Friday, November 18, 2011

The Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy in Greece Tracing Ruptures and Indicating Tendencies in the Memorandum Policies

By: Giannis Balabanidis

In what follows we will analyse the general impact of Memorandum policies adopted one year ago and that of the measures introduced by the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Law this summer. Given the fact that both the Memorandum recipe as well as the Medium Term measures provide the framework within which public policies will be developed over the next five years, a thorough analysis of both is essential in order to conceptualise the deep-seated changes that Greek society is undergoing.

There is no alternative: Towards an authoritarian democracy

The law outlining the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy programme’s implementation was passed by a plenary session of Parliament on June 29. The very fact that the Parliament ratified the law after an urgent debate, instead of following the regular parliamentary procedures, and a roll-call vote to avoid MP leaks, indicates a clear authoritarian turn in its operation. Moreover, outside Parliament, Syntagma Square was occupied by a multitude of citizens protesting the measures imposed by the Government and the EU/IMF. By the time the law was passed, riot police were ordered to evacuate Syntagma Square. What followed was a violent attack by the riot police on the protesters, accompanied by an extensive use of teargas. The combination of these two elements of authoritarian rule indicates that the country is entering a stage of overt political crisis.

The vast majority of the Greek people has now realised that the Memorandum was neither inevitable nor necessary and most importantly that alternative political solutions for exiting this structural crisis still exist both at the European and national level, solutions that deal with the crisis without atdestroying the basis of social cohesion. Evidently, the Greek government has reached the limits of its democratic legitimation, and it is now unable to continue blackmailing the electorate with false dilemmas such as “either we vote for the Medium-Term Strategy or we go bankrupt”. That is why it is resorting to violence in order to quell social upheaval and is bypassing Parliament in order to evade democratic deliberation on the new austerity measures. Trapped in a dead end, Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou made spasmodic attempts at reversing the negative climate. These included an unsuccessful appeal to the right-wing opposition to form a coalition government, a government reshuffle of no real importance and a couple of suggestions to hold a referendum in the fall to appease the ever growing social discontent. With all of this, Greek society is challenged to prevent the transformation of this particular political crisis into a wholesale crisis of the democratic regime.

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