Greece: A Typical Election (and its Aftermath)
This is a report on the parliamentary elections of October 4, 2006 in Greece.
But first, we have to set down two very important assumptions on which this report is based:
1. In any given population there is a part (around 33%) of rather "strange" men and women (they call themselves "conservative", or "patriotic", or "nationalist", etc) who more or less decide how the rest 77% of the population should live.
2. It is possible that a massive part of any given population, in some point in time, can behave in an immoral and irrational way. Examples: the Nazis, the electoral base of W. Bush, of Tony Blair, of Berlusconi, etc., etc.
In a typical election, there are, in essence, (only) two political parties that compete to secure the "power" to govern, that is to tell the people how to live. One party is usually called Republican, or Christian Democratic, or Conservative, or Nationalist, etc. This party is considered a "rightist" party and is supported by the above 33% of "strange" people. The other party is usually called Democratic Party, or Party of Democratic Socialism, or (simply) Socialist Party, etc. It is considered a quasi "leftist" party and is supported by "normal" people who consider themselves "realists", but in reality are frightened people (loss of job, police brutality, etc) who strive to survive in a harsh society .
In Greece the "rightist" party is called "New Democracy". If "democracy" means "power" (kratos) to the "people" (demos), then the name "New Democracy" is a bit odd. What is new? Is it the people? Of course not. Is it, then, the power? In its original classical Greek meaning the term "power", in essence, referred to a collective process of decision-making. Therefore, "collective" means collective and cannot become "new". Yet, for 35 years, since the launching of the party by Karamanlis (the "uncle"), the "conservative" Greeks have been using this odd term. Karamanlis was hand-picked, in the 1950s, by the US to be its proxy "ruler" in Greece. He offered his services for almost 50 years.
The second party is PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) launched by Andreas Papandreou, former professor of economics at Berkeley, after the fall, in 1974, of the military dictatorship. He, too, offered his services to the US for more than three decades.
Here are the results of the October 5 elections:
- PASOK: 43.9 % [3,000,000 votes]
- New Democracy: 33.5 % [2,300,000 votes]. Notice the agreement of the 33% (or 1/3) to the above first assumption.
- KKE (traditional communist party): 7.5 % [517,000 votes]
- Neo Nazis: 5.6% [386,000 votes]
- Coalition of the Radical Left (formerly Eurocommunist): 4.6 % [315,000 votes]
Population of Greece: 11,190,000
Eligible voters: 10,460,000
Voted: 7,000,000 [71 % of the eligible]
Did not vote: 3,460,000 [ 29 % of the eligible]
[Parenthesis: The traditional Greek communists today number around five hundred thousand. Can one imagine that in 2009 there could be a Christian "leader" who would liquidate (i.e. kill) these "commies"? The first name that comes to one's mind is... Dick Cheney! He has already killed more than one million Iraqis and Afghans. Of course, one cannot ignore the "abilities" of Bill Clinton. He has already killed five hundred thousand Iraqi infants, given the fact that "it was worth it", according to that extremely sympathetic lady, Madeleine Albright. Close of the Parenthesis]
The above numbers, etc (excluding the Parenthesis) constitute the superficial aspects of the October 4 elections in Greece. It will be more instructive if we limit ourselves to the examination of the actual events and of the human behavior of the new Greek government of PASOK.
Nine years ago, in a ZNet Commentary (Sept. 23, 2000, "Anatomy of the Clinton Visit in Athens") I wrote: "The Clinton people...invited Michalis Chrisohoidis, the Greek Public Order Minister (the civilian head of the police), to visit Washington. Chrisohoidis, a young Greek politician..., met with the director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, the director of the CIA, George Tenet (a Greek-American), Janet Reno, Thomas Pickering, and Michael Sheehan of the State Department. The assessment of Chrisohoidis by the Clinton people, as expressed by Sheehan, was: 'We have faith in Mr. Chrisohoidis...' The events that followed and the 'work' of Chrisohoidis...proved that the faith of the Clinton people in him were well-founded." The above Commentary is a very enlightening text for the Greek situation and is earnestly recommended. Unfortunately it is 15 pages long.
So, inevitably, Crisohoidis (Chriso, from now on) is again the Minister for "public order" in the new PASOK government that was formed after the elections. Only this time, the name of the Ministry was changed from "Ministry of Public Order" to "Ministry for the Protection of Citizens"! A childish act of public relations? Not exactly. (See below about the protection of the Greeks by the police of Chriso.)
In an interview of mine to Chris Spannos ("Update on the Greek Uprising", Dec. 24, 2008) I said: "Then there is Theodore Pangalos, a 70-year-old heavily overweight man, who is proud of his weight as is attested by the story that once with the microphones in the European Union...forgotten in active state he attacked Angela Merkel verbally by saying: 'Has she ever been fucked by a fat man?' Pangalos is the grandchild of a military general with the same Christian name, who was a dictator [!] of Greece in 1925. As happens in some cases with the progeny of dictators Pangalos, the grandchild, named himself a leftist and entered politics... for almost two decades he held ministerial positions in the 'socialist' governments [of PASOK], mostly in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The 'peak' of his career came when in 1999, as a "socialist" Minister of Foreign Affairs, he delivered Ocalan, the leader of the Kurds, to the Turks who is rotting in the Turkish prisons since then... one should ask himself... who is supporting him in this provocative behavior for almost a half of a century?"
Now, after the elections, Pangalos climbed to the office of the ..."Deputy Prime Minster" of the Greek government, to the great surprise and anger of even the supporters of PASOK. Pangalos is a breath away from the office of the Prime Minister. Was this a reward for services rendered in the Ocalan case? Once more who is supporting Pangalos?
Dimitris Droutsas, who seems to be a very good friend of the US, is now Alternate Minister for foreign affairs.
George Papandreou, the son of Andreas Papandreou, who now is the Prime Minister, is a mild-mannered and decent person. My personal opinion is that he has entered a rather "savage" political world.
The events are recorded more or less chronologically:
On October 8, a group of about 20 youths attacked the notorious bookshop of a Neo-Nazi member of parliament, at Exarhia, the center of anarchist activity, in support of other youths that are imprisoned for rather unjustifiable reasons. During the attack, Chriso, the fervent admirer of the FBI and the CIA, was deliberating about terrorism with the top of the police. The results of the deliberations are recorded below.
Chriso announces that from now on the police will "put a friendlier face" towards the citizens. So, during the night of October 8 to 9, he releases a veritable army of about 400 policemen who invade Exarhia as an occupying force and start arresting and detaining people indiscriminately. Eight arrested and 81 detained. Many of the people were forced to stay in a kneeling position for more than 20 minutes. a lawyer , who was present during the event and tried to intervene was arrested and taken to the police headquarters, but later was set free.
On the same day, October 8, it was announced that the trial of the two policemen who killed the 15-year old Alexis last December was not to take place in Athens but at the provincial town of Halkida on the island of Evia, for security reasons.
[Important note: Thirty three years ago, in the mid-1970s, Halkida was chosen for the trial of the two master torturers during the 1967 dictatorship, policemen Malios and Babalis, again for security reasons. I drove to Halkida, very early in the morning to attend the trial. In the courtroom there were no more than ten persons. About nine were security policemen in civilian cloths. The torturers were sentenced to a few months in prison, by the Karamanlis (uncle) court, which they could pay for and be set free. After that, both Malios and Babalis were executed in the streets of Athens. Recently, Mikis Theodorakis, the great Greek composer, in a TV interview revealed that, while a prisoner in the security police building during the dictatorship, Malios boastfully warned him that he had acquired new methods of torture that he was taught in the USA. End of note.]
The port of Piraeus is one of the most important ports of the Mediterranean. Following the Baltimore-style privatization, the previous conservative Greek government sold the port to the Chinese. On October 11 the workers of the port decided to extend their 10-day strike to protest the selling of the port. The reaction of the new "socialist" government is going to be a test for its intentions.
On October 12 a coroner was instructed to conduct a second autopsy on the body of a 27-year-old Pakistani immigrant who died after he had been repeatedly beaten on the head and given electric shocks by the police in Nikea, a neighborhood of Athens. Five days later, on October 17, a protest rally was held outside the police station in Nikea by immigrants and anti-racist groups. Two policemen were injured, a journalist was beaten by the police, and 8 citizens were arrested. Chriso asked the Greek Supreme Court to investigate the death of the Pakistani immigrant. On October 20, there was a sit-in at the District offices at Hania, in Crete, to protest the arrest of the 8 in Athens during the rally in Nikea.
In the evening of October 16 there was a gathering at the Square of Exarhia of the people who live in the area and of the young people who frequent there, to protest and discuss the "occupation" of the square by the police of Chriso. One of the slogans chanted in the gathering: "Chrisochoidis Americano-Tsolias"! ("Eleftherotypia", Oct., 19, page 51). For a person of my age and a survivor of the Nazi occupation since 1941, it is unbelievable that the word "tsolias" would be uttered in such a context in...2009! "Tsolias" or "evzone", according to the Merriam Webster's is "a member of a select Greek infantry unit often serving as a palace guard". To millions of tourists, American, Japanese, etc, the "tsoliades" are very familiar as they are standing before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Syntagma Square, in their characteristic skirts, etc, whom a friend from New York described as: "the bimbos with the pompons on their shoes". My friend was wrong, the matter is not that frivolous.
In modern Greek history the "tsoliades" are people who live in "Rumeli", the wide area around the mountain of Parnasos, which is familiar to most people from their visit to Delphi. The men of Rumeli, consider themselves as the epitome of masculinity. For example, they say that "real" men eat only meat and that salads are eaten only by...faggots!
It is this skirt, pompons, etc of the "tsoliades" that the Nazi occupiers of Greece chose to dress their Greek collaborators, the murderous "security battalions", known since then as "Germano-Tsoliades", hence the "Americano-Tsolias" for Chriso. To this day the case of these collaborators of the Nazis, with the skirts and the pompons, whose brutality surprised even the Nazis, has not been resolved in the Greek society, as most of them under the protection of the US government have become part of the economic elite of Greece, after the Nazis left the country.
Once more, "trouble" at Exarhia. On October 21, Chriso's police invaded a bookstore where the presentation of a book was taking place. The cops made the "fatal" mistake to detain Dimiti Papachristou, the legendary person who held the microphone of the student radio station the moment the tank of the dictatorship invaded the Polytechnic, on November 17, 1973. Chriso after the incident said: "This sheriff or Rambo-style logic is down to overzealousness and is not a good yardstick for the [police] force...such behavior will no longer be tolerated". After that, Chriso sacked the Police chief.
On the island of Lesbos, on October 22, four very "macho" Greek guards (after all this is Lesbos!) beat a 17-year old migrant, Muhamed Handar, until he lost consciousness.
Aghia Paraskevi (Saint Paraskevi, a female Christian saint) is an Athens neighborhood adjacent to Halandri where I live. On October 27, around 9:30 pm, six people attacked the local police station, firing about 100 rounds and injuring five policemen and a policewoman. Of the six, four suffered slight wounds but the woman and one of the men were in serious condition. The police are almost certain this was an attack by the "Revolutionary Struggle", the urban guerilla group. However, unfortunately for Chriso, on November 19, the "Revolutionary Struggle" through a long text published in the satirical "Pontiki" denied any involvement in the operation.
On the same day, October 27, died Elli Pappa, at age 89, the comrade of Nikos Beloyiannis one of the most heroic figures of the 20th century who was executed by the Greek government, under US pressure, in 1952.
Saturday, November 7, around 7 pm policeman of the Acropolis[!!] precinct beat brutally a 15-year old Afghan migrant kid and in the meantime ordered an older Afghan migrant to pull down his pants publicly in the middle of a crowded spot in Athens (a practice thought to be very "effective" by the Greek police). Fortunately, the spot is not visible from the Acropolis, and the acts of Chriso's brave "pigs" did not disturb the tourists. Besides, at 7 it was a bit dark.
A home, an apartment, was "donated" on November 8, by the government of PASOK to Kostadinka Kuneva, the 44-year old Bulgarian immigrant, who was attacked on December 22, 2008 with acid because of her active union work, in the Athens Association of Cleaners and Domestic Staff. A way to "buy" her silence? Maybe.
Late in the evening of the same day, November 8, a Sunday, the Greeks for the first time watch on their TV sets the purposely darkened silhouette of Kuneva in her hospital room being interviewed by a journalist. She decided not to show her face as she has already undergone 8 operations and there are another 10 in the future. She lost one eye and with the other she cannot even read, or discern the view out of her hospital window. Here is what we hear Kuneva tell us through a hole in her throat: "I wonder what problem that kid [her assailant] could have to push him to resort to violence... I have no hate for him... As a mother, I only think of his mother and how she will feel after she learns that it was her son that did this to me". She added: "There is no doubt that he was put up to it".
On Nonember 12, Chriso announced that the Greek government "offered a 1-million-euro reward to anyone with information about the perpetrators, of the acid attack". A public relations act? Maybe. My opinion: no one of the Greek elites gives a shit about the case. Why did they let a year go by without doing anything to find the attacker?
The Kuneva case has become a "cause celebre" world-wide, except for the Greek politicians, the Greek police, and the Greek Justice system. It is reasonable to think that the people who were affected economically by Kuneva's union activism were the owners of the company that employed her. There is a rumor that the owner of the company who employed Kuneva and other migrant women as slave labor is a politician affiliated with the..."socialist" PASOK!
Kuneva herself is optimistic, she says that ultimately this kid (as she refers to him), who opened her mouth and forced the acid down her throat melting her inner body, will be known to the world.
On November 9, one day after the Kuneva interview, the Greek Justice system announced that the trial of the policemen who murdered the 15-year old Alexis will not take place in Halkida (see above) but it will be shifted to Amfissa, a small town in central Greece bout 160 miles from Athens and a 5 minute drive from...Delphi. The mother of Alexis appealed to the Supreme Court prosecutor not to move the trial to Amfissa but hold it in Athens, because crucial witnesses, mostly 15-year old high school kids standing on the side of Alexis the moment he was killed, will not be able to attend. The prosecutor ignored Alexis mother and repeated that the trial will be held in Amfissa. Two weeks from today, on December 6, 2009, the first anniversary of the killing of Alexis will be commemorated all over Greece. It is expected that a great number of young people from all over Europe will come to Greece to take part in the demonstrations, during the commemoration. As expected the Greek government (and the Emperor on the other side of the Atlantic) are a bit uneasy about this and will make an effort to persuade the political parties of the Left to help them contain the "troublesome" kids. We shall see.
[Once more, an important note: Again in the mid-1970s (see note above) a trial of a couple of policemen employed by the 1967 dictatorship as torturers was to be held in...Amfissa! Again, as I did for the Halkida trial, I drove to Amfissa to attend the trial. This time the courtroom was quite full with the relatives of the torture victims and with local people. The horrific part of the trial was when it was revealed that one of the torturers, a local redneck, had used a steel ring with screws on it that when put around the head of the victim and the screws tightened, the victim besides the momentary agony ended up with permanent mental injuries that had psychological aspects. This was corroborated by similar cases that were revealed in Athens. Again, the court of Karamanlis (uncle) handed a light sentence to the "pig" which he could pay for in money. End of note.]
The annual march to the US embassy to commemorate the uprising on November 17, 1973 against the 1967 dictatorship was massive end ended thus: 290 young people (some no more than 15 years old) were detained by Chriso's well-armed policemen, a fleet (!) of buses moved them to the building of the police headquarters, 10 were arrested and the rest 280 set free! My estimate: the US governments have been striving for 35 years(!!) to stop this annual march. They did not make it up to now. Chriso tried to scare as many Greek families as possible by detaining their kids. The area around the police headquarters was filled with hundreds of parents anxious to find out the fate of their children, up to late in the night. Did Chriso succeed (in applying the possible "recommendations" of the US embassy)? Maybe. [To learn more about the November 17 annual march see my ZNet Commentary "Anatomy of the Clinton Visit to Athens" of Sep. 23, 2000]
The rector of the Polytechnic announced on November 18 that the Greek government indicted him for allowing the "Athens indymedia" to operate through the Polytechnic server. The indymedia has been operating for more than 10 years. Do not forget that PASOK is a "socialist" progressive political party. The rector, Constantinos Moutzouris, to his credit, is resisting the PASOK "violence" and threatens to resign with the rest of the professors.
The French word "stage" (pronounced: stazh) means the "period needed to complete a course of training" (Larousse Dictionary). So, the European economic elite (the Greek included) had the brilliant idea of hiring young people as trainees, without any social or health security sums paid by the employers and with salaries of between $400 and $700, per month to do the work of regular workers who by law have all the above benefits. The "stage" can be a period of about 10 years! PASOK fired all the "stage" people in the public sector. The situation for these young Greeks is tragic.
On November 19, a (PASOK) court on the island of Chios postponed once more the trial of a security guard and four doctors accused for their involvement in the act of turning Angeliki Hatzidimitriou, a journalist, into a human being that can move only her eyelids and who eats and breaths through a hole in her throat. This charade of postponements has being going on for 42 months, since April of 2006. The "valiant" man that did this to Angeliki was the security guard. The doctors, by their indifference, completed the "Orthodox Christian" deed.
This has been a rather depressing article, yet these events happened. A possible argument of why did I chose to present these events can be answered thus: the political, the economic, the health, the educational, and the rest of the social problems are very important and their solution can be found possibly only in a pareconish vision in the future, but the immediate human suffering inflicted by the elites (genuine, as the US or proxy, as the Greek) cannot be compared to the economic, etc suffering of a population.
Also, is this Greek election and the events "typical"? The very important assumption of the 33% (1/3) of "strange" people can be easily verified by going back to the electoral results of the US, of Germany, of France, etc. Besides, Merkel is a "creation" of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld gang (see my ZNet commentary "A Tale of Two Ladies" of March 15, 2003), Sarkozy is "salivating" even at the sight of a US...map, Berlusconi has been the "darling" of all the US Presidents, etc, etc.
As for the events: the "typicality" starts with the event of the "treatment" of the young Jamaican in the toilet of a Manhattan police precinct and the Chicago police master torturer, goes through the known brutality of the French police, the "white" prison cells of the Germans, etc, and seems to have no end...for the time being.