mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Greek Austerity Endangered by Enraged Public

Over the past few months, European leaders have begun to question the commitment of Greek politicians to the painful austerity programs that have massive numbers of Greeks taking to the streets. Lately, it seems their fears may have been misplaced. A vote yesterday over proposed cuts passed the chamber, and both major parties took a stand by expelling MPs who refused to vote for the measure. The Greek government’s austerity procedures may not be exemplary; it will cheat and delay wherever possible. But yesterday’s vote and expulsions suggest that the underlying commitment is there.

This is not to say that Greece’s creditors have nothing to worry about. The political establishment may be committed, but this commitment is meaningless if it can’t govern the country—a possibility which is looking more likely by the day. Even as yesterday’s vote was recorded, the plaza outside the parliament building looked “like a war zone” according to the Guardian. Greek politicians may be rallying behind austerity, but voters don’t appear to be following their lead. A program of cutbacks and destroyed pensions has proven difficult to sell to an enraged populace.

The vote for austerity yesterday was only 177 out of a possible 300. With major parties almost certain to lose votes in the upcoming April elections, will austerity still have a majority in three months?

Features Icon
show comments
  • Kenny

    Zorba wants to keep dancing on Germany’s dime.

  • Walter Sobchak

    “But yesterday’s vote and expulsions suggest that the underlying commitment is there.”

    Yesterday’s vote demonstrates no commitment to anything other than saying anything to get their hands on the money. The chances that the Greeks will follow through on any promises that they made are close to zero.

    Look, they don’t obey the laws they passed when they weren’t being pushed by the EU. Why would they start obeying their laws now?

  • Cunctator

    So, let me get this right — the Greek parliament expelled any member who did not support the austerity plan? Even if one supports the plan, surely the expulsion of oppoenents should raise alarms about the legitimacy of the decision.

    Just the day before the vote, the Greek PM argued that Greece had to adopt the austerity measures so as not to betray its heritage as the birthplace of democracy. There is a considerable inconsistency in what happened. Are alternate views no longer tolerated in Athens, or is this the consequence of a German-dominated Europe? Sie befehlen und wir folgen?!!!

  • LarryD

    The coup continues, Greece’s government is now a colonial government. We can debate about who the imperialists are later.

    This is a separate issue from the fact that the Greeks don’t want to live within their means, reality will force them to, no matter how much they kick and scream.

  • Eurydice

    @Cunctator #3 – the MPs were expelled from their parties, not from the parliament.

  • Independent George

    Words are wind. The Parliament can vote however they like, the question has always been (1) whether they will actually follow through with it, and (2) what happens if/when they don’t. The former seems unlikely, and the latter must be unspeakable, because nobody wants to talk on record about it.

  • Jim.

    It might be useful to juxtapose this with stories of the disjoint in Germany between the pro-bailout government and the anti-bailout public.

    It seems that the only compromise here — a bailout too generous for Germans to tolerate coupled with austerity too harsh for Greeks to tolerate — is the one path that pleases nobody.

    I propose that the only workable solution is “beggars can’t be choosers”. Otherwise, the incentive and motivation to be productive erodes, which can lead to the collapse of the whole system and no one getting what they want.

  • Lorenz Gude

    The situation continues to appear unsustainable, with no real fix in sight. It is getting clearer and clearer that the differnt economic cultures of Northern and Southern Europe make the currency union a nightmare. It seems to me the question facing the EU, and that the EU cannont seem to even talk about, is how best to get out of the single currency trap they find themselves in.

  • Derek Footer

    The comments implying a desire for Germany to recreate Deutschland Über Alles are foolish provocations. Greece has a choice: it can suffer austerity if it wants to stay in the European project and have a hope for long term stability and eventual prosperity, or it can refuse Germany’s money and go off on its own to return to its pre-Euro second world genteel poverty. Much as taking Daddy’s money means living by Daddy’s rules, Greeks can live by Germany’s rules or take a job at McDonalds and start looking for that apartment in the seedy side of town. The fact that they are throwing a tantrum when faced with the choice shows their maturity equates to a teenager’s.

  • Eurydice

    @Derek #9 – You’re right. Germany couldn’t recreate Deutschland, etc. even if it wanted to – it’s a prisoner of the Euro just like all the rest.

    As for Greece, the discussion has not been very nuanced and there has been no distinction between the Greek government and the Greek people. The Greek people have already experienced austerity measures, with layoffs, several cuts in salary, cuts in pensions, budget cuts and multiple tax increases. That these austerity measures were done in the most chaotic, inefficient and ridiculous ways possible by the Greek government doesn’t negate the fact that they happened and have affected the people. What’s enraging the public now is not only Austerity 2.0, but the realization that absolutely every bit of the socialist structure is rotten to the core. It’s one thing to live with inefficiency and everyday corruption and to talk cynically about the political classes, it’s another to call 911 and find there’s nobody there.

    I suppose you could say they should have realized this sooner and/or voted for better politicians, and you would be right. So, perhaps we can use this as a warning to not be so complacent about our own politicians when, for example, they cause a credit downgrade because they can’t agree on anything. We wouldn’t want the rest of the world to think we’re throwing tantrums.

  • Derek Footer

    @Eurydice Hear, hear!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service