“An old man marched over to me and declared: “I am voting for the thieves.” (This is how a lot of Greeks now refer to Antonis Samaras’s party, ND, and their left-wing partners, Pasok.)” Guardian reporter.
So New Democracy (ND) has won a narrow victory. Indeed, leftist Syriza led among 18-34 year-olds and 35-54s. So the ND victory is entirely due to seniors like those quoted above. There has been a polarisation on the right towards ND and to the left around SYRIZA, but the anti-bailout parties still polled more than the pro-austerity parties by 53% to 47% (including those parties that did not make parliament).
ND’ s victory is a blow to the chances of the Greek people of getting out of the deep depression that the economy is in, with near 25% unemployment, a contraction in output of around 7% annual rate (down nearly 20% since the peak) and the government and utilities running out of money to provide basic services like health, lighting and heating.
ND is the leading right-wing party and responsible, along with ‘collaborationist’ ‘socialist’ PASOK, for the mess in the first place. ND represent the rich, the people who don’t pay their taxes and big business and the banks in Greece. They have ended up as the largest party ahead of the leftist SYRIZA through a combination of fear that Greece will be thrown out of the European Union if the people elect the left; through black propaganda against the left; and through hints and promises by the Euro leaders that the pro- bailout parties can negotiate a better deal on austerity. During the campaign, much was made by ND that it could so. The Euro leaders made it clear that a new deal could be negotiated. And the OECD on the eve of the election called for a new package. These promises just won it for ND.
The EU leaders are preparing a package of incentives to convince the Greeks to stick to the country’s current bailout deal. The package includes further reductions in interest rates and extended repayment periods for the bailout loans, as well as EU money to spur investments in Greek public works programmes through the European Investment Bank. As one Euro official put it, off the record, “In the scenario where Samaras wins the elections, we would like to see him committing very clearly to his adherence to the memorandum. Then we would get together with the new Greek government and say: here is what we can now do to make life a bit sweeter, a bit less harsh.”
But this is all talk. All it means is that austerity will continue, but at a slightly less severe pace. For example, under some of the plans being considered, public investment spending would be targeted at upgrading government-owned properties so that they could be made more attractive for sale in Greece’s €50bn privatisation plan! So Greece’s public assets will still be sold off for a song in return for a few concessions on spending. It’s no surprise that PASOK is reluctant to join a coalition without involving SYRIZA in any austerity measures. Indeed, any sort of government may be difficult to form.
The reality is that the Greek economy is on its knees and won’t be able to get up even with a little less whipping from the EU leaders. Already many public health services have stopped. Non-governmental organizations are filling in with the kind of aid more associated with the developing world. Diseases such as HIV and malaria are on the rise. The medical charity Medecins du Monde known for its work in the Third World, saw the number of Greeks coming to its clinics double in 2011. “Many patients are retired elderly citizens whose pensions have been substantially reduced because of the austerity measures implemented by the government in recent years,” the charity noted in recent research.