Why democracy is still in danger in Greece | Vassilis Fouskas

Why democracy is still in danger in Greece

Vassilis Fouskas

Ten days after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, the ND-PASOK pro-austerity government arrested most of the Golden Dawn leadership on the grounds of being a criminal organization. Yet, for a combination of economic and political reasons, democracy in Greece is in more danger today than ever before.

Under the yoke of the troika (ECB, IMF and the EU), the ND-PASOK government has created social havoc, presumably, to lead Greece out of the debt-trap: severe wage cuts, lay-offs, extra taxation have placed the country in a state of emergency on the altar of debt repayment and bank recapitalisation by the ECB and IMF. Thus, official unemployment is almost 30%, with youth unemployment over 60% and a GDP contraction of over 5% per year. Even so, recently, Klaus Regling, managing director of the ESM (European Stability Mechanism), said that the Greek government’s plan to make its debt serviceable is meaningless and many have also insinuated that the country will soon need a third bailout. Significant debt reduction is being ruled out, not least because, as Regling put it, Greece’s bailout terms are extremely good (e.g. low interest rates).

The two-party government, after almost four years of harsh austerity that has destroyed the country’s middle classes and fragmented its social tissue, may balance the budget by the end of the year and achieve primary surplus, but this would put more pressure on the lenders to provide more funds (a third bailout, that is) as the total debt of the country is unsustainable. This means more austerity for the Greeks, a cyclical process with no end in sight.

As the middle classes are gradually being destroyed, and given that the political elites of ND and PASOK are so greatly embedded in the old post-1974 regime of bureaucratic corruption and administrative inefficiency, one significant consequence of the austerity programme largely imposed on the Eurozone by its main creditor power, Germany, is the rise of extreme right-wing populist movements. Austerity has revived old nationalist secessionist policies, as in Catalonia; old, quasi-racist imperial spirits, like that of Jobbik in Hungary; and, of course, neo-Nazi movements like the Golden Dawn in Greece. Golden Dawn claims the capital of Greece is Constantinople (Istanbul) and that migrants are responsible for Greece’s high unemployment, so that they have to be ousted from Greece. Golden Dawn barely had 0.2% of the vote in the election of 2009, but in the elections of May-June 2012 it received 8% and now many opinion polls give it as much as 16%.

In Greece, matters are getting out of hand. After the killing of Pavlos Fyssas by a fanatic with alleged Golden Dawn connections, the ND-PASOK government took the unprecedented step of arresting almost the entire leadership of Golden Dawn on the grounds of being a criminal organisation.

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