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Mudslinging, Bonds, ATMs and Piggy Banks

Vouli_wordAll’s fair in love and war, they say. But a look inside the Greek parliament shows that there is no love. What is certainly lacking is a love for Greece and citizens of the country. Instead, we find an open war – a war for power between the ruling party and the opposition. The only real victims are the Greek people.
In this critical juncture for Greece, when the country’s economy clings to a tightrope, politicians have decided to engage in a dirty war full of mudslinging, slandering, insults and abusive comments. Inside the parliament, the 300 representatives of the people have started a game of one-upmanship, unsubstantiated accusations and vitriolic remarks.
Matters escalated when SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis accused New Democracy of using a “piggy bank” set up by industrialists and rich businessmen to buy off members of parliament in the upcoming elections for president of the republic. Furious, Antonis Samaras asked SYRIZA to substantiate the allegations and accused them of inciting political turmoil. Skourletis insisted on his accusations, quoting Democratic Left MP Yiannis Panousis, who said in July that New Democracy has shady “dealings” with MPs from other parties in order to convince them to vote for president of the republic. Supreme Court Prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani intervened and asked for an urgent preliminary investigation. Then, Alexis Tsipras commented publicly that justice is partial. And so forth.
New Democracy MP Georgios Kalantzis went on the counter-attack, stating on television, “Any independent MPs, or MPs from the Democratic Left and the Independent Greeks who will vote against the president of the republic elections and then join the ranks of SYRIZA, will be venal.”
In Greek politics, talk is not only cheap; it’s absolutely free. Defamation laws are never enforced. Anyone can say whatever they want about anyone else without fear of legal repercussions. If a defamation case ever goes to court, it will take years to process the necessary trial. For example, New Democracy has accused SYRIZA of harboring terrorists. They’ve claimed that, should SYRIZA come to power, people will withdraw their money from banks and the economy will collapse. Independent Greeks have accused New Democracy of having airplanes spraying people with gases to keep them docile. They’ve added that New Democracy has ceded the country to the Germans. SYRIZA has accused New Democracy of plundering the country’s wealth and driving 3,500 people to suicide. All these attacks are launched without any substantiation.
In an effort to outdo them all, the always-outspoken ex-minister and PASOK member Theodoros Pangalos recently claimed: “As soon as the elections results show SYRIZA, our European partners will cut funding… there will be hunger and stench, public employees who will be unpaid and those who celebrate the Tsipras win… will be out in the streets burning and killing.” He went on to accuse SYRIZA demonstrators of burning the bank where three people lost their lives in a May 2011 protest rally.
All this recent “dirty talk” between government and opposition brought its share of repercussions. The Athens Stock Exchange took a 5.5 percent plunge on Tuesday afternoon. Greek bonds plummeted, bringing 10-year yields to their highest level since May. What foreign investors see is a country in a state of political unrest and a leading opposition party that openly stands against free markets.. And the two fighting parties do the best they can to make the picture of turmoil as evident as possible.
It seems, then, that the only thing both sides care about is power. The conservative New Democracy and PASOK coalition do all they can to remain in power; SYRIZA leftists do all they can to come to power. Both show that they have no intention whatsoever to work together to pull Greece out of the mire. Both sides want it all. Greek society is divided. More and more people are turning hatefully against one another. A look at some editorials in partisan newspapers would make you think that the country is at civil war. Opposition-friendly newspapers and blogs continuously liken the coalition government with the puppet government the Nazis appointed during the Second World War – making SYRIZA the brave resistance. Government-friendly media, meanwhile, “warns” people that ATMs will shut down when Alexis Tsipras takes over.
What the partisan media is doing is adding more fuel to the fire. People with different political opinions are just that: people with different opinions. They are political rivals at the most, not enemies to be smashed. We are seeing more and more signs of political hooliganism by columnists and editors; unfortunately, the plethora of electronic and social media has given many irresponsible people the platform to preach hate.
Luckily, we haven’t started throwing politicians in garbage bins – as happened in Ukraine recently. Our representatives are not exchanging blows inside the parliament like we see happening in other countries on TV. And we haven’t seen party members kill each other yet. But are we all that far away?

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