Monday, June 18, 2012

Divide and rule in Greece and Egypt

The sigh of relief expressed by the financial markets and the major capitalist governments over the outcome of the Greek election reveals how desperate the ruling elites are for any “good news”, however ephemeral it proves to be.

The crisis of the euro is now centred on Spain, the fifth largest economy in Europe, which now faces sovereign bankruptcy as well as debt-ridden banks. And next in line is Italy.

Whatever the right-wing New Democracy-led government cobbles together, the fact is that the Greek economy has been smashed, working people can take no more austerity measures and basic supplies like medicine are drying up.

So nothing is different this morning, except that Syriza, which wanted to renegotiate the draconian bail-out terms, did not win. The Brussels bureaucracy and German chancellor Merkel were terrified that an “unreliable” left coalition might come to power in Greece, just as the euro is in its deepest ever crisis.

But it remains a narrow victory for the New Democracy, Greece’s conservative party, which garnered only 3% more of the vote than the Syriza left coalition. Party leader Antonis Samaras is now in negotiations to form a coalition with the Pasok pseudo-Socialist Party, which received 12%, in an attempt to increase his majority – in advance of either party’s agreement to the talks.

Real fear spread in the commanding heights of Europe after the May 6 general election in Greece when the Syriza party, lead by Alexis Tsipras, appeared out of nowhere to gain some 17% of the vote. Syriza’s share of the vote has risen to 27%, thus bucking the notion that European voters cannot be enthusiastic about a left radical party.

Syriza is a coalition of 13 groups including democratic socialists, euro-communists, Marxists and greens. It is, however, pro-European Union as well as in favour of staying in the euro and simply wanted to ease the burden on the Greek people.

Tapping into the suffering caused by the harsh terms of the bailout, Tsipras has won over public sector workers many of whom have received no wages for months, unemployed young people and Greeks of many political complexions who feel they have nothing to lose by taking a chance.  

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the military has effectively seized power as the country awaits the result of the presidential election. It has issued a declaration granting itself sweeping powers. The document by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) says new general elections cannot be held until a permanent constitution is drawn up. It also gives the Scaf legislative control.

On the eve of the elections, under the influence of pro-Mubarak judges, Egypt’s Constitutional Court, dissolved parliament. Emergency laws were then revived, which give the military free rein to arrest civilians without reference to the courts.

It is a pre-emptive coup d’état by Egypt’s “deep state” – the military-economic establishment – has moved to forcibly end the dual power situation that has prevailed in Egypt since Mubarak’s overthrow by a mass uprising last year.

The two candidates in the election both stood for reaction. On the one side, the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Mursi, on the other, the continuation of  Mubarak's “deep state” through prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. So in the absence of a real choice. In both rounds, voters opted for the candidate who would best counteract the contender they do not want. In other words, “the lesser of two evils”.

Have we seen the exercise of the people’s will in either of these elections?  In Greece, even though 55% of voters opposed the pro bail-out parties, the country now has a pro bail-out government! In Egypt, the army is determined to retain control – whatever the outcome of the presidential election while dissolving parliament altogether.

Elections have made no difference in either country to decide who truly holds power. The elections were in fact a form of democracy denied, with serving to polarise and divide society and allow the elites to stay in power – a form of “divide and rule”.  The conclusion?  If there ever was a time to create new forms of democratic expression such as people’s assemblies, it is now.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary


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