Dimitri Lascaris reports from Greece that a near six-point lead for SYRIZA is raising memories of the fascist coup and civil war
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. Left party SYRIZA is expected to win, according to all polls in the Greek elections on Sunday. Now the question is whether it will be a slim or a wide margin in the 300-seat parliament. Now joining us from Athens, exclusively reporting for The Real News, is our Real News board member Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri is a partner with the Canadian law firm Siskinds, where he is the head of firm securities class-action practice. Thank you so much for joining us, again, Dimitri. DIMITRI LASCARIS, SECURITIES CLASS ACTIONS LAWYER IN CANADA: Thank you, Sharmini. PERIES: So, Dimitri, there is wide speculation that SYRIZA will nail this election. So the question is whether they will be able to win a majority. What is your take? LASCARIS: Well, the lay of the land is–this was, by the way, the shortest parliamentary election campaign in the postwar period for Greece. But, nonetheless, a clear trend was established in during the course of this brief electoral campaign. And that is that SYRIZA’s support at the polls gradually increased, certainly never weakened appreciably. And we’ve seen our last polls today, because as of midnight, approximately an hour ago Greek time, no further polls could be issued. Campaigning ceased as of that moment. And the snapshot we received of where the electorate stands at this late hour is that SYRIZA now holds approximately a six-point lead over the New Democracy Party, which puts SYRIZA, I believe, just below the threshold of 35 percent of popular support, with about 9 to 10 percent of the voters undecided. The spread being what it is between SYRIZA and New Democracy and it having grown appreciably over the course of the campaign, it seems a virtual inevitability at this point that SYRIZA will win. You never say never in politics, of course, but I think it would be extraordinarily surprising if New Democracy pulled this one out. And the real question, as you indicated, is whether or not there’s going to be a majority, and if so, how large a majority. And in that regard, historically, parties have had to acquire about 35 to 40 percent of the vote in order to secure a majority in Greece because of the way seats are distributed. For example, there’s a 50-seat bonus that goes to the first-place party in a 300-member parliament. And so you can get much less than 40 percent and command a majority. If SYRIZA gets its proportionate share of the undecided vote, which is to say approximately 34 percent of the undecided vote, that would put it solidly into the 35 to 40 percent range and it would have an excellent prospect of securing a significant majority. PERIES: Dimitri, is there any possibility that there would be any tampering at the polls as SYRIZA is predicted to win so clearly? LASCARIS: Well, I haven’t heard anything about, for example, voter fraud or other forms of electoral fraud. What I did hear–and I confirmed it by consulting local press and speaking to some people–is that at least one minister of the current government was making some rather ominous noises about the lengths that the right would go to to prevent a victory by the left. And to give you some background on all of this, because I think much of this gets lost in the discussion in the Western media about the political climate in Greece, and that is there’s been a very intense and ongoing conflict which has flared off and on over the last 70, 80 years point between the right and left in Greece. It goes all the way back–and perhaps earlier than that, but certainly it was a conflict that grew largely out of the Second World War, where the left was the leading force in terms of resistance of the Nazi occupation. The Nazis never fully controlled Greece, in large part due to leftist resistance. And as the Nazis began to retreat, the British and the Americans became alarmed that the communists might seize power or other radical leftists. And they began to support extreme right-wing groups within the country. And ultimately this led to a civil war, which devastated Greece even to a significantly greater degree than the Second World itself had devastated Greece, which went on for a number years after 1945, and it led to the defeat of the left. And then, when the left began to experience a resurgence again in the ’60s, there was a coup d’etat by a colonel in the Greek Army named George Papadopoulos, who, it was widely acknowledged, at least subsequently, to be a CIA agent. And, in fact, he was described as the first CIA agent ever to have ruled a country in Europe. And under his regime, which lasted several years, members of the left were tortured and brutalized, and it was a significantly repressive regime. And subsequently, when he was overthrown in 1974, in large part due to resistance of the students of Greece, but certainly not only for that reason, the left began to come back to life and to occupy positions of significant influence within the Greek government. But I think it’s fair to say there’s never been a regime quite as progressive as SYRIZA in power. And so there are these lingering feelings of animosity between the left and the right. The right is now confronted for the very first time by–certainly to a greater degree than it’s ever been confronted–by the prospect of a real left-wing government taking power, and perhaps commanding a majority in parliament. So, within that context, a minister, the minister of health, whose name is Makis Voridis, made some rather ominous comments a few days ago when he was speaking to his own constituents, and what he said was, we will never allow the left to take power in this country. Now, he did say, we will defend freedom and the state with our vote, just as our grandfathers defended it with their blood or with their guns–I think that was the phrase that he used. So it wasn’t, certainly, a direct invocation or call for violence, and he was careful in how he couched it. But he was, I think, quite clearly invoking the memory of the civil war and how the forces of good, in his mind, namely the right, had crushed the left through violence–and quite horrific violence at times. And that caused, I think, some shudders to go through the left-wing groups within the country. But my own view is that he’s on the margins. He is, by the way, a rather frightening figure, and it’s quite troubling that he’s in the government at all. When he was a student, according to classmates of his at the University of Athens, he was a member of a Nazi organization, and they used to greet each other the way Nazis used to salute each other, and he was reputed to have threatened Jewish students, when there were student elections, if they didn’t vote the way he wanted. And then, subsequently, he–this was clearly not just a youthful indiscretion, because his entire political career, up until the time he joined New Democracy, he was associated with the extreme right. And the way he became a member of New Democracy was when the troika installed their own candidate as prime minister, namely, Lucas Papademos. When Papadopoulos–or when Papandreou wanted to put the austerity to a vote back in 2010, he was removed, Papademos was put in, and then Papademos put Voridis, this right-wing character, into the position of minister of infrastructure. And the reason he was able to do that is because his right-wing party, to which he had belonged up until that point, a party called LAOS, expelled him because he favored austerity. So we now have this extreme rightist in a position–for which he, by the way, is not even remotely qualified. He’s the minister of health, as I say. And he is expressing some rather disturbing views about whether or not the left should be permitted to take power. But at the end of the day I do think that type of a view is in the minority within the government. I think the vast majority of the members of the current government do intend to respect the will of the Greek people and ultimately they will do that. Now, that’s not to say that if SYRIZA wins, which, as I indicated, is very likely at this stage, they’re not going to do everything they can within the bounds of the law to prevent SYRIZA from achieving its objectives. I think they will do that as a virtual certainty. But I don’t believe that that’s going to include violence. PERIES: Dimitri, it’s late in Athens. I’ll let you get to bed. But we hope you do a report for us on Sunday as the polls close. LASCARIS: It would be my pleasure. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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