Saturday, June 18, 2011

Analysis - Greece in turmoil: Run into the ground

Stelios, a 28-year-old electrician, has been spending several evenings a week at a tent camp outside the Greek parliament run by Indignant Citizens, a new protest movement. He joins hundreds of others attending a self-styled “popular assembly” – a nightly open-microphone event at which Greeks vent their anxieties and frustrations with the country’s disastrous economic and political situation.

“I’m lucky because I’m still in work,” he says. “But my mother’s pension was cut last year and she’s struggling. It’s a relief to get out there and discuss stuff – and maybe the protest will help make things less bad.”

In addition to promoting public debate, the Indignants have succeeded in reducing violence at demonstrations by chasing off hooded extremists who mingle with marchers and trigger clashes with riot police. They have even scrubbed the tarmac around the square to remove the chemical residue left by tear gas. But Stelios admits the protesters’ chances of persuading MPs to vote down a €28bn ($40bn) austerity package are slim. “Greece is broke – we need the money, so the European Union and the International Monetary Fund hold all the cards,” he says.

If the package is rejected, George Papandreou, the prime minister, will have to call a snap election. Greece would not receive a €12bn loan tranche due in July and would risk defaulting on repayments of principal and interest on its debt.


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