Karamanlis may well hold on, but is this the shape of things to come?
The protests in Greece following the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos have now been going on for a fortnight, with violence continuing last night and the total cost now hundreds of millions of euros. A general strike called in the first week of protests had a somewhat disappointing turnout in demonstrations from the unions’ viewpoint, and what might have been a tipping point for the survival of the government proved not to be.
The general consensus is that the New Democracy government led by Kostas Karamanlis is probably safe for now at least. Elected just after the fires in September 2007, it now has a majority of just one seat in the Vouli after an ND deputy jumped ship, but the government might be able to receive support from the rightwing populists of LAOS if it lost its majority. Besides, what government would give up power unless the country was completely ungovernable? Greece may have had its worst riots for decades but is not in such dire straits as that. Although ahead in the polls for the first time in several years, and like David Cameron seeking an early election, the PASOK leader George Papandreou has joined the Prime Minister in calling for calm.
The best that one could say about 2009 is that it is going to be an extremely choppy year. There may have been circumstances peculiar to Greece in these riots – with memories of the 1970s military dictatorship still strong, the government was never going to resort to deploying the army to quash the disturbances, and rioters are using the National Technical University of Athens, where police are not allowed to enter without the university’s permission, to store petrol bombs.
But with the economic crisis biting harder throughout the world in 2009, and predictions of massive unemployment and businesses failing here in the UK, is the Greek experience going to become commonplace in more countries next year? Should the British government and governments abroad be bracing themselves for riots and civil disobedience as conditions worsen? Will governments totter and extremist parties prosper as the economic clouds continue to darken?
This may well be my last article before Christmas, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all PB’ers and their families a happy festive season and all the best for 2009. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to write for Politicalbetting alongside two giants of the blogosphere in the shape of Mike and Morus, and I would also like to say a special thanks to those who have provided guest articles for me this year – Balakirev for Russia, Jack Peterson for Canada, and SZO for Israel. Many thanks too to Robert who has done a sterling job in keeping PB up and running, and to Marf whose cartoons have been a great addition to the site.
The “new season” is almost upon us – I don’t expect it to be quite as frenetic politically as 2008, but it probably won’t be far short. Aside from financial and economic news which will once again dominate, Israel, Japan, India, South Africa, the Euros, Germany, and the Irish referendum are already cued up as far as elections go, while possible “floaters” at this stage look set to be Canada, Greece, maybe Russia, and of course the UK, while the other major event to keep an eye on in 2009 will be the advent of the Obama administration.
Thanks and have a great Christmas.