Tag Archives: PASOK

The age of Doom is coming

It has been approximately 2 years since the last time I posted something under the category The Daily Threat Show. I was writing back then about SYRIZA’s ghost:

It’s true that SYRIZA has been a bit confusing as to what exactly they are going to do if they were to form a government. The party, an until recently small leftist party composed of different fractions that tolerated different opinions within the Left, has seen several of its members announcing contradicting promises. Its ennemies, PASOK and New Democracy basically, have used this to their favor. They started a huge campaign to discredit SYRIZA by reminding us on a daily basis of what would happen if SYRIZA comes to power. The EU has followed suit and here we are now, having daily predictions of a post-apocalyptic, Armageddon-style Greece if SYRIZA wins the elections.

The daily threats have returned together with the elections for the European Parliament. The government has been trying to remind its citizens that the future is uncertain should they dare to for SYRIZA. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has repeatedly warned us during the past 2 weeks about the instability that will haunt this country of SYRIZA wins the elections. The government’s vice chairman and coalition partner, Evangelos Venizelos, has even threatened that he will step down from the coalition [which would cause its collapse] if his party will not get enough votes. And then, let chaos reign this country.

So here’s a series of screenshots from the news bulletin of ANT1 TV and a rough translation of the super titles. Oh, by the way, these fearful messages are not dispersed throughout the week, they are all from the very same news bulletin. Imagine the horror one can feel after watching news like this. And, yes, imagine what he will vote tomorrow.

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Screenshot collage produced by Jungle Report

From top left to bottom right:

1. The overthrow that SYRIZA preaches could lead to prolonged instability.

2. A political “accident” (a reference to Samaras who has said that a SYRIZA victory would be a political “accident” for the country) by a loose vote (ie less cohesion for New Democracy voters who might want to vote SYRIZA out of protest) could bring catastrophe.

3. All those who want stability and not [national] elections should show it at the ballot box.

4. The discouragement of investors [by a potential SYRIZA victory] would drive the economy backwards and will cancel the people’s sacrifices.

5. The political instability could block all the beneficiary decisions for our country.

6. Tsipras’ goal to overthrow the government can be achieved if things stay as they are and the undecided voters will not vote for New Democracy or PASOK.

7. A loose vote could suffocate the domestic economy.

8. Currency fluidity and the discussion for a new haircut would freeze and the country will be again a month before going bankrupt.

9. The political instability will trigger centrifugal tendencies to many MPs.

 

You can’t be serious!

Two opinion polls were published yesterday (one by Public Issue and one by Pulse). Both had two notable changes.

1. SYRIZA was around 1% ahead of New Democracy

2. Golden Dawn was the other party with an increase, it scored some 13%-13,5% (NB it got 7 % in the 2012 elections)

The neo Nazi party is now stabilised in the third position and many people wonder… What the fuck?

I was speaking with a foreign correspondent here in Athens about these polls and she was telling me that most polling companies (which are not the most trustworthy institutions in this country) tend to play down the actual ratings of Golden Dawn in order to avoid the furore. She also told me that the actual ratings of Golden Dawn were rather closer to 16%. But still, one could say, they are too small and no one would cooperate with them in government.

No one? Well, just the other day, Babis Papadimitriou, a presenter of SKAI TV and a longtime supporter of all austerity measures since the beginning of the Greek economic crisis (with whatever this may mean about his political affiliation), threw the idea. “If SYRIZA can discuss the possibility of a coalition with the Communist Party, why couldn’t New Democracy discuss the possibility of a Conservative cooperation with a more serious (sic) Golden Dawn?”

I am not sure what exactly he meant by “more serious” but it seems that he at least recognises the fact the neo nazi party has had a pretty indecent behaviour so far, linked to all sorts of abuses, racist violence, populist rhetoric and foul language inside the parliament. He indeed admitted it in a later TV show. But can they become serious, Mpampis? Are you serious?

In any case, speaking of seriousness, there has been a more serious aspect in the afore mentioned opinion polls that few media have highlighted, or even discussed. It’s the qualitative analysis of the party ratings in specific age groups. According to the Pulse poll, Golden Dawn was the second party in the age groups of 18-29 and of 30-44. It makes you think that Greece is lucky to have an ageing population with more old people than young ones, that births have dropped by 10% this year according to some reports yesterday, that younger people are less inclined to be bothered to vote and that older people still tend to vote the same party that once hired them or gave them a good pension. All these, otherwise negative characteristics, are saving this country from becoming officially fascist.

I got a very dark feeling in my guts when I saw this table. Check for yourself and tell me how you feel.

Pulse Age Groups

The colours (from left to right) represent New Democracy, SYRIZA, PASOK, Independent Greeks, Golden Dawn, Democratic Left, Communist Party, Other party. Blank vote/Invalid vote/abstention, Undecided voters.

And when you try to describe to people, in and outside Greece, about what is to come in the near future, they read your blog posts or look at you, with a puzzled face, and say: You can’t be serious!

Pacta sunt servanda

*The agreements must be kept.
Cicero

Breach-of-employment-agreements

So we reached December, almost 6 months into Samaras’ administration. What was his main pre-election promise? Renegotiation. A sweet word which the majority of the people haven’t yet tasted. The recent Eurogroup meeting finished with a lot of criticism on whether this government, like the previous, actually negotiated anything. Yet, no one is complaining because most of the people struggle for the daily life, our daily bread. We’re thankful it’s not worse, says a Greek expression.

Beyond the scandals, one of the main reasons for the depreciation of Greek politicians is their unfulfilled promises. The thousands “I will” of old school politicians that have been quickly forgotten. When I look back the examples are countless. In 2009, Papandreou ran for election with a program for growth while New Democracy (and the Bank of Greece as it was later revealed) was saying that we were running low on cash. “There is money” was Papandreou motto, but we ended up finding out that we were hugely indebted and called the IMF. Before him, Karamanlis (2004-2009) declared the re-organisation and reconstitution of  the State. He wanted to end years of PASOK’s dominance by changing the mentality of the public sector. Instead he filled the public sector with New Democracy voters in an attempt to balance the demographics in Ministries and state enterprises. We now know that this project was financed with loans. Before him, Simitis (1996-2004) main promise was the entry into the eurozone and, as a result, an unprecedented wave of growth. The “creative accounting” as it was called got us into the european currency, the Stock Exchange collapses in a scandalous way and, as we keep finding out until these days, millions of euros went into “personal commissions” for weapons, public tenders won by Siemens, etc. The growth that we saw was just the gift wrap of the same old shit.

For the past 20 years we are living in a fake democracy where we vote for something that is really different with what we end up in our hands. It’s like getting a ticket to Mykonos but the boat strands on some dry rock island in the middle of nowhere. Yet, we disembark without complaint.

In a conversation I had recently with a friend, we were saying that the elections is some kind of contract. One side proposes to do something and the other authorises it to do it, an agreement legitimised by votes instead of signatures. However, no one is accountable for failing to fulfil the contract’s obligations. No one is punished for this systematic fraud, where it is intentional or unintentional. We don’t investigate that either. We just end up with a collective sense of injustice and anger, treating the elections more like a small circus rather than the celebration of democracy as we used to call it. We just get the next luxurious and super-fast boat that will end up at another rock island.

The other day I was surfing on the Internet and I somehow stranded on the personal website of Adonis Georgiades, a former far-right politician turned mainstream after joining New Democracy, less than a year ago. He had a banner at the top of the page which was saying “Pacta sunt servanda”. With this profound latin quote he was trying to calm the few who were actually anxious on whether Europe will keep its promise to give us the next instalment. The “153 brave ones”, as Georgiades likes to call them, of the Greek Parliament have voted the measures the troika asked, so now Europe was expected to do its bit. How would Georgiades feel if the other side of the contract simply breached the agreement? Which is something that they will do because there will be more measures in the future, despite the government’s statement that these will be the last. The announcement of new measures, is an old measure by itself. An old trick.

Hence, my dear Greek politicians of the current and future governments, the unilateral breaching of a contract means the de facto cancellation of the agreement. Therefore, when a government is elected by promising to renegotiate a situation in order to improve it and ends up by voting worse austerity measures than the ones of their predecessors, its moral legitimisation expires.

Ocean’s Thirty Six

This could be the beginning of series of huge scandals. The Greek Economic Crime Unit (SDOE) has been investigating for quite some time now 36 political figures (current or former MPs and Ministers) for their incomes, properties and assets. The “list of the 32″, as it was initially called, has been kept secret. Until now.

Ocean’s Three Hundred

Web portal zougla.gr has published the list of the investigated MPs causing tremors in the already fragile Greek political scene. In this list there are 36 names and one political think tank. In addition, Here are the names and their current or former posts where they served (the order is random).

-Panos Kammenos, head of the Independent Greeks Party

-Nikitas Kaklamanis, New Democracy MP and former Mayor of Athens

-Athanasios Nakos, vice-chairman of the Greek Parliament

-George Voulgarakis, former Minister of Culture, of Public Order and of Maritime Affairs (New Democracy)

-Mihalis Liapis, former Minister of Transport (New Democracy)

-Aris Spiliotopoulos, New Democracy MP and former Minister of Tourism

-Mihalis Karchimakis, former Secretary of PASOK’s National Council

-Spilios Spiliotopoulos, former New Democracy MP

-Nikos Konstantopoulos, former head of SYRIZA

-Elisavet Vozenberg, former New Democracy MP

-George Orfanos, New Democracy, former Deputy Minister for Sports (during the Olympic Games)

-Marina Chrysoveloni, Independent Greeks MP

-Giannos Papantoniou, former Minister of Finance and of Defence (PASOK)

-Antonis Mpezas, New Democracy MP

-Nikos Tagaras, New Democracy MP and former Corinth regional governor

-Panagiotis Fasoulas, former basketball player, PASOK MP and Mayor of Piraeus

-Elpida Tsouri, former PASOK MP and Deputy Minister for Fisheries

-Filippos Fountis, candidate MP with Green Party

-Alexandros Voulgaris, former PASOK MP

-Leonidas Tzanis, former Deputy Minister of Interior (PASOK)

-Ioannis Anthopoulos, former Deputy Minister of Education (PASOK)

-Anastasios Mantelis, former Minister of Transport (PASOK)

-Ioannis Sbokos, former General Secretary of the Ministry of Defence

-Apostolos Fotiadis, former Deputy Minister of Finance (PASOK)

-Fevronia Patrianakou, New Democracy MP

-Nikolaos Andrianopoulos, former General Secretary of the Ministry of Finance (New Democracy)

-Akis Tsochatzopoulos, former Minister of Defence (PASOK-already in jail awaiting trial)

-Fotis Arvanitis, former PASOK MP

-Dimitris Apostolakis, former Minister of Defence (PASOK)

-Christos Verelis, former Minister of Transport (PASOK)

-Konstantinos Liaskos, former Minister of Environment

-Christos Zahopoulos, former General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture (New Democracy)

-Petros Mantouvalos, lawyer and former New Democracy MP

-Mihalis Halkidis, former New Democracy MP

-George Patoulis, Mayor of Marousi district (northern Athens)

-Konstantinos Karamanlis Foundation, New Democracy think tank investigated for mismanagement

The elections’ aftermath and SYRIZA’s ghost

So the (first) elections are over, the situation is kind of normalized and we’re preparing for the next ones on June 17. Greece is a weird country when it comes to elections. Some years ago New Democracy had won an election but the talk-of-the-town was what was happening in PASOK’s leadership. Two weeks ago, New Democracy did it again. They’ve won the elections but everybody is talking about SYRIZA and its leader, sexy Alexis. So who are they? If you want to get informed, read this by BBC’s Paul Mason, whose reports on Greece are probably the most accurate accounts of foreign journalists on what’s happening here.

Well, Greeks did not become radical leftists within a night, as they haven’t been transformed to fascists either. What most Greeks were looking for in the past election was a way to express their opposition to the bailout measures and the Memoranda, an economic policy and seems more and more inefficient and unfeasible. Traditional right wing voters turned themselves to either the Independent Greeks party (centre-right voters) or the Golden Dawn party (far right party but mainly voted by traditional right wing people who are against immigrants). Though the Left had far more choices, the majority went to SYRIZA, a coalition of leftist fractions with a platform of uniting the Left (a rare motto in Greece and an perennial longing of all Greek leftists) to form a leftist government that will undo the Memorandum and cancel the loan agreements. Very appealing for a suffering Greek, isn’t it?

I personally think that these two goals are not feasible and Alexis Tsipras rather meant that he would try to renegotiate the loan agreements and the relevant measures that must be taken. Which is what he had actually caused with his 2nd position in the elections. Suddenly officials from the EU and politicians from several European countries are discussing the dead end of the current plan and are pointing out the need for a slight change or easing of the measures. There is simply no foreseeable solution and exit from the crisis with the current plan. And this fact is the only victory of Greece on a European level, not just since the last elections but during the past 2,5 years.

A cartoon of Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsirpas by German caricaturist Reiner Hachfeld.

You see, Greeks had seen the Papandreou and Papademos governments passing measures that were dictated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF without any attempt of negotiation. They’ve seen Papandreou going abroad and having new measures in his suitcase upon his return without any complaint. Samaras participated in this theatre not because he believed in the rationale of these measures but because he succumbed to another PASOK’s blackmail (either you’re on Greece side a step before bankruptcy or you’ll be responsible for its suicide) back in late 2011. So now there is a feeling that only SYRIZA and Tsipras can a) unite the Left in Greece to form its first leftist government and b) renegotiate the Memoranda. And Europe? Europe is scared of him. Europe is scared the shit out of him simply because they can’t control him and because he might mean what he says.

It’s true that SYRIZA has been a bit confusing as to what exactly they are going to do if they were to form a government. The party, an until recently small leftist party composed of different fractions that tolerated different opinions within the Left, has seen several of its members announcing contradicting promises. Its ennemies, PASOK and New Democracy basically, have used this to their favor. They started a huge campaign to discredit SYRIZA by reminding us on a daily basis of what would happen if SYRIZA comes to power. The EU has followed suit and here we are now, having daily predictions of a post-apocalyptic, Armageddon-style Greece if SYRIZA wins the elections. The whole joke, apart from a daily news item, has now gone viral, it has its own hashtag on Twitter (#ftaei_o_syriza) and is slowly entering the internet meme sphere.

I decided to create a special category of posts in this blog that would contain only these threats – I called it “The Daily Threat Show“. Come back and visit this page (or simply RSS it), I guarantee a lot of fun and also a glimpse of how Greek people’s brains are bombarded with such absurd prophecies and will then be called to vote as reasonable people. Ask any Greek in the street if he knows what will happen after June 17 and you will understand by the confusion in his answers.

But a confused Greek in the street is probably not an originality. Greeks have been confused since 2010 when they were suddenly called to have mature opinions on issues of high Economics. Europeans have always seen the Greeks as a confused people. They were asking themselves: so what do these Greeks want anyway? Why do they protest? Will they solve their problem by breaking one more bank? A foreign journalist (from a eurozone country) came last year to Athens and asked me: So, explain to me, why don’t you want our money?

Alexis Tsipras in a photoshoot by high school students’ magazine “Schooligans”

If Greeks are confused, Europeans are almost schizophrenic. The narrative they’ve adopted is “Greece is given money, they should shut up and do what we say”. They’ve no time to examine the measures asked from Greece to take. They are not in a position to know whether it’s a feasible plan. They are not here to see the misery caused together with the lack of hope for an exit from the crisis. And as they are confused too, they are also afraid of the uncertainty. Here’s a short story to illustrate this.

A foreign journalist came to Greece and we were discussing the situation. This is the dialogue we had.

Foreign journalist: Greece has falsified its statistics in order to enter the eurozone. I’m sorry to say this but Greece was corrupt, it has cheated and now it’s time to pay.
Me: Yes but people in Europe knew that Greece was cheating. And Greece was not the only country which altered its stats in order to achieve the eurozone criteria.
Foreign journalist: Who knew?
Me: A lot of people knew and certainly several EU officials.
Foreign journalist: Really? Who knew?
Me: Certainly the Germans knew about Greece and Italy. And part of the corruption was carried out with German money, through the scandals with Siemens and the German submarines.
Foreign journalist: Why the hell would Greece want a leader like Tsipras? He is going to get you out of the eurozone. His proposals are not realistic, are not feasible.
Me: I partly agree but you’re contradicting a bit now. I know, you know, the Greeks know that their previous governments, as you said, were corrupt. This crisis is happening because of them, of how they handled the situation for at least the past 10 years.
Foreign journalist: Right.
Me: So Greeks finally realize that these politicians are corrupt and they decided to take them down from power. That should please the EU, if it had a problem with their corrupt mentality.
Foreign journalist:…
Me: Tsipras is a young politician, inexperienced yes, but certainly not the like of the previous ones. So Greeks are choosing a new guy to govern them and the EU gets scared. You know why?
Foreign journalist: Why?
Me: Because they can’t, or don’t know yet if they can, control him. Because he is unknown. 
 

Alexis Tsipras is neither Ernesto Che Guevara nor a European Hugo Chavez. Tsipras is simply Greece’s only bargaining chip.

Greece leaning more and more to the Left

I just read an interesting opinion poll that tells some of the developments in post-election Greece. It’s main element is that SYRIZA’s popularity has grown in less than a week since the elections. The poll was carried out by MARC and I found it here. So here are the numbers accompanied by some comments of mine.

SYRIZA’s leader, Alexis Tsipras.

SYRIZA’s popularity, according to the poll, is now standing as high as 23,8%, the highest the party has enjoyed since its birth. In the recent elections, SYRIZA scored 16,78% of the votes. The rise in popularity can be attributed to the fact that an alternative government (other than PASOK and New Democracy) seemed possible after Sunday’s results. In addition it’s possible that the continuation of the small-party political games that PASOK and New Democracy have been playing for the past two decades have radicalized people a bit more. If SYRIZA had a more clear and realistic plan to get out of the crisis then this rise would definitely have been bigger.

According to MARC’s poll, New Democracy comes second in preference with 17,4% (they won the elections with 18,85%) and PASOK is down to 10,8% (from a mediocre 13,18% in the elections). Independent Greeks gather 8,7%, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 6%, Golden Dawn 4,9% and the Democratic Left has 4,2%.

LAOS, the Green Party, Creation Again, Democratic Alliance and Action Party are all below the 3% threshold needed to enter the Greek Parliament.

An interesting aspect of this poll is this rare question that was added to the questionnaire: If you knew the result in advance, which party would you vote for?

Now, in a linear time world, it might look a bit absurd to ask this question unless voters have access to the technology of time travel. However, the results support my comment a couple of paragraphs above which is that many Greeks have never until now believed that a leftist government could be possible, especially through elections. Almost two generations grew up watching PASOK and New Democracy rotating in power.

Hence, 23,2% of those asked replied that they would vote for SYRIZA. The people who got afraid of SYRIZA’s rise in the elections (and of the possibility of a leftist government) were much less than what I would personally expect. This can be seen in the 19,6% of the interviewees who answered that, if they knew the result of the elections, they would vote for New Democracy (i.e. only 0,75% more than what New Democracy actually received in Sunday’s ballot boxes). Funnily, or tragically for some, PASOK would be voted only by 12,5% (as if the PASOK voters themselves wished a greater defeat of their party which got 13,18% in the recent elections). Another interesting fact is that some people did indeed get scared of the rise of extreme rightist Golden Dawn, especially after this week’s publicity which included a Golden Dawn press conference where one of their members asked journalists to stand up when their leader would appear in the press room. Speaking of it, here’s the video from the press conference, including the leader’s fiery speech, all with english subtitles:

So, the people who would vote for Golden Dawn, If they knew the elections’ result in advance, were down to 5,9% (from 6,97% that they got in the elections).

There were a few more questions but they are a bit dull and I can’t be bothered. I’ll just go and take a nap now.

The Greek elections’ aftermath in the newspapers

Here’s a quick translation of today’s newspaper front pages in the aftermath of yesterday’s Greek national elections. My general impression is that the newspapers kept a low profile, in contrast with their emotional headlines in the previous days. Despite the historic changes in the Greek political scenery, the feeling is a bit numb, I guess in fear of an uncertain future.

Ethnos 07/05/2012

Headline: A vote of anger overturns the political scene

Kathimerini 07/05/2012

Headline: In search of a government

Eleftheros Tipos 07/05/2012

Headline: People’s anger, Change the Memorandum!

Vradini 07/05/2012

Headline: Austerity defeated in Greece and France

Ta Nea 07/05/2012

Headline: Nightmare of being ungoverned with new elections in the background

Adesmeftos Tipos 07/05/2012

Headline: Elections of great anger

Dimokratia 07/05/2012

Headline: Where are you heading to, Antonis (Samaras)?

Avgi 07/05/2012 (SYRIZA’s newspaper)

Headline: Left mandate

The People’s Front of Judea

What do you know about political pluralism? Or about political surrealism? Greece loves to call itself the cradle of democracy and, yes, politics here are not as boring as a Democrats vs Republicans kind of dilemma. No, in Greece you can choose between more than 5 leftist/communist parties, a selection that dazzles even the most aware Marxists of the world. Actually you can’t get closer in reality to the famous People’s Front of Judea excerpt from the Monty Python’s movie “The Life of Brian”.

For the coming May 6th elections Greeks cannot complain about the lack of choice any more. Get ready for this year’s Greek tour de force of political pluralism. Here is the list of the 32 candidate parties (the parties in red are all leftist, no kidding). In your face.

1. PASOK (Greek Socialist Party)

2. New Democracy

3. Communist Party of Greece

4. SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) Unified Social Front

5. LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally)

6. Democratic Alliance

7. Social Pact

8. Independent Greeks

9. Democratic Left

10. Action – Liberal Coalition

11. Green Ecologists

12. Centrists’ Union

13. Liberals’ Party

14. Popular League – Golden Dawn

15. Dimosthenis Vergis – Greek Ecologists

16. NO (coalition of the collaborating Democratic Renaissance and Unified Popular Front – Stelios Papathemelis)

17. The “I don’t pay” movement

18. KEAN – Movement of National Resistance

19. Electoral cooperation of the Communist Party of Greece Marxist-Leninist and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece (no seriously, they are two different parties!)

20. Anti-capitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow (ANTARSYA – the abbreviation means Mutiny) – Front of the Anticapitalist Revolutionary Communist Left and of Radical Ecology

21. Organization of Communist Internationalists of Greece – OKDE

22. Labour Revolutionary Party (EEK Trotskyists)

23. OAKKE – Organization for the Re-establishment of the Communist Party of Greece

24. National Unity League

25. Society of the Political Formation of Kapodistria’s Continuators

26. Pirate Party of Greece

27. Creation Again

28. Panathenean Party – PAN.KI.

29. Dignity (independent candidates)

30.  Regional Urban Development (PAA) – Nik. Kolitsis, single candidate

and now get ready for the best, the most creatice and probably the longest party name in history

31. Independent Reformist Left, Reformist Right, Reformist PASOK, Reformist New Democracy, No to War, Party Enterpise “I donate land plots, I write off debts, I save lives”, All-farmers’ Labour Movement of Greece (PAEKE)

I am not kidding and neither does PAEKE’s founder. He was a candidate in the last elections too and he had received a bit more than 1300 votes.

For the history, there is a 32nd party which was called “Tyrannicides” but the High Court prohibited the use of this title because “it implies the intention of a punishable act”. Which makes me think, following the absurdity of this madness,  that the High Court did not reject the existence of the tyrants but only prevents the expression of some people’s will to exterminate them. It’s funny how the words of such statements can be interpreted. And then, I continue with the absurdity, why isn’t the Pirate Party of Greece not implying a punishable act? Or the disobedient “I don’t pay” Movement?

Another notable progress is the Electoral cooperation of the Communist Party of Greece Marxist-Leninist and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece. These are two completely (?) different political parties, with different structures. At a time when Leftists in Greece complained more than ever about the Left’s denial to unify its current popularity into one leftist coalition, only these two parties have managed to get united. In fact the Democratic Left, now scoring around 10% in polls, has splited from SYRIZA which also scores another 10%. And with KKE’s more than 10% one only needs to do the math in order to understand what all the bitterness is there for.

On yogurts as a form of political protest in Greece

The co-ruling PASOK party had its national conference today. Its goal is to elect the new party leader who will succeed George Papandreou and will lead the Socialists in the coming elections. The candidates are Christos Papoutsis and Evangelos Venizelos. At some point, an old man, member of PASOK himself, approached Venizelos, complained about the cuts in his pension and then threw him a yogurt before being carried out by bodyguards outside the hall.

This is the latest in a series of food throwing that has reemerged during the past two years of the crisis as a means of political protest.

Greek yogurt

Originally, “yogurt throwing” was a means of protest against authority by Greek youngsters in the late 1950s. They were called “Teddy Boys”, a name borrowed from the homonymous British subculture. You see, food throwing was traditionally a form of protest (preferable rotten eggs or tomatoes) but it was only in 1950s when the plastic cup substituted yogurt’s classic ceramic pot, a marketing move that made yogurt a non-lethal weapon. The trend of yogurt-throwing was fiercely fought by the authorities with the legendary “Law 4000/1958″ according to which offenders were arrested, had their heads shaved and paraded through the streets of Athens.

A teddy boy is paraded in the streets of Athens with his head shaved.

The law also inspired a movie (Law 4000). Here’s a great excerpt that needs no subtitles.

The law was withdrawn in 1983, by Andreas Papandreou. In 1997, a builder who was member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) threw a yogurt on the then Minister of Employment, Miltiadis Papaioannou (now Minister of Justice) and his then Deputy Minister Christos Protopappas (now PASOK’s Parliamentary Group Representative) . The court decided that yogurt throwing was not an offense that had to be tried automatically but only if a lawsuit is filed by the victim.

During the past two years of the Greek crisis, attacks by angry citizens against politicians have become a frequent phenomenon. At the beginning there were verbal attacks, in restaurants and in the streets. Politicians began to walk less freely in the street without bodyguards, especially after Kostis Hatzidakis, a New Democracy MP, was brutally attacked by protesters in December of 2010.

The verbal attacks are still the norm wherever politicians appear in public (e.g. see what happened in the 28th October military parades – btw these days the government had a meeting to assess the security situation in view of the 25th of March Independence Day parades) Soon food throwing reappeared. The most popular “weapons” have been yogurt, eggs and, at times, tomatoes.

According to an article of Eleftherotypia newspaper, written by Georgia Linardou, in 2011 two members of the government and one MP have been attacked with yogurts. Last March, the vice president of the government Theodoros Pangalos was attacked while having dinner at a town just outside Athens. Some months later, Minister of Interior Haris Kastanidis was attacked in a similar fashion while watching “Midnight in Paris” at a cinema in Thessaloniki. Liana Kanelli, an MP with the Communist Party of Greece, has also been attacked with yogurt in June 2011, while she was trying to get through a block of protesters in order to reach the Parliament for the vote on the Mid-Term Program.

As for attacks with eggs, the list is longer, probably thanks to the different characteristics of this sort of food when used as a missile (their position on the day of the attack):

  • Manolis Othonas, Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection
  • Ilias Mosialos, Minister of State
  • Kostas Skandalidis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture
  • Andreas Loverdos, Minister of Health
  • Anna Diamantopoulou, Minister of Education
  • Giorgos Petalotis, Government Spokesman

Also:

  • Asterios Rontoulis, MP with LAOS
  • Dora Bakoyanis, Democratic Alliance party leader
  • Spiros Taliadouros, MP with New Democracy

In 2010 Alekos Alavanos was also attacked, with yogurts, during SYRIZA’s campaign for that year’s local elections.

Many politicians have criticized this form of protest. KKE’s leader, Aleka Papariga, has said that yogurt-throwers are people who have voted for PASOK or New Democracy and that the act itself is not some particular act of resistance but rather a bourgeois reaction that defuses the social discontent. Deputy Minister of Regional Development, Sokratis Xinidis, preferred some self-criticism when he said “The time has come for all of us to pay the price. I am ready to be thrown a yogurt…”

There’s a great article about the presence of food in Greek politics. It’s called “Bread, Milk, and the Greek Parliamentary Record” and is written by Leo Vournelis, here. Another interesting aspect can be read in “Eating in Times of Financial Crisis” also hosted on the website of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Finally, let me remind the readers of a historical recurrence. This is the second time that Evangelos Venizelos is trying to win the leadership of PASOK. The first time was back in 2007, in a mutiny-styled manoeuvre when he appeared as a candidate practically on the same night his party, then led by George Papandreou, lost the elections. In the following days few cared about the newly elected government – the top story was what was happening inside PASOK. In those polarized (for PASOK supporters) times, another party member threw a coffee on Venizelos while he was entering the party offices.

What I still remember from that video is Venizelos’ reaction. See at 1:33 for a better a view of it. Scary isn’t it?

UPDATE: Another interesting read is “The Dangers of Yoghurtification as a Political Movement in Greece“.

Up in the air

An interesting moment from yesterday’s session at the Greek Parliament. George Mavrikos, an MP with the Greek Communist Party (KKE), throws the draft Memorandum (No2) towards Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos after a heated debate.

George Mavrikos returns the draft Memorandum No2 to Evangelos Venizelos

Venizelos stood up and started shouted a prophecy. “The image of Mr. Mavrikos doing this act will be shown by the international media around the world. He is humiliating the country. He is exposing the country to risk. You won’t drive the country into a state of soviet-style socialism, twenty years later “.