Dimitri Lascaris also discusses the significance of bailout critic Vassiliki Thanou serving as the first female Prime Minister in the interim Greek government


Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. In Greece, the head of the Supreme Court, Vassiliki Thanou, was sworn in as interim prime minister to head the government into a snap election that will take place on September 20. To discuss this move and more we are joined by Dimitri Lascaris joining us today from Toronto. Dimitri is a lawyer with the Canadian law firm Siskinds where he heads the firm’s class action practice. Dimitri, thank you so much for joining us today, and it’s nice to have you in person again. DIMITRI LASCARIS, SECURITIES CLASS ACTIONS LAWYER IN CANADA: Thank you very much, Sharmini. Good to be back. PERIES: So give us the significance of this interim government. What responsibilities will it have in the next 24 days? LASCARIS: In essence it’s a caretaker government. Vassiliki Thanou, the president of the Supreme Court, the highest court in Greece, has been a vociferous critic of this third so-called bailout of Greece. But I think her power is quite constrained. Her function, constitutionally, as I understand it is simply to shepherd the government through the election period now that the resignation of Tsipras has been accepted, after two attempts, failed attempts to form a government by the opposition parties. The fact that she’s been a vociferous critic, I think, has some significance in the sense that one can’t anticipate there’s going to be any further significant implementation of the bailout while, while the election is ongoing. But I think that that would have been true irrespective of whether or not a critic of the bailout had been appointed as the interim prime minister or not. What is more interesting, I suppose, is that she’s the first female prime minister of Greece. And it’s really sort of a statement on the place of women in Greek politics that in 2015 for the very first time, Greece finds itself with a female prime minister. And unfortunately she came to hold that post not through the electoral process, a result of the extraordinary circumstances the government finds itself in. I think it’s high time that a woman was given the opportunity to run the country. Which takes me to the question of Zoi Konstantopoulou, the president of the Greek parliament, who commands tremendous respect in Greece and has shown a great deal of moral courage in opposing the government and coming under strident attacks, both from her own party’s leadership and from the right. For some reasons that are not apparent at this time, she has not joined forces with the rebel party that has been formed now called Popular Unity. I would have hoped to have seen somebody like Zoi Konstantopoulou become the leader of that party. I think that that would have been an opportunity for that party to really separate itself from the old way of doing things in Greek politics, which has been very, very much a male-dominated sport. PERIES: That’s one line of thought, Dimitri. But she might also be strategically useful after the elections in that post, as parliamentary speaker. LASCARIS: Well, I suppose that’s true. Although whether she’ll be able to remain in that post after a new government is formed is highly questionable. That’s one problem. The other problem is it’s going to be very difficult because of the very short time available to Popular Unity, the party formed by the Syriza rebels, to organize. I can’t recall a single instance in which a significant party came into existence after the calling of an election, and that’s what’s happened here. They’re going to really face some significant obstacles organizationally. So whether they’re going to be in a position once the election is settled to make use of a parliamentary speaker who is sympathetic to their cause, as she clearly is, that’s another question. I think the best role she could have played would have been [Inaud.] PERIES: Dimitri, you just returned from Greece, and we’re now 24 days before the next election. And we’ve yesterday just learned that Syriza party General Secretary Tassos Koronakis has also resigned from his post. What does all this mean to Syriza and now the Popular Unity party? LASCARIS: Well, I think what it signals–the fact that he resigned without aligning himself with the Popular Unity party, and I understand that he hasn’t done that, at least yet. I think that means that morally he felt he could not continue to support Syriza as it’s currently constituted, but potentially he has significant reservations about the strategy and the ultimate objectives of Popular Unity, and he felt the only course of action open to him, and I tried to read the tea leaves here, obviously, was simply not to remain in his position, but not to run either as a member of Popular Unity. Of perhaps even greater significance is that 53 out of 201 members of Syriza’s Central Committee not only resigned their posts but defected to Popular Unity in the last 24-48 hours. That should be a significant boost to Popular Unity’s prospects, and a real blow to the unity and the sustainability of Syriza. And in fact, there was an editorial today in Ekathimerini, which granted is viewed by many as being the voice of the oligarchy, in which a writer suggested that Syriza is disintegrating before our very eyes. It’ll be interesting to see whether the party as currently constituted can hold together much longer. I think there’s some risk that there will continue to be bleeding and defections, and what will remain by the time you get to election day is unclear. PERIES: Do we have a sense of what the polls are saying at this time? LASCARIS: Well, there’s one poll–and I’ve said many times and I’m not going to rehash it here, Sharmini, I always take domestic Greek polls with a grain of salt. There has been one produced so far by [Verina] Television, a Greek television station, and it showed that what remains of Syriza and the neoliberal New Democracy party, which was displaced from power by Syriza in January, that those two parties are virtually neck and neck. Syriza has a slight lead of 24 percent of the popular vote, and that party has 22 percent. It did not show, this poll, a substantial increase or a significant increase in support for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, which is good news. In fact, I think it appears to have lost some support in this poll, which is a bit of a surprise. What was also surprising, perhaps, is that the Popular Unity party was shown as only having 4 percent of the vote, which would get it over the 3 percent threshold for having representation in Parliament, but would not be anywhere near enough support for it to maintain its current position. Which is, it has 25 seats in the Greek parliament at this time, and is the third-largest party. But as I say, it’s one poll. It’s early in the game. The party Popular Unity has just formed and hasn’t even really developed a platform yet. So I wouldn’t attach a lot of weight to it. PERIES: And do we know how many candidates they are running in the elections? LASCARIS: I don’t know that, but I suspect they’re going to try to run a full slate across the country. PERIES: All right, Dimitri. We’ll stay tuned with you. Thank you for joining us today. LASCARIS: Thank you, Sharmini. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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Dimitri Lascaris

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer that focuses on human rights and environmental law. He is the former justice critic of the Green Party of Canada and is a board member of the Real News Network.