Athens – Olympics 2004, Bankrupt 2011

The media has been aghast at the temerity of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to call a referendum on the EU bail-out plan.
Listening to the aggrieved cries of TV and radio commentators and reading the outraged reaction of newspaper columnists has been a weird experience. They find abhorrent Papandreou’s plan to hold a popular vote on the measures which will put a decades-long stranglehold on the living standards and jobs of the Greek people.
All attempts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to pressure Papandreou to cancel the referendum are doomed. At the Group of 20 summit starting in Cannes today (Thursday), they will merely persuade him to bring forward the poll from January to December.
The Greek Government will have to decide the wording of the question and it will need to be approved by the Athens parliament before it goes to the ballot box.
Yes, folks, it’s called democracy – from the early Greek dêmos “people” and kratos “power”.
Papandreou is a wily bird from a towering political dynasty: grandfather George was prime minister three times between 1944 and 1965 and his father Andreas was prime minister on two occasions from 1981 to 1989 and 1993 to 1996.
The result of the vote will be a cliffhanger. The government will probably ask a loaded question:
Do you want Greece to remain in the Euro-zone by accepting the bail-out measures decided at the Brussels EU summit on October 26, or do you want to leave the Euro zone, return to the drachma and utter poverty?
Papandreou has opted for the referendum to head off two growing calls from within the ruling PASOK (the Pan Hellenic Socialist Party, founded by his father): one is for him to be replaced as PM and party leader while another is for an early national election.
What is stoking the Athens political crisis is the emergence of a mass movement which embraces people from all walks of life. The October 19 general strike was a show of strength not seen in Greece for decades while the celebrations on October 28 marking the anniversary of Greece’s defeat of Mussolini’s fascist forces in 1940 at the start of World War Two became an outpouring of nationalism and anti-capitalism.
Meanwhile, as the EU zone bankers wrestle with the collapsing Greek economy, Italy has moved a step closer to national bankruptcy, and its debt is in trillions of Euros. The banks couldn’t hold back a default.
The Greek contagion cannot be confined with its national borders. It is engulfing all of Europe and threatening even those countries not in the Euro-zone, i.e. Britain and the United States. Fasten your seat belt and place your head between your legs: this is going to be a dusty landing.

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