Thoughts on the Greek Elections and Where We Are Going
in Greece

by Andrew Leech, ELT News



So we all voted in May and hoped, didn’t we? And look where it got us. Probably because we voted with our hearts, our bile and not our heads! However, with another election in mid-June, perhaps this time Greeks can show they care about their jobs, their houses, their lifestyles (still not as bad as they could get) and their families’ futures.

Syriza, representing the Left, came in strong because voters wanted to show how betrayed they felt at the last ten years under ND and Pasok. Though many voters later regretted their action when they saw how strong the party had become - and, in particular, their inflexible stance on repudiation of Austerity and Public Debt.

It reminded me of 1997 when Labour trounced the Conservatives in the UK, simply because so many of the electorate wanted to show their anger. The result was a landslide for Tony Blair and we got stuck with his policies for 12 years!

Of course nobody wants austerity, and of course nobody wants to pay extra taxes. But shouting won’t make them go away! Like it or not we owe them and we are going to have to pay them - one way or another. Europe won’t just sweep them under the carpet as the German Hausfrau does with unwanted dust!

And if we renege on the debt and withdraw from the euro, what then? Some think the rest of Europe won’t let us go because it would prove too expensive. But remember the words uttered recently: “Greece withdrawing from the euro will be very expensive, but letting a Greece that won’t pay its obligations stay would be even more expensive.” So we would become the pariah of Europe, unwelcome and distrusted everywhere outside our own homes. Is that what Greeks really want?

Then, what about Turkey’s attitude? I imagine they must be licking their lips in glee at what is happening. They know that if we leave Europe, with debts unpaid, nobody is going to lift a finger to help us, whatever Turkey may demand of us. With no credit, worldwide, and no spare parts for defensive armaments we are sitting ducks if our neighbour decides to get a bit pushy. And then we will all be crying - but this time over spilt milk; and after the horse has bolted and some of our islands have changed hands!

Do we really want a strong Left in the hands of an inexperienced man who has never operated at a European level, despite being a gifted orator at local government and grassroots? He would probably make an able junior minister, but he is not yet Prime Minister material. He still needs to learn to mix water with his wine first and listen to the world outside Greece - not just the loud voices on protest marches!

Furthermore, do we really want a fledgling Nazi party to grow plump and strong (we are already approaching the number of parliamentary representatives Hitler had in May 1924)? Can we afford to have a government with no seasoned politicians to represent us at the worst time Greece has ever experienced since 1949? What could these people offer us, our families and our country for the future, despite their obvious sincerity?

At best, all the intelligent young people will leave Greece, with only those too old or unskilled to make any kind of career abroad remaining. Remember, this happened to a degree after WW2, and, later, led on to the civil unrest that paved the way for the Junta.

Unfortunately, overall, we don’t really have any strong and able people, with the exception, perhaps, of Venizelos and Bakoyannis who both seem to be trying hard, in their own ways; as are Manos and Kouvelis in theirs. They may be somewhat diametrically opposed, but they are probably more open-minded and stable than many of their peers. Samaras I strongly distrust; his record from 1992 evidences that. He appears to care only for himself and personal glory!

As for the others: Papandreou is too weak, KKE aren’t even interested, and most of the other party leaders are simply too inexperienced and closed-minded. They still need a few years following able leaders to firm up political knowledge and convictions based on probability, not simply ‘pie in the sky’ possibility. However Syriza’s statement that ‘there should be international investigation as to whether any of what we owe is odious debt,’ is undoubtedly a very valid one. Much of what Greece owes is in the form of fiscal derivatives which seem to be an arcane form of wizardry for banks to present puffed up bills with print so small you can’t read it!

Although it will be a difficult choice and based mainly on gut feeling - as nobody really shines as a dynamic leader - I just hope that the electorate will show a bit more wisdom for their country and families at the next ballot. People must primarily vote ability rather than party.

They must also consider that if we go back to the drachma many people are going to freeze in winter when fuel bills TRIPLE, due to the low exchange rate. Going back to the drachma would be tantamount to emigrating to the lowest of 3rd world countries. How many of us are physically strong enough to face that and survive? Remember, last winter with just a 50% rise in fuel bills, many old people died.

A final matter that comes to mind is corruption. People like Tsochatzopoulos need to be send to the International Court at The Hague and charged with treason against the EU. After all, working against and betraying Greece is a form of working against the EU.

He has said that if he ‘goes down’ he will take 200 others with him.’ Fine, let him talk, make him talk; we want those 200 names. We want them all to go down, too. If we really intend to eliminate corruption, we need to start charging and convicting – and to simultaneously proceed against those companies who bribed him, and others, with so many millions of euros!

As Greeks we have been bought sheep for a long time. Will we still say ‘Baaa’ in June as we are led to the slaughterhouse, or will we learn to sing a more responsible tune – one more in keeping with our responsibility towards our country and our children.



(Posting date 05 June 2012. Reprinted with permission ELT News.)

Andrew Leech (aleech@ath.forthnet.gr) is a former contributing editor of the Greek-American Review of New York. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, of a British father (Lt Colonel British Army) and Greek mother (Marika Calogeropoulou: ballerina, teacher & choreographer). Educated in Britain, he moved to Greece in 1971 while conducting research into the language learning strategies of young children. He returned to Britain in 1977 for postgraduate study. In 1981, he worked in Greece for the Cararigas Schools as Director of Studies before starting his own school in 1984. He also became Director of Studies and Deputy Headmaster of the prestigious St Lawrence College for an interim period. Developing a keen interest in journalism in 1990, Leech became first an internationally known educational correspondent for ELT News and, later, a diplomatic correspondent for Athens News, focusing on visiting dignitaries and heads of state. He is a longstanding member of the Society of Authors and is also a lecturer in Journalism and Communications at Deree College, Athens. For more information about Andrew Leech or to read more of his fine articles, see his brief biography at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/andrewleechbio.html or visit the archival section of HCS devoted to his works at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveleech.html


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