Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Visitors to Greece’s capital these days cannot escape the fact that a general election is on he way. But it is not just the constant discussion on television and the excited newspaper headlines about a U.S.-style debate between front runners that lets you know.
Peppered across the city are political stalls, open for the public to come in and be persuaded to vote on Oct. 4 for whichever party is hosting them. The style ranges from a bench and chairs manned by two ageing communists in the northern suburbs to a rather slick structure in Athen’s central Syndagma Square touting the worth of the ruling conservative New Democracy party. For some reason the latter was blaring out The Clash’s “Rocking the Casbah” on a recent sunny morning.
It is all very frothy and something of a celebration of democracy in the city which, after all, invented it.
Which is why a quieter, almost unnoticed gallery on the corner of Syndagma is offering something all the more poignant — a reminder that it was not that long ago that such expressions of democracy would be met with batons, water cannons and even tanks.
Dark smoke covered the Athens sky over the weekend, its thick plumes rising over the Acropolis and rekindling memories of the huge, deadly fires of 2007 that nearly cost Greece’s ruling conservatives their re-election.
For Athenians glued to TV pictures of frantic residents trying to battle flames reaching their backyards with buckets and garden houses, it was much more than a dramatic struggle to rescue property.
Black-robed Orthodox priests chanted and sprinkled holy water to bless Greece’s new, ultra-modern Acropolis Museum, which opens officially on June 20 with the hope of bringing back the Parthenon marbles from Britain.
What if early Christians tore down statues and temples in a effort to eradicate paganism? The ancient, medieval and modern merged seemlessly during the ceremony held ahead of the formal inauguration.
Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, appear to have made little headway in the conundrum that has defied generations of international diplomats.
Bombarded with revelations of scandals for decades, Greeks have developed a slightly thick skin regarding graft. An opinion poll this week showed corruption was rated fifth among top voter
concerns, coming after the global economic crisis, education, crime and health.
Fed up with years of socialist scandals, Greeks elected the conservative New Democracy government by a landslide in 2004, mostly convinced by its pledges to clean up Greek politics.
The periphery economies of the euro zone are suddenly in the spotlight. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has cut its outlook on Ireland's sovereign debt to negative. It worries that fiscal measures to recapitalise banks and boost the economy might not improve competitiveness, diversity and growth -- all making it harder to manage debt.
Next came Greece. S&P basically put the country on watch with a negative bias. The global financial crisis has increased the risk of a difficult and long-lasting struggle to keep the Greek economy on track, it said.
George Alogoskoufis is a hardly a household name outside Greece and EU financial circles. But the newly sacked Greek finance minister could yet become a poster child for politicans struggling to fight off economic decline and banking industry collapse. His demise was in large part due to a public perception that he was helping out the banks but ignoring rising joblessness.
Greece, of course, is a special case at the moment, still recovering from riots over the police shooting of a teenager. But finance ministers, central bankers and other responsibles are probably not immune from Alogoskoufis Syndrome. Balancing the need to bail out the finance industry with rising economic misery among everyday people is not easy. Fat cats are not exactly in favour at the moment.