23 Sep 2011

‘300’ is no longer an epic number for Greeks

“300” is an epic number in Greece’s ancient history. 300 in modern crisis-ridden Greece is a term of insult for the average Greek, as it is the number of members of Greece’s highly unpopular parliament.

For many here, the MPs represent the worst in betrayal, excess, cronyism and leniency in tax enforcement – for themselves and their friends.

Perhaps it was forgiven in the past. Now, as Greeks face more taxes, more cuts, less services, and crushed economy, few see the funny side.

And yet a new Greek parliamentary drama is brewing for next week.: a vote on the detested property tax. George Papandreou’s majority in the parliament is now down to four. And five or six MPs who are part of the governing coalition are indicating that they might vote against. If that does not pass, then there surely can be no disbursement of the €8bn from the troika.

This explains why the Greek finance minister Venizelos attended a closed door meeting of Pasok MPs yesterday. He was quoted as saying in the absence of votes in favour, Greece could see a 50 per cent haircut on its debts, or even a disorderly default. Scare tactics maybe, and he would not be the only one doing that in this crazy crisis.

A statement from the Greek finance ministry denied this, sort of, this morning. But a Dutch member of the ECB governing council also raised a similar spectre.

The real lesson of this rhetoric, is that Venizelos is not assured of the 150 votes needed to pass the measure.  Ordinary Greeks lined up to tell us that the imposition of this tax, paid through electricity bills, was the final straw today.

It seems that despite the high-powered meeting in Washington discussing all aspects of Greece, the Greek people may have their say next Tuesday.