Where’s Jackie Gleason when you need him? If ever there was a time for one of Ralph Kramden’s “Straight to the Moon!” shots at someone it was when the polls closed on Greek elections on Jan. 25 and voters gave the heave-ho to George “The Money Is There” Papandreou and his new Kinima party that didn’t get into Parliament.
They also showed the door to Uncle Fotis Kouvelis and his Democratic Left U-Turn (DIMAR) party that had betrayed its principles by backing harsh austerity measures to join the former coalition government of New Democracy Capitalist leader and former Premier Antonis Samaras and PASOK Anti-Socialist chief Evangelos “Opportunist” Venizelos before quitting in a huff over worker firings, too late to save his rear end which got the kick it deserved when he didn’t get in.
Just to make it sweeter, the exuberant win of the Coalition of the Looney Left SYRIZA left the defeated former rulers of the coalition of New Democracy and PASOK in disarray with Venizelos said to be ready to step down after taking his once-dominant powerhouse into last place among the seven parties getting into Parliament, and Samaras looking over his shoulder to see if he’s going to be challenged.
So at one fell swoop, voters rejected the insanity – of injustice, not of austerity that was needed – and ended the four-decade domination of New Democracy and PASOK, given them courtesy of the gullible who fell into the traditional party line thinking each election. They let these two parties run amok with patronage and pilfering Greece for their parties’ pleasure and personal use.
The only way it could have been any better was if PASOK and Venizelos failed to make the 3 percent threshold and were humiliated, embarrassed and destroyed outright, which is what he deserved after – as did Papandreou who was the party leader before him – also betrayed the alleged party platform and supported big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings demanded by heartless international lenders.
But it’s schadenfreude enough to know that Venizelos, who was made Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister by Samaras after backing worker firings, finished with 4.68 percent of the vote. That was almost 10 times less than Papandreou got in 2009 when he won the Premier’s office, only to be hounded out of office two years later after relentless protests, strikes and riots against austerity he said was necessary.
So chaotic was PASOK at the end, ahead of the elections, that Papandreou, President of the Socialist International, walked away from the party his father, the late Premier Andreas Papandreou, founded more than 40 years ago.
Papandreou and Venizelos would occasionally do photo ops together to show all was well with PASOK but the body language said it all: they looked like a cobra and mongoose trying to get along when each wanted to destroy each other. And, in a case of retributive justice that hit New Democracy and DIMAR as well, they did.
Greeks had been subjected to Papandreou, looking like a deer caught in the headlights – of an oncoming train, not a car – and the smugness of Venizelos, who would have worked with the Devil to stay in power, having their pusses on TV strutting around pretending they cared about the workers, pensioners and poor they devastated.
When it was Samaras’ turn, he embraced the austerity he had rejected when out of power and sold a bill of goods to voters in two elections in 2012, finally winning the second after warning that SYRIZA would destroy their lives if it won.
What he didn’t tell them was that he would, pressing on with austerity when all it was doing was squeezing the life out of the country because he didn’t support it with structural reforms.
What Greeks were angry about with Samaras, New Democracy, Papandreou, Venizelos, PASOK, DIMAR and Kouvelis wasn’t just that their pay was cut, taxes raised to levels most couldn’t pay, pensions cut, lump sums stolen and 1.4 million people left out of work, but the arrogance of the people who did it, who ate caviar and drank champagne and showed false compassion.
The politicians didn’t feel anyone’s pain because they can’t, so numb they were with ignorance and power and got what they deserved.
So now you can look for Kouvelis’ name and party in the circular file, otherwise known as the dustbin of history, a fitting end for a man who, after taking DIMAR to the depths, said he would quit, but didn’t and still didn’t know what hit him.
It’s even better to see the last of clueless Papandreou, who got the political equivalent of being tarred and feathered. It was even more just for a man who had the temerity after being run out of office to sit in Parliament collecting his pay but spent much of time also being paid to give lectures at gatherings and US Ivy League colleges on governance. What’s the Greek word for chutzpah?
All that’s left is for Venizelos to fade away ungracefully and for Samaras to be unseated and be seen walking around Syntagma Square with a shell-shocked look and for all these characters to get their just desserts. In the words of the great Greek poet George Seferis: “There is none to remember them, and the word is Justice.”