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Video: Austerity tests Greek democracy

11-11-2012 13:58 BJT

By CCTV correspondent Filio Kontrafouri

After three years of austerity measures, Greece remains trapped in a cycle of deepening recession. The Greek parliament is due to vote on the country’s budget for 2013 on Sunday night, and the Greek Finance Minister has been defending austerity measures imposed by the government.

But unions in the country say they’ll continue to hold strikes and protests. Some analysts have hinted that democracy in Greece could even be under threat.

Images like these are increasingly becoming the norm each time there is another anti-austerity protest in downtown Athens. Extensive use of tear gas and police force, arrests and barricades across the city, are all in place to keep the parliament secure from the outraged crowds.

The traditional political system has collapsed but corruption remains tolerated on all levels of society. Tensions between Greece’s left and right parties are dangerously flaring up.

And disillusionment among the public is fueling the rise of extreme right, anti-immigrant groups, like Golden Dawn, that many call a neo-Nazi movement, responsible for several attacks against immigrants and leftists.

Professor Michalis Spourdalakis, political scientist at Athens University, says, "This is an un-free functioning of democracy. In other words, we have a democracy without civil rights that are undermined or curtailed. Our civil rights have been contracted as much as our economy."

Under the new austerity measures and labor reforms that were recently passed by the parliament by another emergency law, labor in Greece will become even cheaper. In two years, income has become equivalent to what it was 20 years ago. But taxes and prices continue to rise, along with unemployment, poverty and people’s hopelessness about the future.

Greece is the birthplace of democracy. And yet, in a recent poll, 8 out of 10 Greeks are discontent with the way democracy functions in the country today while almost one in 10 believes that democracy has been abolished all together.

Stelios Kouloglou, journalist of TVXS. News Website, says, "People are not believing anymore in democracy, in the parliamentary system and if you vote all the time and your vote is not taken in to account, then you start challenging democracy, you start thinking democracy is not working anymore."

The Greek press also shows signs of a crisis. In the last two years, several newspapers have filed for bankruptcy. State television’s reporters have been suspended for attempting to criticize the government.

And journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested for publishing an alleged list of potential tax evaders with bank accounts in Switzerland –a list the government had in its hands for two years and claimed it had lost.

He says, "Journalists right now are under attack, they are losing their jobs and if you don’t have a minimum protection for your job, you are becoming more vulnerable to the censorship or to the self-censorship."

Professor Spourdalakis warns that what’s happening in Greece today is both frightening and dangerous, and not only for this small country itself.

He says, "If the Greek democracy falls somehow or we have an un-liberal democracy, in other words, a democracy that is democratic only at the process level and on the surface and there’s no checks and balances and other processes that the power is checked by the citizens, then this tendency is going to be exported in other European countries."

Europe is closing watching but as long as it holds the noose tight around Greece’s neck, democracy remains in peril under the strictest austerity program that has even been imposed on postwar Europe.

Editor:James |Source:

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