Greece: the rationale of Papandreou's moves since referendum's announcement (corrected and completed)

This post is reprinted because it was, by mistake, not printed completed. I regret the error and invite you to read the full version)

I belong to a small country. A rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, it has nothing to distinguish it but the efforts of its people, the sea, and the light of the sun.
Giorgos Seferis – Nobel Literature award Speech, 1963

Today it is expected that Greece will announce who will be the new prime minister that will “save us” from the dept crisis, successfully getting the green light from our European “partners” for the sixth instalment of the “bailout” package.  Effectively what happened was that Papandreou and Samaras agreed for a new guy to come in and do the same thing that Papandreou’s been doing until now, to hold elections in February and allow Samaras to be voted in to continue doing the same thing.  What is to be done is one question, but today I’d like to discuss a bit about this marriage.
On the last day of October, Papandreou surprised the world by announcing his plans to take the sixth loan treaty of the bailout package, including an agreed haircut of 50% Greece’s primary debt, to referendum. The world shook from Tokyo to Los Angeles. Every major stock market in the closed with losses up to 7%.  Politically speaking, Merkel and Sarkozy were shocked and numbed by the news, Oly Ren and others were disgruntled with Greece’s ”unilateral”(!!??!!) decision to hold a referendum, Americans were vague in their reactions and other EU states had a generally negative response.  Who would have ever suspected that the will of the people of such a small country could ever cause such global turmoil?
In Greece, there was a peculiar consensus amongst opposition parties, several MPs within PASOK ruling party and 100% of the press that were against the idea of the referendum. And I say peculiar because both right and left wing politicians were all demanding elections. Over 15 political dailies and countless web sites covering the entire political/ideological phasm known to man disagreed with Papandreou’s decision.  The left had argued, correctly, that the PASOK government was elected on a different mandate than what they are implementing. The right had argued, correctly, that PASOK has proven incompetent to deal with such a huge crisis, without however noting that they have been against every measure, treaty and loan that has been agreed to, to date. The Indignatos on the streets of Athens and other Greek cities were dead against the austerity measures that hit their pockets, dreams and future directly. All, however, were against putting the decision in the hands of the people. And I ask the following: what were they afraid of?
In my view, the announcement for the referendum, whether a bluff or not, was a maverick political gamble that paid off 100% in the favour of the policy that has been adopted in order to confront the dept crisis and given the situation that PASOK has found itself in, and I explain:
1.      It displayed just how important Greece and other members of the common currency are to its survival. Although it has been speculated over the last months that Greece is about the leave the Euro, and indeed Greece has been called upon to leave by several commentators, the actual „threat” of the referendum displayed just how catastrophic such an exit would be globally;
2.      It forced New Democracy to the table, to finally take some of the political costs for a policy that, in reality, it agrees with;
3.      It stripped the left of their legitimacy, placing the power in the hands of the people.
It is strange that since the announcement of the referendum, there have been no rallies in Athens backed by the left, no strikes by taxi drivers for example backed by the right, no indignatos at Syntagma square.  In order to avoid any misconceptions, I should state that I do not agree fully with the austerity measures that have been taken, but since this path has been chosen, it is obvious that a consensus of at least the major political parties needed to be achieved. Both Spain and Portugal have achieved this. On several occasions Papandreou has attempted this in vain. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that Papandreou is generally not up to dealing with the dept crisis. However, my main quiff with Papandreou has to do with two issues. Firstly that indeed he was elected on a different mandate than what he is implementing, and I voted for him, something that will not occur again in the near future. He should have called elections long before accepting any bailout package. Second, and perhaps more importantly, he should have negotiated tougher with our „partners” for a complete solution to the systemic problem that faces the Eurozone from the beginning. Perhaps the latter would have pushed Ms. Merkel to adopting political decisions quickly instead of wasting two years. Perhaps it would have pushed Europe into deeper economic integration, something that seems now inevitable in order to stabilise the currency and assure some light at the end of the tunnel.
The only thing that keeps me at ease during these times of economic turmoil is that real power remains in the hands of politicians. Silly as this may sound given the incompetence and perhaps confused leadership that surrounds us, the essence remains that people still run countries, governments still have the ultimate legitimate authority within their borders and the duty to “protect” citizens and hence to manipulate the beast known as the markets, also known as capitalism when I was young. As Nobel peace winning Greek Poet Giorgos Seferis put it “In our gradually shrinking world, everyone is in need of all the others. We must look for man wherever we can find him. When on his way to Thebes Oedipus encountered the Sphinx, his answer to its riddle was: ‘Man’. That simple word destroyed the monster. We have many monsters to destroy. Let us think of the answer of Oedipus.”

Yannis Parcharidis
(he is kindly sharing his views on Greece with Banco Corrido's readers. See his previous text - What happened to Greece? -  here)

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