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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Greece's New Democracy


From Our Man In Thessaloniki

Greeks go to the polls on Sunday to elect their national legislature.

Voting is compulsory, even for Greeks abroad (as so many are, since the economy crashed), but the obligation is not enforced and the turnout in 2019 was less than 58%. Foreigners who are permanently resident may also take part (something that our Sir Keir Starmer is considering - that would impact a possible Rejoin referendum, would it not?)

The franchise has now been extended to under-21s, down to age 17 including anyone who will reach that birthday by the end of the calendar year. This will add some 440,000 to the electorate. I have previously suggested that it may not be sensible to give the vote to young people who are more impulsive and prone to peer influence because their prefrontal cortexes are not yet fully developed; perhaps this is tacitly recognised in Greece in that you have to be at least 25 to stand for office. However, this new, more gullible and excitable cohort may suit some demagogues.

Speaking of which, the Communists (KKE) have been holding the usual rallies, complete with red flags and clenched fists. Their expected share of the vote is small but as of last night's Greek TV rising - around the 6% mark.

On the right in the Hellenic Parliament, Golden Dawn's seats dropped from 21 in 2012 to zero in 2019, though gaining two or three in the last couple of EU Parliamentary elections. On the other hand the nationalist Greek Solution (Elliniki Lisi), newly formed in 2016, immediately took ten seats in Greece's Parliament and one in the EU's.

One could look at fringe party performance as an indicator of dissatisfaction with the political system. Even in the UK people are wondering if democracy really works for the people and whether a dictator could sort things out - this Daily Mail article of a couple of days ago gave Twitterers the chance to throw about the f-word ('fascist', since 'far right' is beginning to lose its zing.)

The root causes in both Greece and the UK have points of similarity.

The first is debt - Britain has struggled with that burden since the First World War, yet seems determined to repeat its unnecessary involvement in foreign armed conflicts. PM Sunak (whose light voice is unfortunately reminiscent of Blair's) has just received permission from the US to train Ukrainian F-16 pilots and so prolong and intensify the suffering there.

Likewise, when a debt-bedevilled Greece was shoehorned into the Eurozone in 2001 on fake economic data, helped (among others) by Rishi's future employer Goldman Sachs, it set up the country for full-scale disaster when the global financial crisis hit a few years later. We happened to be in Corfu at the latter time: a restaurant worker of mature years growled 'we should cut off the heads of the politicians!' and Greeks do not say such things lightly; in the event it was the innocent who suffered as usual, three bank workers dying in an arson attack in Athens.

The other major factor in public discontent is of course the elected representatives, perceived as blithely out of touch - a point deliciously confirmed by the result of the Brexit referendum. They really seem to think they can carry on as usual, like children who use their bed as a trampoline and simply don't believe the springs might break.

Someone who does believe it is Yanis Varoufakis, the economist who was Greece's finance minister in the Syriza (progressive left) government when the crisis broke, and watched as the administration caved in to the Troika's demands.

The ramifications of the seizure of control by centralised European financial authorities are far-reaching and there is not space for them here, except to say that the recent rail crash at Tempi, killing 57 and injuring many more, is linked by some with the cutbacks in public spending to which Syriza's Prime Minister Tsipras had to agree. Perhaps exploiting this, the current PM, New Democracy's (centre right) Kyriakos Mitsotakis - who sports a bland and confident smirk - had himself filmed yesterday in front of gleaming modern railway engines; it may help counter the opprobrium attaching to last year's wiretapping scandal, for which Mitsotakis denies responsibility despite taking over direct control of the intelligence service when he assumed office in 2019.

Varoufakis is pro-EU but sees it as needing reform to forestall its breakup. His 2018-established MeRA25 party (left-leaning, plus Green and liberal) gained nine seats in the Hellenic Parliament in 2019 with around 3% of the vote - about half that of the Communists.

Although I see him as a good man, unfortunately I don't think he will go much further, because a lecturer is not the same as an orator. Watching him address a gathering last night on TV I noted he spoke too fast and with an intellectual's manner, his bald head and almost reptilian-alert gaze bobbing about; he won't meet the average voter's need for a reassuring, slightly boring paternal figure. He is trim, likes his motorbike and has been described (perhaps unfairly) as a narcissist - looks just a little too sharp, like our own dear Rishi. 'Let me have men about me that are fat / Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights,' says Shakespeare's Caesar; Varoufakis scores on the sleek head biut otherwise has too much of Cassius' lean and hungry look.

That's the problem with democracy, you see: the instincts of the demos.

In a polity that is so sharply divided there was a system to grant additional Parliamentary seats to parties in order to strengthen the hand of the dominant one; this supermajority arrangement is suspended for 2023 but will be reinstituted for the following election. Without the added seats, Reuters reports that the hurdle figure for an outright majority is 46% and so a coalition may be on the cards.

So really it is down to 'New Democracy' and whoever it decides to share power with if it can't win hands down. And the cruel bloodsucking of the bigger System will continue.

There as here, perhaps only some minor disaster will save us from a massive one.

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