Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

24 Hours of Chaos

Ralitsa Kovacheva, November 4, 2011

Awaiting the vote of confidence for the Greek government after yesterday’s avalanche of contradictory news, I'm getting more and more convinced that the main culprit for the Greek political earthquake is not only and personally George Papandreou, although Greek media called him ‘The Lord of Chaos’. The culprit is the same who is responsible for the current situation of the country as a result of irresponsible and even criminal behaviour for years - the political class. Speaking to Socialist MPs Papandreou himself too accused the political parties for the situation because they all attacked the agreement with the EU from 27 October.

It becomes increasingly clear that the idea of a referendum was a bluff to win the support of the parliamentary opposition to the new rescue plan. The fact is that the moment the New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said he was ready to support the rescue plan, Papandreou gave up the referendum: "If we have consensus, then we don’t need a referendum."

Even more striking is that Papandreou was bluffing against his own party, which in turn boycotted him for months, especially in the face of Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. Yet Venizelos's appointment in June provoked comments that it was strange in such a crisis moment to appoint as finance minister a man with zero economic and financial experience. Venizelos is a Professor of Constitutional Law, with a long political career - he was a minister of press and media, transport, justice, development, culture (twice). The explanation then was that the appointment of Venizelos was a result of strong internal party pressure.

Although party fellows, George Papandreou and Evangelos Venizelos are political rivals – Venizelos lost the 2007 party elections to Papandreou when he became PASOK leader, but apparently he hasn’t lost a desire for revenge. Greek and international media commented that it was exactly Venizelos who stood behind the internal party revolt against Papandreou in recent days. The fact is that the first strong reaction against the referendum came precisely from Venizelos. Once he returned from Cannes (where the G20 Summit is taking place), he said that the referendum should not be about Greece staying in the euro area or not, as requested by European leaders.

Tonight at midnight the Greek Parliament will vote confidence or no confidence in the government. Given that Papandreou has a small and uncertain majority (152 of 300 deputies) result is difficult to predict and will depend mostly on internal party deals within the Socialist Party. The opposition calls for early elections and yesterday a group of MPs from the two major parties, PASOK and New Democracy, have called for a national unity government, an idea launched by Papandreou himself in June.

However, although the early elections seem like the most democratic alternative, as was the argument for a referendum, the truth is that this is only seemingly. Whoever wins the election will have to implement the rescue plan. It is a legend that it could be renegotiated to achieve more favourable conditions for Greece. Whoever takes over the country will follow the orders of the Troika (the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF), which, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, will now have permanent presence in Athens. The political parties are obliged to explain that to their constituencies. They are obliged to take responsibility for their actions and inactions not only in the last two years but in the past decades. The last thing Greece and Europe need now is cheap internal party reckoning.