Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vote Right. Greek PM's message to voters

The Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras leaving a campaign rally in Thessaloniki, after addressing the party faithful ahead of the national elections on Sunday.

Once more I happened to be in the right place at the right time, instead of being in a lesson which was a no-show I went to the Vellidio conference centre where the PM was due to speak. I managed to grab the last few few minutes of his speech and seeing he was about to leave via the central entrance I  waited outside for him to carve his way out of the place ahead of the flotilla of secret service guys.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza greets supporters at campaign rally in Thessaloniki, Greece

Greek opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras greets supporters at campaign rally last night in the northern port city of Thessaloniki. Come Sunday there is a good chance the party he leads, SYRIZA will win the elections and form Europe's most radical government in decades.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PASOK leader on the campaign trail

Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the Greek PASOK party about to address supporters ahead of next weeks elections. The audience was dominated by the party's ageing party base, with those under 40 being a distinct minority.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The EU Death Star moves to crush the rebellion in the outer provinces.

Admiral Scauble: Any attack made by SYRIZA rebels against the Eurozone would be a useless gesture, no matter what financial data they have obtained. This currency is now the ultimate power on the Continent! I suggest we use it!

Darth Vader: Don't be too proud of this fiscal terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a nation is insignificant next to the power of the Markets.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A poster is For life, not just the holidays

I've drawn upon a pretty diverse range of source for these posters; Tacitus, Martin Luther King, Audre Lorde, Voltaire, Hong Kong democracy activists, Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Sucker Punch, Sam Cooke, George Orwell, Woody Guthrie et al.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Je Suis Charlie - Greeks remember the victims of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy

More than 1,000 residents of the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece turned out in solidarity with victims of the terror incidents in France. After a minute of silence in memory of those killed participants went on a silent march through the centre of the city and were later addressed by the French consul and the mayor.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Greek Orthodox Christians mark the Epiphany in Thessaloniki, Greece

Greek elections - state of play so far

The Greek national election campaign is now well under way and all parties involved have started their campaigns, both on the road an in the media. The Greek prime prime minister, Antonis Samaras kicked off New Democracy's efforts with a televised rally in a hotel in city of Larissa, almost immediately followed by SYRIZA leader's rally in a stadium in Athens. The contrast could not have been greater, while the prime minister gave a lacklustre performance which meet with lukewarm response, even among party faithful, Alexis Tsipras on the other hand showed just how far he's come as a public speaker, both energising the party base with his speech and showing that he was clearly setting himself out as a national leader.

In the meantime, coalition party leader Evangelos Venizelos addressed PASOK party members in a cafe, reminding viewers that the glory days of the party when they could attract crowds numbering hundreds of thousands were well and truly over.

To add to the uncertainty surrounding the most unpredictable Greek election in years, ex-prime minister and once leader of PASOK Giorgos Papandreou announced his formation of a new party, The Movement of Democratic Socialists in the same period, a move that was quickly condemned by the current PASOK leader as "irrational and unethical". Some media outlets were even predicting, rather generously as it would later turn out, that the new party would garner anything up to 6% of the poll, so allowing it representation in parliament.

New Democracy's campaign which as being spraying the internet with banner ads and pop up non-stop since the day of the vote for president has been focused on playing on fears of ordinary Greeks that a SYRIZA victory would be tantamount to an exit for the Eurozone, even the the European union itself. 

The talk of Grexit cultivated by the Samaras and echoed by pro-government TV stations and newspapers has spooked markets and led to a number of European officials to back track and say that such a contingency is out of the question. However, such denials did not stop prime minister repeating such threats in his speech on Tuesday in the northern city of Komotini, though latest news reports seem to indicate that the party's campaign will change direction and now focus on the government's track record in power.

As part of this change in tack it seems Samaras is willing to use the even more incendiary topic of immigration, even the tragic deaths of the 12 people killed in the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris on Wednesday were used by him in order to attack SYRIZA's immigration policies. In his speech in Halkidi he said, 

"There was a massacre today in Paris yet some people want to invite more illegal immigrants and hand out citizenship"

This campaign promises to be the dirtiest in years, and as if to underline the point the prime minister and other senior New Democracy figures were eagerly using the deaths of the victims in Paris to drum up votes for their party which has consistently been behind the polls over the last few weeks. Whilst some surveys have put SYRIZA anything up to 7.5% ahead, most seem to agree on a 3-4% lead for Alexis Tsipras's Radical Left party, despite the fact that they are facing an almost uniformly hostile mainstream media inside Greece and to a large degree abroad.

If such figures prove accurate this mean that SYRIZA will be unlikely to elect the 151 MPs required to have a majority government in Greece's 300 seat parliament and so will probably need to form a coalition with one or more of the smaller parties vying for power. This is where the waters muddy and accurate predictions of what will happen on election day and afterwards become less certain. All the other parties who could be in parliament are polling between 6 and 2% which given the margin of error present in such cases means any meaningful estimation of how seats will be distributed is difficult.

However, some guesses can be made. It would seem sure that KKE (Greek Communist Party) will once again get 4-6% and so about 12 seats as it did in 2012. Whilst KKE has not been able to exploit the economic crisis in order to widen its base, it's party organisation and strong campaigning abilities mean that the party faithful will turn out and support them. Likewise Golden Dawn's support in the polls has remain steady at 5-6% despite the jailing of most of it leadership on criminal charges pending trial. Despite almost singularly negative press coverage there remains a hardcore of voters who are willing to vote for them, no mater what.

On the other the once might PASOK party was in the throes of a major meltdown, even before the announcement of Papandreou's new party which is likely to drain what is left of its popular support among older voters. Latest polls show PASOK at between 3 and 5% and the Movement of Democratic Socialists at 2-3%, though there is a possibility that neither will break the 3% barrier needed to gain a seat in parliament. The situation is not helped by high level defections from PASOK to other parties. Today, PASOK cabinet minister Angela Gerekou announced she would be standing on a New Democracy ticket in the next elections.

The other major unknown is the amount of success the Potami (River) party will enjoy,set up last year by a former TV presenter with the oligarch owned MEGA TV station, Potami has been built up as a centre - left alternative to SYRIZA for those unhappy with PASOK's record in power. Currently, it is polling 5-7% and seems on track to be the third largest party.

Other parties such as the far light LAOS and the centre left Democratic Left party who once were government coalition partners have paid the price for pushing through deeply unpopular austerity measures and seem unlikely to win even one seat in parliament. Even the Independent Greeks party once seen as a viable centre right alternative to New Democracy is struggling to reach 3%

(It should be noted though that Greece's pollsters have proven notorious political in the results over the last few elections and so any results should be taken with a pinch of salt, and the political affiliations of the news outlets that commission them should be taken into account).

Whatever the final outcome, it seems SYRIZA may need allies, but this is where things get complicated. A first glance the most obvious coalition partner would seem to be KKE but this is extremely unlikely given the deep ideological gulf that divides them. The insistence of KKE's party leadership on maintaining ideological purity in the face of siren calls of power is unlikely to disappear soon.

A partnership with either a rump PASOK or Potami also is not without risks and threatens to split SYRIZA which till very recently was a loose coalition of leftist parties, many of who are far to the left of the Tsipras leadership and would view such allies with the deep suspicion, seeing them as the agents of the establishment seeking to worm their way back into positions of power and responsibility. 

Finally, there is a possibility that no government may be formed and so Greece may have to go to the polls again. Such a move would definitely make the nation's creditors deeply uneasy as it would raise the spectre of default over debt repayments due in 2015. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Visual Retrospective

Best people to follow on Twitter in the run up to the 2015 elections - Greece

On 25th January the Greeks will once go to the polls to elect a new government, if the international media coverage so far is anything to go by the chances are we will see a repeat of the scaremongering news headlines that marked elections in 2012. Once again people who know no more about Greek politics than  you will appear on your screens and in the newspapers passing themselves off as experts. Often they will be doing nothing more than repeating received wisdom handed to them by EU and Greek government officials and their English speaking allies in the domestic press.

To give you a chance of hearing a much wider, not to say better informed range of opinions I have compiled a list of Twitter users who have consistently proven to be reliable sources of English language information about what is happening in Greece. They are an eclectic bunch though most would place themselves on the Left of the political spectrum, a fact neither I nor they hide. Ideology aside, though, they are people whose opinions I trust and who have demonstrated time and time again that they care more about telling the truth than promoting a particular party line.

So, in no particular order, let me present;

Asteris Masouras - The Godfather of  the Greek twittersphere.

Keep Talking Greece - Blogger who runs a website analysing latest Greek stories in English.

Thomais Papaioannou - Greek reporter based in Paris - Writes in Greek, French and English.

Stephanos Livos - Writer. Tweets in Greek and English.

Apostolis Fotiadis - Freelance journalist based in Athens.

Spyros Gkelis - Cyanobacteriologist, university lecturer. Tweets in Greek, English, Spanish, Italian.

Damian Mac Con Uladh - An Athens based Irish journalist.

Albert John - A rogue economist based in Greece.

The Press Project - An independent news outlet providing news and analysis for a global audience,

Vasiliki Siouti - A Greek journalist who writes in Greek and English.

Olivier Drot - Journalist and photographer, Writes in French, Greek and English

Mehran Khalili - Does political communications and photojournalism.

Tsimitakis - Greek journalist who tweets extensively in English

Joanna P - Radio Bubble contributor

Katharine Sarikakis - Professor of Media Governance University of Vienna

Derek Gatopoulos - An AP writer who tweets in English and Greek

Bruno Tersago - News junkie, philhellene, freelance correspondent for Flemish and Dutch media - based in Greece.

ElenaTzouanacou - UK based academic who writes in Greek and English.

Nick Barnets - An Athens based freelancer.

Katja Lihtenvalner - Athens based Slovenian reporters who also tweets in English

Stratos Moraitis - Writes in Greek, English and Turkish.

Yanis Varoufakis - Economics professor now standing as a SYRIZA candidate.

Zoe Mavroudi - Greek director and documentary film maker.

Yiannis Baboulis - Greek journalist based in Athens.

Yiannis Mouzakis - Greek economic analyst - writes in Greek and English.

Theodora Oikonomides - Blogger and contributor to the RadioBubble indie news service.

Last but not least.

Teacher Dude - Blogger and photojournalists based in Thessaloniki, northern Greece

Do not think of this as a definitive list, but rather a first attempt, so I you want to suggest an addition to this list, help me out by posting a comment.

However, the following news organisations are definitely sitting out 2015 on the naughty step. Not because of their political line but rather the long track record of blindly relying on Greek government sources, sloppy fact checking and inability to distance themselves from an official party line. Do not take their reports on Greece at face value, make sure you double check with more reliable sources.




The Economist

Kathimerini (Greek daily that has an English language edition)