Daily Archives: 01/11/2011

The reasons for Venizelos’ indigestion

There has been some discussion about the unfortunate event that Greek Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, had to be hospitalized for a minor appendicitis problem. I have been going through reports and tweets by Greek journalists and there is indeed a mistrust on the medical event. I decided to translate a report published in Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis’s website, To Kouti tis Pandoras (Pandora’s Box) about the possible backstage politics concerning Mr Venizelos’ illness.          *the text in italics is mine

“As it is well-known ill people and travelers cannot be blamed for a sin (Greek quote which forgives sick people and travelers for not attending the religious fasting). Evangelos Venizelos is ill since Tuesday early morning. He went to a (private) hospital having abdominal pains. Those who have been in the army, they know well that when you want to avoid doing a task you just tell the camp’s doctor that you have “abdominal pain” and you are considering sick even if you are not. You just say “it hurts”, making it sound as if they should treat you seriously. If they can’t find anything wrong, they usually conclude that it’s indigestion. In the meantime, your goal is achieved.

However, Mr Venizelos’ pain is not such a pain. He suffers from indigestion for quite a time. He is pregnant. He is trying to give birth to the developments that will benefit him. These are: elections.

Papandreou gave Venizelos the Ministry of Finance in order to make him harmless in the intra-PASOK political struggle and, at the same time, makes him a hateful Minister in the eyes of the public. The PM has bet on Venizelos’ political ambitions in the same way you place cheese on a mouse trap. However, he made a fatal mistake. He gave Venizelos Prime Ministerial powers and a veto right. For the sake of Venizelos, Papandreou got rid of all those people who constituted his political entourage. He neglected that, apart from his own political ambitions, Venizelos had a team of MPs who were following his orders.

The political goal of Venizelos was to hold elections so that Papandreou’s era is over with a defining defeat. When he returned from the haircut’s negotiations, Venizelos said it clearly. “The agreements need a consensus of 180 votes in the Parliament”. Since such a consensus couldn’t be achieved, that practically meant elections

Once more Papandreou did not see it coming. He accepted Venizelos’ proposal to exchange the idea of elections for the its tactical substitute, a referendum. Evangelos Venizelos endorsed the referendum in a live interview with ANT1 on Monday night and managed to inflate the popular and the political reaction. And today, he got sick.

Milena Apostolaki, a Venizelian (i.e. supporter of Venizelos in the years-long Papandreou Vs Venizelos intra-PASOK struggle) who matured politically in the (political) hands of Evangelos Venizelos, disagreed with the idea of a referendum. The political guilts and the political conscience will soon be transmitted as a disease, as an epidemic actually, many other members of PASOK. I assume it will transmit mainly to the ladies who also matured politically in the (political) hands of Mr. Venizelos”.

What will Mr Papandreou do? He will adopt a rhetoric of a domestic intra-PASOK mutiny and, possibly, he will talk of a possible coup d’etat by members of the Army. But it’s too late for tears. If he wants to do something useful, he should read the hundreds of emails who were sent to him by friends and PASOK members, who were predicting the political illness of Mr Venizelos when Papandreou gave him everything. And he should go for elections before they drag him there.

Greece spirals out of control

Now this is a situation when the shit hits the fan. Political developments in Greece are getting more and more out of control and in the meantime everybody is trying to understand what drove Greek PM George Papandreou to take the decision for a referendum on the recent bailout plan. In this post I will try to connect the pieces of today’s crazy political jigsaw.

In the PASOK front, the governing party is facing a sort of a rebellion that could itself bring Papandreou down even by the end of the day, some say. The revolt begun with a letter written by six leading members of PASOK who have called on Prime Minister George Papandreou to resign. Later in the day Milena Apostolaki, a PASOK MP, has defected from the party, cutting Mr Papandreou’s parliamentary majority to two seats – 152 out of 300 – ahead of a confidence vote on Friday midnight. “I have an obligation to resist this erroneous political choice that divides the nation” she said in her attempt to explain that she will remain in the Parliament as an independent MP. Eva Kaili also threatened Papandreou that she will follow Milena Apostolaki if the PM proceeds in the referendum instead of a government of national salvation”.  Finally, Vasso Papandreou, a veteran member of PASOK, said in a statement “I call on the president to convene the council of political leaders with the goal of forming a government of national salvation in view of safeguarding the EU package agreed on 27 October, and then to immediately hold elections”.

Opposition leader, Antonis Samaras has met with the Greek President Karolos Papoulias this morning. He later told journalists that he asked for snap elections and stated that he will do everything he can so that Greece and its European course don’t get into trouble. According to reports, there is speculation that the New Democracy party could quit the Parliament en masse during the vote of confidence on Friday, a move that will eventually dissolve the Parliament and cause elections.

SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, said “It seems that the ballot boxes will not be set for a referendum but for elections”. LAOS party chairman, Giorgos Karatzaferis urgently called for Karolos Papoulias to invite all  party leaders and either form a government of national unity or call for a elections to be held within November.

In a strange news report, the political leadership of the Ministry of Defense, Minister Panos Beglitis has called for an emergency meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) in order to change the heads of the Armed Forces. The speculation about this decision was great and conspiracy theory fans saw it as a confirmation of foreign press reports (Handelsblatt newspaper, Forbes magazine and Liberation newspaper) about a possible coup d’état  in Greece.

While it lasts

The Greek referendum call is, while it lasts, effectively a plebiscite on euro membership.

I say “while it lasts” because the opposition is mobilising a parliamentary manoeuvre to bring down the government, which may succeed – returning Europe to its status quo of containable trauma.

If Greeks reject the 50% controlled default on debts they owe to the banking sector, then the arithmetic I revealed on Newsnight on the eve of the Euro summit comes into play – without a 50% haircut, and a further 130bn euro bailout, on top of 110bn, Greek debt spirals out of control and the country goes bust.

By Paul Mason, Economics Editor, Newsnight, BBC.

The rest of his article can be found here.