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Toward new elections?
The vote in the opinion of Catholic Bishops
"A clear, neat vote for protest and, maybe even more seriously, a low turnout, which suggests a loss of affection for and confidence in politics in lots and lots of citizens": this is the first, "off the cuff" comment made by the apostolic exarch for Catholics of the Byzantine rite in Greece, Mgr. Dimitrios Salachas, on the results of election in Greece. The outcome showed a defeat of the two groups, NeaDimokrazia and Pasok, which had supported the austerity plan negotiated by the EU, the ECB and the IMF, in favour of the far leftist party Syriza, which earned 16.3% of votes, the far rightist group Golden Dawn (7%), the other rightist party Independent Greece (10.5%), and the Communists of Kke (8.5%). A fragmented scenario that made the Greek mass media talk of ungovernability and that endangers the recovery plan agreed between Athens and its creditors. This morning, the Greek Stock Exchange opened at minus 7.6%.
A country divided and distrustful. "The situation calls for prudence", the exarch told SIR, after Antonis Samaras, the head of New Democracy (ed.’s note: which remains the first party but only with 18.8% of the votes), handed back the mandate to form a new government to the President of the Republic Károlos Papoúlias on 7 May. This was due to the unwillingness of other political parties to support a coalition that he would head. After Mr Samaras, it is now up to the leader of the far leftist party Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, to try to reach a coalition deal after receiving the formal mandate from President Papoúlias. "We’ll see what will happen. One thing for sure: this vote will not solve the problems of our country. What we see today – Mgr. Samaras adds - is a Greece that has lost heart, which is divided and hopeless in front of the economic and social crisis that required taxes and austerity measures, that the EU, the ECB and the IMF Troika wanted to levy. I do not know what can be done by a parliament that is fragmented into so many parties and affected by returning nationalisms. New elections might loom ahead".
Even for Mgr. Francesco Papamanolis, President of the Catholic Bishops of Greece (CEG), "new elections might have to be called in June". "People are starving – he says to SIR Europe -, and this vote might not be a good turning point. Voters passed a vote of no confidence in the two main parties, New Democracy and Pasok, that have ruled the country for years, leading it to the disaster we are in today". What is worrying is the post-election fragmented political scenario. The two main parties that had supported the austerity plan of the Troika (ECB, IMF and EU), New Democracy (Centre Right) and Pasok (Socialist), have been defeated; "out of protest" voters have chosen leftist groups, such as Syriza, or far rightist groups, such as Golden Dawn. "Now - the archbishop says -, it will be difficult to form a government. The situation is difficult, not least because in Greece we have never had a national unity government". According to mgr. Papamanolis, the parties might veto each other: "Syriza and New Democracy said, before the vote, that they won’t cooperate. The same applies to Pasok. However, it’s early days, and we will have to wait for the leaders to make their statements before we can understand what they will decide. New elections in June cannot be ruled out".
"People are starving". "The Troika has led us to poverty - the prelate denounces -. People are starving, and we have nothing left to give to those who knock on our doors. The taxes they levied on us have risen up to 48%, in just one year’s time. Before the recovery plan, the churches were not taxed. Our proceeds come only from our properties, nobody helps us. Last year, as the diocese of Syros, we could pay tax; this year, we cannot. The same applies to Athens and other dioceses. Under an agreement, the diocese of Corfu has been allowed to pay its tax in instalments over 60 months. And we have to pay this year’s tax too. People are starving, and we have nothing to do charity with. Things are a bit better for the Orthodox Church, which receives aids from the other churches. The American Orthodox churches gave 500 thousand euros to the bishop of Athens. The same amount of money was raised in Cyprus. Then, there are the shipping companies that help the Church in its charitable work. We have no shipping companies".