Under Greek Law, the publication of electoral opinion polls is illegal from two weeks before General Election dates. So between now and polling day, the views of the Greek electorate will be going behind the dark side of the moon. But The Slog has been told by Brussels sources that both there and in Berlin, there is mounting concern about an anti-Troika majority winding up as the Government.
“For the first time in 40 years, people are not voting left versus right but pro-bailout versus anti-bailout,” ALCO pollster Costas Panagopoulos said three days ago, “We cannot exclude any scenario.” The figures support Panagopoulus, although this is rarely appreciated in the MSM.
On Saturday 14th April last, a poll by the MRB company revealed a majority of Greeks rejecting an economic recovery plan imposed in return for EU-IMF loans. Thus, although only 26.2% of respondents said they’d vote for a party opposed to the EU-IMF rescue, 66% said Greece should stay in the eurozone but adopt an alternative recovery plan.
The key point being missed here is that – while New Democracy has cooperated with the Troika – its leadership is known to have major doubts about the austerity plan. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is widely distrusted in Brussels for this very reason; and as The Slog predicted over a fortnight ago, PASOK leader Venizelos has been leading calls for a compromise PM….unelected. Venizelos knows he’s going to be the big loser on May 6th, but being in the Troika’s pocket, he hopes to convince ND – and the voters – that an anti-Troika majority would be bad news. I wrote at the time:
‘Samaras has also said he would reject a coalition administration, but has nevertheless been a bit yes and no about it. In many ways he is right to be equivocal: with perhaps nine Parties likely to win seats in the new Parliament, it is impossible at the moment to foresee all the possibilities. But I understand that Samaris would welcome a Coalition without PASOK.’
Venizelos fears this, and is still mouthing off in an attempt to cling onto power. He said there would be a “huge problem” if the next government — most likely to be a coalition — does not have at least 50 percent of the vote following next month’s elections. (PASOK and ND together had 35.5% last Monday).
Sources in Athens are repeating what they alleged two weeks ago: that the PASOK leader is hinting at direct action from outside Greece were a Coalition without him and against the Troika to emerge after May 6th.
Now The Slog’s longstanding Brussels mole offers some support for their fears….and suggests that the Troikanauts might force the issue.
“It’s an open secret here that [the Commission], the IMF and Berlin believe there may well be a volte-face and tearing up of the bailout deal after May 6th,” he tells me, “I think they’d start twisting arms about stopping the cash-flow, and try and bring a new Government to heel. In my view, all the Greeks would have to do is resist that, and the eurozone would immediately be in big trouble.”
What most foreign observers have also failed to spot is just how much PASOK support has fallen: there has been some recovery during April, but their last poll rating was still poor at 17.8%. Just under two-thirds of all Greeks don’t intend to vote for either ‘main’ Party….and looking at PASOK alone, we can see that four out of five won’t vote for Venizelos. That’s more than enough for ND’s Samaras to form a solid Coalition government.
Samaras has often criticised the terms of the bailout, and said he would spend 550 million euros on social relief if elected. He became more specific about his plans yesterday, saying corporate tax should be cut back to 15% from 23% (as a stimulant to economic growth) but also that the top VAT rate should be cut to 19% from 23% – and the top income tax rate to 32% from 45% (to stimulate consumption).
This is clearly a spend more and stay on austerity track sum of the kind often dished out during elections. In real terms, it’s a fantasy. In Troika circles, it represents dangerous anti-matter.
Bearing in mind what the Greek economy is doing at the minute, however, the Samaris plan is marginally more sane than the bailout terms. Real incomes in Greece dropped by a massive 25.3% during 2011, according to an annual report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which uses data forwarded by the Greek Finance Ministry.
Meanwhile, further out on the Right, hard-nationalist Party doyen Panos Kammenos declared yesterday that he would nationalise the Bank of Greece , and drive IMF representative Poul Thomsen out of the country.
The leader of the fast-rising Party ‘Independent Greeks’ told Skai TV that Greece must reject the terms of the new bailout it agreed with the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission in February. He added that Greece’s new bonds written under UK law would lead to public and private Greek assets being seized as and when things go pear-shaped.
“If during the next month we do not get rid of Thomsen and his employees, the repossessions of homes will begin because of UK law,” said Kammenos, who earlier this week drew fire from Greek shipowners for suggesting that their vessels could be seized by Greece’s creditors.
Alarmist stuff? Probably. But there are two factors that every good psephologist (electoral researcher) knows only too well. Even if a Party (like ND) doesn’t openly say it will reject the recent past, many of its voters will expect it to. And respondents in research always underclaim their willingness to vote for extreme Parties.
This is why the awful Evangelo Venizelos may find himself out in the cold after May 6th. And why the EU may suddenly find itself with two rebellious ClubMed States to handle.
All of which brings us back to the original Geithner plan for Greece…and the geo-political aims of the Pentagon and the oil business in the Greek theatre. Might they be already opening communication lines with the Rightists in Athens? I don’t know. But if any Greeks think they do know, the email address remains email@example.com.