|ELECTION UPDATE Q&A - JUNE 1,2012|
|Sunday, 03 June 2012 11:38|
International news-wires gave three cheers over the news that "pro-Europe" ND appears ahead of the pack. I think though it is too early to celebrate. For example, within two days of the "hopeful" polls, the Greek weekly news magazine Epikaira published its own poll that finds Syriza with 30% vs ND with 26.5%. A poll conducted by the University of Patras carried even worse news for ND; the poll found Syriza attracting 26.2% of the vote to ND's dismal 15.2%. Patras also said the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn continues to strengthen its position, now attracting 8.7% of the vote. Midweek another poll found ND ahead of Syriza 25% to 22.5%; in contrast, the latest from Public Issue places Syriza ahead of ND 31.5% to 25.5%. It is then obvious even from these solicited polls that the shifting of large numbers of voters continues. ND has benefited from the implosion of the LAOS nationalist party whose voters have defected en masse in the direction of both ND and Golden Dawn. The splinter ND Independent Greeks party is also experiencing attrition as at least 2% of its voters on May 6 has returned to ND. Pasok continues its downward spiral, now scoring 11-13%. These "shifting sands" will continue to dominate the landscape up until the very last minute.
What about party platforms and initiatives?
On June 1st Alexis Tsipras announced the Syriza platform to the press. Tsipras said the platform "is a program of dignity and hope for the people." The very first act of a Syriza-controlled parliament, Tsipras underlined, would be the abrogation of the "memorandum" and all implementation laws passed by previous parliaments. He also announced confiscation of property for tax evaders, new tax laws, and repealing of the cabinet act that reduces basic pay by 22%. The Syriza leader said cuts of salaries and pensions will be frozen and promised to review the entire spate of levies imposed by the Papandreou government, including the much reviled property tax attached to electricity bills. "Wealth" and "high incomes" will be taxed in an effort to reduce the burden on lower income earners; the tax inspectorate will be reorganized and staffed with specialists; and the merchant marine will lose its 58 tax exemptions currently in force. Earlier, ND's Samaras had expressed his "deep concern" for the economy in case Greece unilaterally ditches austerity as Syriza proposes. Samaras reiterated that he is "afraid" of the consequences of defying the EU that could easily drive Greece out of the eurozone. Samaras also released a list of 18 points that described the "initiatives" ND proposes to undertake if it wins the elections. Tsipras also blasted a report from Reuters claiming that Loukas Papademos, the former technocrat Greek PM, had urged European Commission president Barroso to publicly warn that if Greece denies the "bailout" agreement then she should leave the eurozone. "The big enemy is not our partners in Europe but local powers who are in open communication with institutional and extra-institutional centers in Brussels," Tsipras said. Papademos denied the Reuters claim.
This is a dilemma fabricated largely by Mrs. Merkel and the rest of the "Euro-leadership." With the exception of the Communist Party, no Greek political party advocates a unilateral withdrawal from Europe. Six in every ten Greeks appear to support retaining the euro and Greek public opinion is strongly in favor of the country retaining her EU membership. And it is important also to note that this deliberate scaremongering campaign concerning "euro vs the drachma" conveniently omits to mention that exiting the EMU has nothing to do with leaving the European Union. The EU has 27 members not all of whom are members of the euro club. EU members UK, Poland, and Sweden, for example, have chosen to retain their own currency. But no member of the eurozone has ever ditched the common money, so the furore over the Greek case is bubbling not because our "partners" are concerned about the welfare of the Greeks but because a "Grexit" could easily unravel the euro currency with uncontrollable chain reactions across the "union."
How would you describe the mood of the electorate right now?
Anger and hostility continue to dominate the mood of the Greek people. The voters appreciate little the continuing stream of threats from Europe and comments like those of IMF chief Christine Lagarde. Syriza appears to be reading the signs correctly. Tsipras has announced he will deliver his party's platform publicly on June 1. One of his top MPs told NET national radio that if Syriza decides to ditch the "bailout" agreement, it will do so without negotiating with the troika beforehand. Published polls conclude that a majority of voters prefers "radical re-negotiation" of the EU/IMF "memoranda" rather than a rejection of the agreement. ND, meantime, continues to (indirectly) support the "memoranda," especially in the shadow of the latest threat from the European Commission that doing away with the "bailout" terms will interrupt the flow of new loans that keep Greece afloat.
Contact at: Tassos Symeonides