Greek believers benefit from Greek pain

Greece : The scales of Europe

Some march through the streets with flags reminiscent of the swastika and hold up their arms in the Hitler salute. The others are waving red flags, promoting the abolition of parliament and the dictatorship of the proletariat. A few days before the election, extremists are booming in Greece. The crisis polarized the Greeks. The tough austerity requirements and the deepest recession since the end of World War II have left deep marks on the political landscape. The two traditional people's parties, which have ruled the country in turns since the end of the colonial dictatorship and which plunged it into a debt disaster, are feeling the anger of the voters. That is understandable, but not entirely fair. After all, a great many citizens have benefited from the tightly knit network of favors that politicians have spread across the country over the decades. There are always two parts to the clientele economy, to political corruption.

Now the Greeks are presented with the bill. The country is going through a painful adjustment process. For the people it is associated with considerable sacrifices. Last year incomes fell by an average of a quarter and unemployment is at its highest level since the end of the war. One in two 15 to 24 year olds is without a job. Greece depends on the drip of the international creditors who always dictate new conditions.

Most Greeks vote angrily. Nationalist forces on both the right and left fringes of the political spectrum benefit from this. If the pollsters are right, ten parties will be represented in the next parliament. Seven of them reject the austerity requirements, three even openly propagate Greece's exit from the European Union.

Greece is at a crossroads. In 1981, accession to the EEC consolidated the democracy, which was still uncertain after the end of the colonial dictatorship. Setting the course turned out to be a great stroke of luck. Never before since the founding of the state 180 years ago has Greece experienced such an era of stability and prosperity as in the past three decades. Now the crisis is confronting the Greeks with a dilemma: eight out of ten citizens reject the austerity program. Almost as many, however, want to hold on to the euro and the EU. But both do not work together. This decision is what the election is about.

In a poll, 44 percent said they wanted to “protest and punish” when voting. It is to be hoped that a prudent view will prevail by Sunday and that the majority of voters will give their vote to those parties that want to work on the European integration of the country. Everything is at stake in this election, and not just for the Greeks. Europe is also voted on in Hellas. Because if Greece says goodbye to the euro, it could trigger a domino effect that will shake the foundations of the monetary union.

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