Tuesday, 13 January 2015
THE GREEK GENERAL ELECTION, SYRIZA and ME
I am delighted to have accepted an invitation from 'Syriza' [The Coalition of the Radical Left] to fly to Athens for a week to observe the Greek General election first hand. The eyes of the world will be on Greece on Sunday 25th January and I will be there. There is a strong chance Syriza will win the vote and form the next government. They are ahead in all the polls and have given a clear manifesto commitment to halve Greece's debts to the 'Troika' [The International Monetary Fund/ European Union/ European Central Bank]. They have also made it clear they do not intend to leave the EU or exit the Eurozone. Although the final result is uncertain - elections in Greece are conducted under a proportional voting system - and Syriza may have to rely on additional support from smaller independent parties, they are the favourites to win at this stage. Greek society is in crisis. The country's enormous debt, the bail-out terms imposed by the 'Troika' and the crippling austerity programme implemented by the previous conservative Government have left Greece teetering on the abyss. The country has endured a crippling economic depression that lasted 6 years. Working class people have suffered an appalling decline in their living standards and devastating cuts in public services like health, education and welfare. Greek society is heavily polarised between the left and the right. The right, represented by the conservative New Democracy, PASOK [the UK Labour Party's equivalent in Greece] and the openly fascist 'Golden Dawn', have all lost support in recent times. Meanwhile Syriza, leading the left, has seen its support grow and grow. There are smaller independent socialist groups too and the Greek Communist Party [KKE] although the latter are no admirers of Syriza. Syriza won most seats in the European elections in May. If they do win on January 25th it will be the first time a radical left-wing party has been elected to government anywhere in Europe since WW2. It will also precipitate a huge clash between the money markets and the new Greek Government. The bankers will want assurances their money will be paid back in full and will threaten Greece with all kinds of sanctions if it does not. On the other hand Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, has made it clear he will use the democratic mandate the people of Greece has given his party to pay nothing until he receives assurances most of the existing debt is written off. The scene is set for fireworks and the ramifications will be felt far beyond Greek borders. I will be filing regular reports to this blog and elsewhere whilst I'm over in Greece.