ATHENS – Since it’s apparent that new PASOK Anti-Socialist leader Evangelos “Mr. Tax Man,” Venizelos, the World Heavyweight Bombast Champion, is leading his party to defeat in the May 6 election, and as the leading New Democracy Capitalists are bleeding support faster than close cousins in the French Royal Court, both ruling parties are casting about for names to put on the ballot to attract gullible voters.
The first guy to get snookered and accept the invitation was three-time Olympic gold medal weightlifting champion Pyrros Dimas, a beloved figure in Greece who said he wouldn’t get his hands dirty in politics, but now has jumped head first into the tank by agreeing to be on the PASOK ticket. His only qualification with handling politicians is being able to lift two dumbbells at the same time, but word leaked out he tried to pick up Venizelos and the party’s outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos, both of gargantuan egos and appetites, but failed.
Dimas is being used, of course, as political parties try to gain as many seats in Parliament as they can. It’s hard to imagine why he doesn’t know it, since by giving his imprimatur and endorsement to PASOK, and to Venizelos, who doubled income and property taxes and taxed the poor and cut the minimum wage, he is in de facto agreement with the party’s principles of demolishing the lives of workers and the poor to benefit the banks putting up $325 billion in loans to prop up the country’s dead economy.
That’s the platform of New Democracy, which also agrees with pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and the coming firing of 150,000 workers, but politics is a self-preservation society so the ideological rivals have joined forces to continue ruling even if it means sharing power again. They came together to form the current shaky hybrid government being overseen by former ECB Vice-President Lucas Papademos, but have been trying to undermine each other and the government at the same time.
New Democracy leader Antonis “Mr. Bean Counter” Samaras, who has trouble pointing the way for Greece now because of a broken finger from pointing blame at PASOK, was not to be outdone by the Venizelos Gambit of tapping the naïve Dimas. Samaras countered with perhaps an even better move: somehow convincing Theodoros Lambrakis, whose father Grigoris Lambrakis, a genuine hero of the left who was assassinated in full view of participants at an anti-war rally in 1963 – murdered by Right-Wing extremists while the country was being ruled by a New Democracy forerunner, Constantine Karamanlis (do the math yourself) – to join the party whose principles led to his father’s killing. Now that’s The Prestige style sleight-of-hand that must have Venizelos wondering if he can get porno star Julia Alexandratou to run for PASOK. She’s better at kneeling, but has the capacity to woo a number of male voters at the same time.
While Dimas is just being taken for a ride by politicians who forgot he existed until they needed him, Lambrakis’ defection is really just disgraceful and no amount of irony or ridicule can do it justice. His father was the kind of hero that Greece needs now. He was a doctor, one of Greece’s greatest athletes, and fought with the Greek Resistance during WWII. He helped organize a pacifist rally on April 21, 1963, a march from Marathon to Athens, but the police stopped it and arrested many demonstrators, including famed composer Mikis Theodorakis. Lambrakis, who had immunity as a Member of Parliament, marched alone, a walking Pheidippides, but to announce war was not needed. When he arrived in Athens holding a peace symbol, he was arrested anyway.
The next month, following the rally in Thessaloniki where he delivered the keynote speech, Emannouel Emannouilides and Spyro Gotzamanis, two far Right-Wing extremists, similar to the Golden Dawn types running in this year’s election and set to win seats in Parliament, drove a three-wheeled vehicle toward Lambrakis and struck him on the head with a club, then ran like cowards. Police officers were watching and too busy yawning to intervene, although investigations later linked them to the extremists. Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos wrote about the incident in his famed novel “Z,” which was made into a brilliant film by Greek director Costas-Gavras, but set in France as the Greek government wasn’t keen to be embarrassed again on the international scene.
Karamanlis, accused of being a moral accomplice to the killing, was forced to resign for obvious reasons. His nephew, Costas Karamanlis, continuing the family tradition of failure, was Prime Minister from 2004-2009 before losing to then-PASOK leader George Papandreou, but not before turning over a country he had run into the ground by tolerating corruption and lying about the economy
TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS
Theodoros Lambrakis was a candidate in the 2010 municipal elections in the neighborhood of Halandri.
“I’m independent. I never belonged to a political party, I’m a free citizen,” he said. “Let alone that I hate the racism of characterization, right-wing, Communist, and PASOK followers,” he added.
In an interview with the newspaper To Vima in 2010, he said: “My father wasn’t a Communist either. He worked together with EDA (United Democratic Left). He was a free man, he was a democrat. There are good and bad Communists, there are good and bad Right-Wingers. It all has to do with the person. If he’s fair, right, if he’s correct, it doesn’t matter what political party he supports.” He didn’t say why he joined a Right-Wing Conservative group that is antithetical to all that his father stood for.
With surveys showing that PASOK and New Democracy floundering because of their support for austerity measures that have cut deep into the lifestyle of working-class Greeks and impoverished many, they are frantically trying to slow their slide any way they can. Dimas, born in Albania to ethnic Greek parents, is a popular sports celebrity and highly regarded because he had avoided politics, but now loses all credibility with people working for a living.
Unlike in the U.S., where you vote directly for a candidate, in Greece you vote for a party and that means you have to take whomever they put on the list, so they’re not really elected but appointed, based on their loyalty and obedience. After being placed in Parliament at a salary of $10,000 a month, they are not allowed to vote with their conscience – not a bad policy since they don’t have one – but are told how to vote by their party leaders. The penalty for voting how they actually feel about an issue, if it’s opposed to the party, is being kicked out – something President Obama undoubtedly wishes he could do to some Democrats.
The list of those running for Parliament includes candidates who are not elected directly, but according to the percentage their party gains in the polls – and often includes eminent personalities who are not career politicians – is a move designed to garner support even though the candidates have virtually no qualification for public office. That includes Dimas, who used to have some integrity, and Lambrakis, who has none. If they did, they would run away from the people who used their names.