Is there a way for Greece to get out of the cri­sis?

Kathimerini English - - Comment -

Three weeks of street protests, a cou­ple of PASOK MPs re­sign­ing last week, a few more PASOK deputies chal­leng­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou’s lead­er­ship qual­i­ties, ram­pant un­em­ploy­ment, ri­ots and one of the worst fi­nan­cial crises in mod­ern Greek his­tory cul­mi­nated on Fri­day in a cabi­net reshuf­fle. Pa­pan­dreou is fac­ing the most in­tense crit­i­cism since his elec­tion in Oc­to­ber 2009, both from his party and from Greek so­ci­ety. What on Wed­nes­day night looked like a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the main op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy party was trans­formed on Thurs­day into an in­tra­party “elec­tions reshuf­fle.” The new gov­ern­ment was sworn in on June 17 and will be up for a con­fi­dence vote to­mor­row. The op­po­si­tion par­ties are not im­pressed with the reshuf­fle. Most cit­i­zens re­acted by say­ing, “It’s just the same old same old.” Not much is ex­pected from this new gov­ern­ment. Why? To be­gin with, Pa­pan­dreou’s ef­fort to re­gain the con­fi­dence of the Greek pub­lic be­gan with the am­bi­tious idea of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment in­clud­ing many tech­nocrats, but ended up with a mild cabi­net reshuf­fle, sat­is­fy­ing the nar­row in­ter­ests of the rul­ing po­lit­i­cal party. For ex­am­ple, his ef­forts to re­cruit Lu­cas Pa­pade­mos, who has served as vice pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, as fi­nance min­is­ter did not bear fruit. This is just one ex­am­ple of Pa­pan­dreou’s fail­ure to bring tech­nocrats into the gov­ern­ment. In­stead, Evan­ge­los Venize­los, a pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tional law and de­fense min­is­ter un­til to­day, took up the bur­den. More­over, Theodoros Pan­ga­los re­mained deputy prime min­is­ter de­spite the fact that he has been the tar­get of most of the chants dur­ing the re­cent street protests. Most min­is­ters were not changed and three im­por­tant min­is­ters were de­moted but kept: Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, the ex-min­is­ter of fi­nance, Yian­nis Ragousis (in­te­rior), and Haris Kas­tani­dis (jus­tice). How­ever, there is a more pos­i­tive way to read the news. Pa­pan­dreou wanted to cre­ate a team that agrees with him. One step was to re­move Louka Kat­seli, who was prob­a­bly a vic­tim of her dis­agree­ments with the troika of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, IMF and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. An­other was to ap­pease PASOK’s po­lit­i­cal base and si­lence a wave of in­ter­nal crit­i­cism that has been mount­ing within his party. To achieve this, he re­moved some of his close friends that had been in­tensely crit­i­cized and in­cluded some of his per­sonal crit­ics in the gov­ern­ment. Last but not least, pro­mot­ing Venize­los – his party ri­val and con­tes­tant for the lead­er­ship of the party – to deputy PM sig­nif­i­cantly changes the in­ter­nal dy­namic within PASOK. Party cohesion is ar­guably a pre­con­di­tion for the gov­ern­ment to pass the new aus­ter­ity mea­sures re­quired to se­cure more loans from the EU and IMF. De­spite these co-op­tion tac­tics, how­ever, the new gov­ern­ment has al­ready found its crit­ics from within the party. A few min­utes af­ter the new gov­ern­ment was sworn in, PASOK MP Odysseas Voudouris ar­gued that the reshuf­fle was un­sat­is­fac­tory. Re­gard­less, as a re­sult, the whole po­lit­i­cal party is seen as an “ac­com­plice” of Pa­pan­dreou in this ef­fort. There are also im­por­tant changes in the func­tion­ing of the gov­ern­ment. The premier cre­ated a “Gov­ern­ing Com­mit­tee” – some­thing that has been de­manded by many party mem­bers – where 10 min­is­ters par­tic­i­pate, and also added a sec­ond deputy PM po­si­tion. These changes aim to en­hance Pa­pan­dreou’s abil­ity to del­e­gate re­spon­si­bil­ity and for the gov­ern­ment to co­or­di­nate more ef­fi­ciently. An­other im­por­tant fact is that Pan­ga­los will not be part of the Gov­ern­ing Com­mit­tee – some­thing that might ap­pease some of his many crit­ics. Turn­ing to the Fi­nance Min­istry most peo­ple be­lieve that Venize­los may be bet­ter in ne­go­ti­a­tions than Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou. Venize­los is an ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cian and a charis­matic speaker. He has headed a num­ber of min­istries. Nev­er­the­less, he is not an econ­o­mist and thus will have to rely on the ad­vice of oth­ers. Fi­nally, two promis­ing new faces in the gov­ern­ment are Stavros Lam­brini­dis (BA from Amherst, JD from Yale), new min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, and LSE Pro­fes­sor Ilias Mos­sia­los, gov­ern­ment spokesman and min­is­ter of state. In the mean­time, the Eurogroup was meet­ing yes­ter­day in Brus­sels to de­cide on the next in­stall­ment from the EU-IMF bailout pack­age. It seems that de­vel­op­ments in Greece have also alarmed French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel to the point that they rushed to de­clare that they will pro­vide fur­ther as­sis­tance to Greece and that the pri­vate sec­tor can also par­tic­i­pate in this scheme on vol­un­tary ba­sis – a highly con­tested point so far. Nev­er­the­less, with few ex­cep­tions, the changes have not im­pressed the Greek peo­ple – who are still wait­ing for so­cial jus­tice – and it is un­likely that they will re­store the con­fi­dence of our for­eign cred­i­tors. If this gov­ern­ment fails to re­gain the con­fi­dence of the peo­ple, then Greece will have to hold early elec­tions. The only cer­tainty is that from these elec­tions a one-party gov­ern­ment is un­likely to emerge.

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