which the people of Greece are subjected, a new pro-memorandum government shouldn’t come as a surprise. The system has the power to dupe and terrorise people into voting against their own interests.

On the other hand, it is important that the dynamic political struggles of the past two years find expression in parliament. In this respect, the pro-unity left forces could take the struggle forward and achieve victories against a weak government.

Having a strong, united left parliamentary representation would reflect and encourage the people’s struggles, advancing the movement while also being empowered by it.

Voting for a pro-unity left party has great value; expressing anger at the political system through abstention, or through casting a blank or an invalid ballot would reinforce the two main parties.



Comments

It's a complex issue. The Communist Party of Greece refuses to collaborate with the rest of the left in any way. However, having a strong left representation in parliament could be a positive thing, depending on other conditions, too. And we have to keep in mind that we don't know what the powers-that-be might come up with in order to influence public opinion, or even worse. It's a matter of life and death for them to have things their way. We must be on our guard in every way. On the other hand, you never know what else might happen. The whole of Europe is in turmoil. So, how can we make safe predictions?
AG

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