Tag: Greece

Jul 20

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Tale of Two Countries

By NY Brit Expat

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only (Charles Dickens, 1859, A Tale of Two Cities, Book I, Chapter 1).”

Jul 13

Eating Worms

All that is left for Greece is to eat worms and it still would not satisfy Kaiser Merkel. #ThisIsACoup

A list of draconian new austerity demands handed to the Greek government in Brussels Sunday ignited a global backlash against Germany, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

#ThisIsACoup became the top trending hashtag on Twitter worldwide – and is #1 in Germany and Greece.

The tag was attached to tens of thousands of angry comments denouncing Germany’s aggressive demands that the Greek parliament pass new severe austerity laws within days to raise taxes, privatize public assets and cut back on pensions. [..]

Here are the EU proposals that outraged many around the globe:

1. Streamlining the VAT

2. Broadening the tax base

3. Sustainability of pension system

4. Adopt a code of civil procedure

5. Safeguarding of legal independence of ELSAT – the statistic office

6. Full implementation of spending cuts

7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive

8. Privatize electricity transmission grid

9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans

10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED

11. De-Politicize the Greek administration

12. Return of the Troika t0 Athens (the paper calls them the institutions)

Those are the demands that must be approved by Wednesday. The only thing they forgot to ask for is resignation of the prime minister, his cabinet and the Greek parliament.

From Ian Welsh

Basically the Greeks offered the EU everything they had asked for before and then some, but the EU won’t take it, they want their pound of flesh for being embarrassed by the referendum.

I get that Syriza and some Greeks don’t want Grexit, and will do virtually anything to avoid it, but I’m hoping (probably vainly) that there might be some depths to which they will not sink, some abasement they will not endure, some calamity they will not inflict upon the weakest and poorest in their own society.

Probably not. Not quite sure why I still have faith in humanity to ever do the right thing when any other option exists.

“OK, now that you’re crawling, down on your belly!”

Worms.

Jul 07

Greek Voters Say NO to Austerity

On Sunday Greek voters went to the polls to vote on a simple referendum on a bail out deal proposed by the country’s international creditors, which demanded new austerity measures in return for emergency funds. A simple yes or no. The voters gave a resounding NO to the deal.

The win for the “no” camp constituted a major victory for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras, who had campaigned heavily against the deal put forward by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. But it also raised uncertainty about the country’s financial future and its place in the eurozone.

“Even in the most difficult circumstances, democracy can’t be blackmailed — it is a dominant value and the way forward,” Tsipras tweeted on Sunday night, adding that Greece intends to restart negotiations with Europe next week.

A final tally of votes indicated that 61.31 percent of voters decided against the bailout deal. More than 60 percent of Greeks participated in the vote, well over the 40 percent turnout needed for the referendum to be valid.

Needless to say the responses to the vote and PM Tspiras’ decision to attempt to negotiate better terms cams fast and furious. First, Greece’s radical and outspoken Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned, stating that he had been made aware that his “style” was considered disruptive:

Mr. Varoufakis, an academic with no political experience before he joined the leftist Tsipras government, had consistently argued that Greece desperately needed debt relief more than anything else. While that view was shared by many economists, he quickly became a lightning rod among Greece’s creditors for his aggressive negotiating style and heated language. Before the referendum vote, he had publicly accused the creditors of “terrorism” against his country.

With Mr. Varoufakis gone, Greece’s eurozone creditors may be more willing to continue negotiations on a further aid package. His departure, apparently at the urging of Mr. Tsipras, could be seen as a concession to the sensibilities of other eurozone leaders. But the next few days could determine whether the gulf between Greece and its creditors is now too wide to bridge.

You can read his resignation statement here. He has been replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, another academic economist, but not as vocal as Mr. Varoufakis and, apparently, more acceptable to Eurogroup participants.

Next came the markets’ reactions, not drastic but not good, either:

Global stock markets mostly dropped on Monday but did not plunge, as investors reacted with muted dismay to the results of the Greek referendum and showed nervousness about steep declines in China’s stock market over the past three weeks. [..]

At midday in New York, stocks were just below break-even. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.2 percent, while the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was off 0.3 percent.

The euro ticked down 0.4 percent to $1.1033.

Oil prices also fell on Monday, as traders placed bets that recent events could lead to slower global economic activity and weaker demand. [..]

In Asia on Monday, the Shanghai market jumped sharply in early trading as the Chinese government poured money into brokerage firms to help them and their customers buy shares. The market leapt 7.8 percent at the start, but it surrendered half of those gains in the first 10 minutes of trading and closed 2.4 percent higher. The smaller Shenzhen stock market also started strongly but fell 2.7 percent by the end of trading.

And the vote has only served to harden German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stand:

The German government signaled a tough line towards Greece on Monday, saying it saw no basis for new bailout negotiations and insisting it was up to Athens to move swiftly if it wanted to preserve its place in the euro zone.

With opinion towards Greece hardening in Germany’s ruling coalition following the landslide rejection of European bailout terms in a Sunday referendum, the government indirectly raised the prospect of a Greek exit from the currency bloc.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said it was up to Athens to act so that it could remain in the currency bloc, and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel went further by saying the Greek government needed to improve on its previous proposals. [..]

Pressed on what concessions Berlin might be willing to make to Tsipras, a finance ministry spokesman dismissed the idea of a debt restructuring sought by Athens and favored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Economic and political pundits responded as well:

Thomas Piketty: Germany Shouldn’t Be Telling Greece To Repay Debt

Thomas Piketty isn’t mincing words when it comes to the Greek debt crisis.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Ziet last month (and translated recently by business analyst Gavin Schalliol), the leading French economist pummeled Germany for its hypocrisy in demanding debt repayment from Greece. [..]

Greece on Sunday voted a resounding “no” on a bailout plan proposed by its creditors, making its continued membership in the eurozone more tenuous. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will hold an emergency summit on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

But Piketty, who penned the blockbuster 2013 book on income inequality Capital in the Twenty-First Century, slammed conservatives who favor the economic austerity measures Germany and France are demanding of Greece, saying they demonstrate a “shocking ignorance” of European history.

“Look at the history of national debt: Great Britain, Germany, and France were all once in the situation of today’s Greece, and in fact had been far more indebted,” Piketty said. “The first lesson that we can take from the history of government debt is that we are not facing a brand new problem.”

Germany, Piketty continued, has “no standing” to lecture other nations about debt repayment, having never paid back its own debts after both World Wars (pdf).

Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, also “cheered” the vote:

The truth is that Europe’s self-styled technocrats are like medieval doctors who insisted on bleeding their patients – and when their treatment made the patients sicker, demanded even more bleeding. A “yes” vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven’t worked and in fact, given the arithmetic, can’t work: austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so that all the suffering serves no purpose. The landslide victory of the “no” side offers at least a chance for an escape from this trap.

Renowned dissident Noam Chomsky spoke with [Democracy Now! ]’s Amy Goodman back in March aboutGreece and Spain the “savage response” to taking on austerity calling it a “class war.”

The “what next” is still very unknown. From Yves Smith at naked capitalism

After the momentous “No” vote in support of the Greek ruling coalition Greece’s lenders and most important, the Eurozone leaders of the countries that have made 60% of Greece’s outstanding loans, are officially still figuring out what to do. Merkel is going to Paris to confer with Hollande today. The Eurogroup has set a meeting for tomorrow at 1:00 PM

However, despite the responses of media outlets and many pundits that the Eurocrats will have to beeat a retreat and offer Greece concessions, it’s not clear that this event strengthens the Greek government’s hand with its counterparties. Remember, Tsipras enjoyed popularity ratings of as high as 80% and has always retained majority support in polls. And it’s all too easy to forget that “the creditors” are not Merkel, Hollande, Lagarde and Draghi. The biggest group of “creditors” are taxpayers of the 18 other countries of the Eurozone. The ugly design of the Eurozone means that the sort of relief that Greece wants most, a reduction in the face amount of its debt (as opposed to the sort of reduction they’ve gotten, which is in economic value, via reductions in interest rates and extensions of maturities) puts the interest of those voters directly at odds with those in Greece. Our understanding is that a reduction in principal amount, under the perverse budgetary and accounting rules of the Eurozone, would result in those losses showing up as losses for budget purposes, now. They would need to be funded by increased taxes. Thus a reduction in austerity for Greece, via a debt writeoff, simply transfers austerity from Greece to other countries. It’s not hard to see why they won’t go for that. And Eurozone rules require unanimous decisions.

Even though the ruling coalition had said it wanted to restart negotiations immediately upon getting a “no” vote, the lenders have asked Greece to send a new proposal, apparently deeming the one it submitted on June 30 to be out of date. It’s doubtful anything will happen before the Eurogroup meeting tomorrow.

Feb 01

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Mouse Has Roared – Greece post-Elections by NY Brit Expat

The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected.  This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.

However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).  

 photo 57055606-f937-4671-a7b2-1ba4704d70e6_zpsd6efb423.jpg


Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany.  Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!  

Jan 11

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Greek Elections and the dangers of Pyrrhic Victories by NY Brit Expat

I was thinking of writing about the Charlie Hebdo massacre which culminated in an anti-Semitic attack in a Kosher Supermarket leading to the deaths of Jewish shoppers.  I was considering addressing the issue of why we should have solidarity with the victims even though I found their articles racist and the errors of secular extremism adopted by the French left, done so well here; really, does anyone really think that deserves execution? I was going to talk about my deep fears and worries for French Muslims and the inevitable security measures that will be introduced that will affect the freedoms of French citizens and how those would be used against ethnic and religious minorities and possibly against French political dissidents. I also was considering discussing my anger at Hollande’s keeping Netanyahu updated on the situation in the supermarket.

This is the same Netanyahu whom is urging French Jews to emigrate to Israel and who was part of those leading a “national unity” march today in Paris and that Netanyahu represents no one but those that voted for him, much less the Jews living outside of Israel that he is encouraging to move to Israel which is engaged in a constant state of war. What is this saying to French Jews, and for that matter, all Jews living outside of Israel?

Are they actually implying that Netanyahu in some way represents all Jews?!  Sorry, this man does not and will never speak for me … putting my anger at this aside for the moment, we actually have something positive to discuss!

I decided to go for a story that actually could shift Europe in a positive direction and that is the upcoming Greek elections on January 25th.  Following the failure to elect a President in Greece, Samaras was forced into snap elections (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/29/greece-crisis-president-snap-election).

According to all polls (and these, alas, are notoriously unreliable in Greece as they are often commissioned by the political parties themselves) it looks as though SYRIZA will come in first.

This means that they will be granted 50 seats to help them make a government.  However, the issue does not appear to be whether they will win, but whether they will win with 151 seats to ensure a majority in Parliament. If they do not win that majority, things are up in the air as an understatement.  

Apr 17

Austerity and Growth Don’t Mix

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Former Greek Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou inherited a failing economy when he was sworn in on October 9, 2009. He resigned two years later during failed talks of a bailout with the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and the European Union. Mr. Papamdreou discussed the cost of austerity with Chris Hayes, the host of “All In,” economics journalist Chrystia Freeland, managing director and editor of Consumer News at Thomson Reuters, and  economics professor Radhika Balakrishnan,  executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University.

In the news today, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournara announced that Greece had reached an agreement on economic measures for the release of €2.8bn in the coming weeks, followed by a further €6bn in May. The cost to bail out the banks: some 15,000 employees would be fired by 2015 with 4,000 redundancies by the end of the year.

Meanwhile Greek unemployment has reached a record high:

Greece’s unemployment rate reached a new record of 27.2 percent in January, new data has showed, reflecting the depth of the country’s recession after years of austerity imposed under its international bailout. [..]

The jobless rate has almost tripled since the country’s debt crisis emerged in 2009, and was more than twice the eurozone’s average unemployment reading of 12 percent. [..]

Unemployment among youth aged between 15 and 24 stood at 59.3 percent in January, up from 51 percent in the same month in 2012.

Despite the “happy talk” from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras about this deal showing that the six years of austerity was paying off, the people of Greece are not very optimistic and are still suffering under the weight of EU demands for more austerity.

Sep 28

More Pain for Spain as Unemployment & Hunger Increase

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Spain has announced its budget that imposes more austerity that emphasizes spending cuts over revenue:

Government ministries saw their budgets slashed by 8.9 percent for next year, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s battle to reduce one of the euro zone’s biggest deficits was made harder by weak tax revenues in a prolonged recession. [..]

“This is a crisis budget aimed at emerging from the crisis … In this budget there is a larger adjustment of spending than revenue,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference after a marathon six-hour cabinet meeting.

Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, is at the centre of the crisis. Investors fear that Madrid cannot control its finances and that Rajoy does not have the political will to take all the necessary but unpopular measures.

Madrid is talking to Brussels about the terms of a possible European aid package that would trigger a European Central Bank bond-buying program and ease Madrid’s unsustainable borrowing costs. [..]

The measures continue to heap pressure on the crisis-weary population and are likely to fuel further street protests, which have become increasingly violent as tensions rise and police are given the green light to use force to disperse crowds.

A quarter of all Spanish workers are unemployed and tens of thousands have been evicted from their homes after a burst housing bubble in 2008 and plummeting consumer and business sentiment tipped the country into a four-year economic slump.

Analysis of the budget from Trevor Greetham at The Guardian‘s Live Blog compares Spain to the US and the UK:

I’ve always opposed austerity as the solution to the global debt crisis and the strictures of the common currency make it particularly ill-suited to the euro periphery. Efforts to deflate Spain into competitiveness raise the prospect of many years of wage cuts and property price falls that will necessitate ever larger fiscal transfers from the stronger countries, either directly or via pan-euro institutions like the central bank.

Five years into the worst financial crisis in generations we are starting to see how effective various policies have been. Spain, the UK and the US offer three interesting test cases, each dealing with the after effects of a real estate bust in different ways:

· Spain = austerity with tight money (austerity, no devaluation, no quantitative easing, market interest rates too high)

· UK = austerity but with loose money (austerity, currency devaluation, quantitative easing)

· US = no austerity with loose money (no austerity, stable currency, quantitative easing)

Activity in both the UK and Spain remains well below its pre-crisis level – suggesting the benefits of the UK printing its own currency may not be as great as might be supposed. It appears to be the lack of austerity in the US that is the distinguishing aspect of a successful policy mix.

With overall unemployment at 25% and the rising cost of food through increases in value added taxes (VAT), the many of the Spanish poor and unemployed have resorted to scavenging for food shocking many of their fellow citizens:

MADRID – On a recent evening, a hip-looking young woman was sorting through a stack of crates outside a fruit and vegetable store here in the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas as it shut down for the night.

At first glance, she looked as if she might be a store employee. But no. The young woman was looking through the day’s trash for her next meal. Already, she had found a dozen aging potatoes she deemed edible and loaded them onto a luggage cart parked nearby. [..]

Such survival tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace here, with an unemployment rate over 50 percent among young people and more and more households having adults without jobs. So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution.

A report this year by a Catholic charity, Caritas, said that it had fed nearly one million hungry Spaniards in 2010, more than twice as many as in 2007. That number rose again in 2011 by 65,000. [..]

The Caritas report also found that 22 percent of Spanish households were living in poverty and that about 600,000 had no income whatsoever. All these numbers are expected to continue to get worse in the coming months.

About a third of those seeking help, the Caritas report said, had never used a food pantry or a soup kitchen before the economic crisis hit. For many of them, the need to ask for help is deeply embarrassing. In some cases, families go to food pantries in neighboring towns so their friends and acquaintances will not see them.

Expect to see more demonstrations like these as hunger increases:

 

Jul 25

Austerity Insanity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

~Albert Einstein~

Europe losing battle against debt crisis

Europe is fighting losing battles on two fronts. The debt crisis which began in Greece almost three years ago has spread to other countries. The recovery from the global financial crisis is ending, and the region will be in recession during the rest of the year. To combat the debt crisis, Greece, Ireland and Portugal have received bailout funds from the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (the “troika”), but are required to reduce borrowing through cuts in spending and higher taxes. To offset the recessionary impact of the fiscal tightening, the ECB has repeatedly eased monetary policy to encourage lending to the private sector.

Neither measure has worked as intended. The eurozone’s latest unemployment figure of 11.1 per cent in May is the highest in the euro era. Spain, the country recording the region’s highest unemployment rate of 24.6 per cent, announced a €65bn fiscal tightening programme this month. The new austerity measures will result in a deeper recession and even higher unemployment.

On the monetary front, the ECB implemented two repurchase agreements totalling €1tn with the region’s banks. While the aim was to ease the liquidity crisis that the banks experienced in November, the ECB move had the perverse impact of making those banks the principal purchasers of their own governments’ debt as foreign investors exited. This raises the risk for banks in case their governments default on their debt, or restructure payments. After a cut in the deposit rate the ECB pays the banks to zero on July 5, the central bank expected the banks to increase loans. Instead, they appear to be sitting on the funds.

The austerity measures that Germany has insisted on imposing on financially strapped countries as a requirement for bailing out the banks that caused it all, is coming back to bite the hand that fed it.

Germany Under Cloud From Euro Zone Woes

FRANKFURT – Germany’s stellar credit rating has been thrown into doubt because of the cost of holding together the euro zone, potentially making it more difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel to muster political support to aid Greece and Spain.

Moody’s Investors Service said late Monday that it was changing the outlook on Germany, as well as on the Netherlands and Luxembourg, to “negative,” citing what it said was an increased risk that those countries will have to bear the cost of propping up Spain and Italy.

That helped push up borrowing costs Tuesday for both Germany and Spain ahead of talks late in the day between the finance ministers of both countries in Berlin.

While Germany’s bond yields remain near record lows, Spain’s have reached levels that are considered unsustainable for long, raising fears that it will have to ask for aid that its European partners cannot afford.

Austerity’s Big Winners Prove To Be Wall Street And The Wealthy

Governments in Europe, most notably the United Kingdom, have also pursued tax cuts for the rich while imposing austerity measures on the working classes. And the European financier class has benefited even more directly than their American counterparts from these budgets.

Every time the European Union has reached a crisis point on the debt carried by Greece or Spain, EU leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have come to the rescue with bailout funds. That money goes to the banks that own Greek and Spanish debt, whose holdings would take a hit if either country were unable to repay. But the bailout comes with harsh austerity requirements intended to encourage budgetary discipline, so it’s ordinary citizens who end up taking the hit. The most vulnerable populations are harmed by the bailouts, while the well-paid financial professionals who made the deals to finance Greek and Spanish deficits in the first place continue profiting handsomely.

“Imposing pain on Greeks is … a blood price for the ever-repeated bailouts whose actual beneficiaries are said to be Greeks, but are in fact French and German bankers,” said (James) Galbraith.

Eventually it will all come to an end. Then what?

Jul 12

The Egyptian Game of Chicken: Morsi v. The Miltary

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Egyptain Pres. MorsiJust before the last round of presidential elections in Egypt that put Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in office, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, which is still packed with the Mubarak regimes appointees, ruled that the parliamentary elections were invalid. The ruling military then dissolved the lower house until new elections could he held. Sunday, in defiance of the ruling, President Morsi decreed the the old parliament to reconvene until a new parliament was elected:

The move was the first in a series of decrees planned by Morsi against the military, according to Morsi’s former campaign media coordinator Sameh El-Essawy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. [..]

And hints of a deal seemed unlikely after Morsi’s decree, which stipulated that parliament reconvene and continue its duties until a new assembly is elected, scheduled for 60 days after Egypt drafts a new constitution. Morsi’s decree directly contradicts Scaf’s wishes, and underlines his determination to take control of the country’s executive.

Morsi’s decree is a reversal of the Scaf decision to dissolve parliament, not the SCC ruling that deemed it invalid, said El-Essawy. “He reversed the Scaf decision, using the same executive powers they had. He has not reversed the court ruling which he respects and that’s why a new parliament will be elected after the constitution,” he said.

The Egyptian Parliament reconvened for five minutes on Tuesday for just one vote:

The parliamentary speaker, Saad el-Katatny, convened a session of the lower house on Tuesday morning but it lasted only five minutes, during which time he stressed that parliament had the utmost respect for the law, and would do nothing to subvert it. MPs then voted that parliament would refer the matter of its ability to convene to the court of cassation in Cairo, and would not assemble until a judgment had been given.

As the drama was being played out, demonstrators against the dissolution of parliament gathered in Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, anti-parliament protesters congregated on the other side of town in the eastern district of Nasr City to voice their objection to its return.

Tuesday’s assembly was boycotted by a sizable number of liberal MPs while an independent MP, Mustafa Bakri, had already announced his formal resignation from parliament due to its unconstitutionality.

Then just hours after the chamber’s brief session, the Supreme Constitutional Court stepped in

“The Supreme Court has once again reiterated that the parliament is dissolved,” our correspondent said. “It’s the third decsion by them saying that Morsi’s decison to reinstate the parliament was illegal. They cannot say it in any more certain terms than that.”

“They’re saying that the parliament sessions cannot continue, which would mean legislative powers would stay in the hands of the armed forces – in this power struggle between the military and the president.” [..]

Lawyers representing Morsi criticised the court’s latest decision and said Tuesday’s ruling was a political move that would further complicate the crisis.

“This ruling is null and void,” lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud told reporters while another member of the team, Mamduh Ismail, called it a “political decision”. [..]

Morsi’s decree was hailed by those who want to see the army return to barracks, but it was criticised by those who fear an Islamist monopolisation of power as a “constitutional coup”.

As noted in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, this is just the first of many confrontations between Morsi and the military:

In reconvening the People’s Assembly, Morsi insisted that he wasn’t flouting the decision of the court but rather reversing an executive action taken by the military council in the absence of a civilian president. Indeed, the overarching issue in this dispute is whether the armed forces are prepared to yield power to the elected representatives of the Egyptian people. [..]

To some extent, the military’s power – along with economic realities – may have inclined Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to a more pluralist and moderate course. But if the generals overplay their hand, they will lose popular support and antagonize Egypt’s allies, including the United States, which provides the military with $1.3 billion a year in assistance. Both Congress and the Obama administration have put the generals on notice that those funds are in jeopardy if the transition to democracy is thwarted. An attempt to shut down a reconvened parliament would be interpreted inside and outside Egypt as just such an obstruction.

So far, the Mohamed Morsi 0 – Egyptian Military 1.  

Jun 29

Bailing Out Europe

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The heads of state of the EuroZone countries met in Brussels today for a two day summit to  try to come to an agreement on how to bail out two of its biggest members, Italy and Spain:

The 27 government chiefs will discuss buying Spanish and Italian government bonds to bring down borrowing costs that are near euro-era records, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said. He also proposed that bailout funds buy collateralized government debt in primary markets.

“I’ve come for very rapid solutions to support countries in difficulty on the markets,” French President Francois Hollande told reporters as he arrived in Brussels. Without specifying Spain or Italy, he said they “have made considerable efforts to deal with their public accounts.”

Leaders will consider short-term measures to stem the sovereign debt turmoil as EU President Herman Van Rompuy’s road map to strengthen the bloc’s common currency and financial oversight ran into immediate opposition from Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has become increasingly isolated as Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy unite to push for quicker action to ease the crisis that emerged in Greece in late 2009.

Apparently all did not go German Chancellor Merkel’s way as she canceled her scheduled evening press conference. Or maybe she was watching her country’s football team get trounced by the Italians.

Euro 2012 Live Blogging: Italy 2 Germany 0

Jun 20

Deep Faults and Lines in the Sand

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Other than the names and faces of the actors, not much is different in either Greece or Egypt after much analyzed and anticipated elections this weekend. In Greece, the center right is still faced with the dilemma of forming and holding together a coalition government to deal with the economic crisis that threatens to take down the Eurozone. While is Egypt, despite the historic election of an Islamic president, the military still maintains a tight control and all the power.

Greek elections: Antonis Samaras faces tough task to forge unity

The fault lines are so deep that even if a government is formed, many believe it will be a miracle if it survives for long

[..]The ambitious politician faces the Herculean labour of forging a government of “national salvation” at a time of unprecedented crisis. Not since the collapse of military rule has the country come so close to resembling a failed state. Following almost three months of political paralysis – before and after an inconclusive poll in May – Greece’s public finances are in tatters, its public administration is in disarray and its austerity-weary people are beaten down. It is now for Samaras to pick up the pieces. [..]

Late on Monday Samaras announced he had agreed with the head of Pasok, Evangelos Venizelos, to build a coalition, with negotiations expected to be concluded by Tuesday. Once bitter political rivals, the socialists, who came in with 12.3% of the vote, say the creation of a government of “national co-responsibility” is vital if Greece is to be steered through the crisis.

Combined, the two parties would control a comfortable majority of 162 seats in the Greek parliament. [..]

But fault lines in Greek society are so deep that even if a government is formed many believe it will be a miracle if it survives for long. To secure further rescue loans Athens has agreed to pass an extra €12bn in budget cuts, measures seen as vital if its economy is to reclaim competitiveness. And on Monday creditors led by Germany appeared in little mood to relent.The fiscal adjustment programme might be relaxed but “only marginally,” several officials said. “Greek society simply cannot endure any more measures,” insisted (New Democracy MP Kyriakos) Mitsotakis. “It’s not a question of what party is in office, it is a fact.”

German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, emboldened by the Greek center right narrow victory, has continued her hard line stand on enforcing the Greek deal

“The Greek government will and must naturally follow through on the commitments that were made,” Ms. Merkel told reporters at the Group of 20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, disappointing those in Athens who hoped for a signal of new flexibility toward Greece in the wake of the vote. “There can be no loosening of the reform steps.”

At least Greece has a Parliament. Egypt on the other hand is once again on the verge of revolution as the Muslim Brotherhood threatens to take to the streets once again in protest over the military usurpation of power:

The ruling generals sought for the first time to sell the public on the decision to dissolve the Brotherhood-led Parliament on the eve of the vote. In a nearly two-hour news conference that was edited before it was televised, two members of the military council insisted that they regretted dissolving Parliament, but that they had been forced by a court ruling from judges appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak.

And although they have now issued an interim Constitution keeping legislative and much of the executive power for themselves – and even said later Monday that they would appoint a general to run the new president’s staff – the generals promised to hold a “grand celebration” when they turned over power as promised at the end of the month. [..]

In their news conference, the generals acknowledged they would have a monopoly on all lawmaking powers as well as control of the national budget. But they said that the new president – they did not name Mr. Morsi – would retain a veto over any new laws and could name the prime minister as well as other cabinet officials.

The generals have not backed away from the initial charter that removed the military and the defense minister from presidential authority and oversight and defended the imposition of martial, arresting and detaining civilians for trials in military courts. They also took it upon themselves to appoint the new president’s chief of staff and revived a special national defense council packed with loyal military officers, charged with overseeing matters of national security. This is not going over very well with the Egyptian people.

The bright spot in all of these travails, the French who gave newly elected president François Hollande a majority in Parliament on Sunday, which is likely only to embolden his drive for more growth-oriented spending and a retreat from German-style austerity. But if everything you hear about Greece and Egypt sound familiar, it is.

Jun 18

Elections Egypt, France and Greece: Results

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Greeks have decided to stay the course with the center right and have given a victory to the New Democracy Party headed by Antonis Samaras:

New Democracy narrowly beat Syriza, an alliance of radical leftists, winning 29.53% of the vote against 27.12% for the coalition led by Alexis Tsipras. Samaras called the result a victory for Europe.

“The Greek people today voted for the European course of Greece and that we remain in the euro,” Samaras declared in a victory speech. “This is an important moment for Greece and the rest of Europe,” he insisted, saying that Athens would honour the commitments it made in exchange for rescue loans from the EU and IMF. [..]

Across Greece’s divisive political spectrum there was speculation that Samaras would be able to form a viable coalition with the socialist Pasok and the small Democratic left – parties that have also agreed to accept the onerous terms of bailout funds even if they, too, want to renegotiate the package. [..]

Pro-bailout parties now constitute 50% of the electorate. But with the other half also vehemently opposed to the austerity policies dictated by foreign lenders, Greece’s rollercoaster ride is unlikely to end soon. It is now well into its fifth year of recession, with unemployment at a record 22% and worsening levels of poverty leaving thousands of Greeks destitute and homeless. Resistance to further austerity measures is only going to grow.

In France, exit polls indicate that Socialist Party of François Hollande has won a solid majority in both houses of the Parliament, eliminating the lead for a coalition government. The conservative National Front has won four seats. The party leader, Marine Le Pen lost her bid for a seat but her 22 year old niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen is believed to have been elected in the southern region of Carpentras. Former presidential candidate and M. Hollande’s ex-partner, Ségolène Royal has lost her bid for a seat in the National Assembly.

The Socialists and other left-wing parties came out on top in last Sunday’s first round of the vote, winning 46 per cent to 34 per cent for (former president Nicholas) Sarkozy’s UMP party and its allies. [..]

The polls showed France’s Socialists winning between 287 and 330 seats in Sunday’s runoff vote – almost certainly enough to secure a majority in the 577-seat Assembly. [..]

The Greens, who are close allies of the Socialists and already in government, were expected to win up to 20 seats.

The vote was also a key test for Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant and anti-EU National Front (FN), which took 13.6 per cent in the first round; far above the four per cent it won in the last parliamentary election in 2007.

There are no results yet for Egypt. But there is news and it is not good for the Egyptian people no matter who wins. This is the report by Leila Fadel and Ernesto Londoño in the Washington Post:

CAIRO – Shortly after polls in Egypt’s landmark presidential vote closed Sunday night, Egypt’s military leaders issued a constitutional decree that gave the armed forces vast powers and appeared to give the presidency a subservient role.

The declaration, published in the official state gazette, establishes that the president will have no control over the military’s budget or leadership and will not be authorized to declare war without the consent of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The document said the military would soon appoint a body to draft a new constitution, which would be put to a public referendum within three months. Once a new charter is in place, an election will be held to chose a parliament that will replace the Islamist-dominated one dissolved Thursday by the country’s top court.

Currently, exit polls show Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, ahead of former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential runoff vote.

Load more