PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. In Greece, the election is now more or less
over. There is still some final counting going on, but it seems clear the New Democracy party,
the pro-bailout party, has won 29 percent, just slightly over that. The anti-bailout
party, SYRIZA, has won just over 27 percent. In all likelihood there will be some kind
of coalition government of pro-bailout parties, and they will expect to have to implement
77 austerity measures and sack or fire or lay off 150,000 Greek civil servants. That
was part of this austerity bailout plan. Now joining us to talk about his reaction
to all of this is Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri is a lawyer who practices in London and Toronto,
Ontario. Before that, he was a securities lawyer for a major Wall Street firm, working
in their New York and Paris offices. He’s also practiced working for the Bank of Greece
and the German development bank in numerous cross-border securities offerings. And, of
course, he’s an avid follower of what goes on in Greece. Thanks for joining us, Dimitri. DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you, Paul. Pleasure
to be here. JAY: So, first of all, just factually, what
do we know so far about the election results? LASCARIS: Well, essentially, 100 percent of
the votes have been counted. There are 300 seats in the Greek Parliament. The New Democracy,
which I think describes itself as a center-right party, as you indicated, has garnered a smidgen
below 30 percent of the vote. Were it not for a special premium accorded to the first-place
winner in terms of seats, it would get 79 seats. But with that premium, which is 50-seat
premium that goes to the first-place party, it’s expected to have 129 seats in the 300-seat
parliament. It’s followed next by SYRIZA, which has been described frequently in the
Western press as an ultra-left party fiercely opposed to the bailout, with slightly less
than 27 percent of the vote and 71 seats projected, followed by the purportedly center-left party,
PASOK, with 12.3 percent of the vote and expected to have about 33 seats. And then, finally,
there’s a smattering of seats allocated to four parties: the Independent Greeks, who
are somewhat more right than the New Democracy party but are anti-bailout; there’s the Golden
Dawn Party, which is a radical right-wing party and probably the party that most resembles
the Nazi regime of the ’30s in Greek politics, and probably in the continent, and they garnered,
unfortunately, almost 7 percent of the vote and are expected to have 18 seats; the Democratic
Left, which is perceived to be somewhat less hardline than SYRIZA, with 6.3 percent of
the vote and 17 seats; and the Communist Party, with 4.5 percent and 12 seats. The anti-bailout parties, which basically
means all the parties except PASOK and New Democracy, collectively have garnered 58 percent
of the popular vote. However, it appears that the pro-bailout parties are going to form
the next government, although there are–there’s no assurance of that happening, for a variety
of reasons. JAY: Yeah, just in terms of–just to remind
everyone, SYRIZA, which they’re calling far left and all the rest of that, actually campaigned
on staying within the eurozone, not leaving it, but wanted to renegotiate the deal and
not accept the current austerity plan and bailout plans. LASCARIS: That’s right. In fact, it even–it
moderated its language significantly during this campaign. Initially it said, in the lead-up
to the May elections, which were far less conclusive than these, that it was going to
tear up the bailout agreement. It then began to speak in terms of a very substantial renegotiation
of the bailout agreement. But it has throughout the entire course of these two campaigns said
quite adamantly that it wanted to stay, wanted Greece to remain within the eurozone. JAY: So the majority vote was clearly rejecting
the current deal, although it seems like you could say the majority vote is for staying
in the eurozone. But the majority is against all these austerity measures. So what happens
next? I mean, how is this any different than the results of the last election? Aren’t they
back, isn’t Greece back in the same boat? LASCARIS: Right. I think the key difference
is that the two parties that have clearly evinced an intention to respect the bailout
agreement, assuming that that, practically speaking, can be done, namely, New Democracy
and PASOK, now have enough seats between them or appear to have enough seats between them
to form a majority government. So were they minded to form a coalition together and alone,
then they could have a majority in Parliament. The complication, the principal complication
(it’s by no means the only one) that they confront, or at least that New Democracy confronts,
is that PASOK is saying that it will not enter into coalition with New Democracy unless SYRIZA
and the Democratic Left were to join. And it seems quite clear that SYRIZA has no interest
in doing that. It probably–the Democratic Left would be somewhat less opposed to joining
and may very well be prepared to do that if SYRIZA were prepared to do it, but I think
there’s very little prospect of SYRIZA doing it. Having said that, I think that this is all
bluster and at the end of the day PASOK will capitulate, as it has repeatedly throughout
the last several years, or since it most recently took power, to the demands of the EU. It will
form a coalition, I expect, with New Democracy. And there will be an attempt–and I put it
no higher than that–to respect the essential terms of the bailout agreement. But it’s my
expectation, because those terms are so draconian, that ultimately that will fail and we’re going
to find ourselves in a massive world of uncertainty very shortly, notwithstanding the fact that
the EU elite and the governments of the United States and Canada got what they wanted, which
is control of the Parliament by the pro-bailout parties in Greece. JAY: Now, the anti-bailout vote, and particularly
SYRIZA’s vote, kind of held up in the face of an enormous pressure campaign. What did
that campaign look like? LASCARIS: Well, I think that’s an important
observation. I think, you know, for those of us to be clear and in the interests of
full disclosure, I am, although not without reservations, a supporter of SYRIZA. I would
have liked to have seen them form a majority government. And, you know, I and others who
have that perspective are, of course, disappointed, but it is remarkable that notwithstanding
the intense pressure applied on the Greek people, 58 percent of the vote went to anti-bailout
parties. And to give a few examples, you know, the
president of the EU (Van Rompuy) and Barroso were saying quite clearly and almost on a
daily basis leading up to the election that if Greeks elected parties that demanded a
substantial renegotiation of the terms, then there would be no further aid coming from
Greece–forthcoming from the EU to Greece. And this was–these statements were occurring,
as I said, on a daily basis at the same time that the interim government in Greece was
saying quite clearly that on July 15, in a matter of three weeks, the government was
going to run out of money absent further aid from the EU. So, effectively, there was an
economic gun pointed at the head of the Greek electorate. And notwithstanding that fact–I mean, from
the perspective of those of us who wanted to see a different outcome, it amounted to
sheer economic blackmail–you see, nonetheless, 58 percent of the Greek people voting for
anti-bailout parties. And I think that’s a testimony to the intense opposition within
Greece to the savage austerity measures that have been imposed upon the Greek people and
the severe depression that has now beset the economy. JAY: So what do you think happens next? We
assume PASOK is going to join the government and they’re going to–apparently, they’re
sending some signals, some of the European leaders, that, well, maybe there’ll be some
room to renegotiate, not really the substance, but maybe the timeline. They’re trying to
put on a little bit better face on this. But in the final analysis, aren’t we back to a
situation where the Greek government are going to be really incapable of getting the Greek
people to go along with this, the austerity measures? LASCARIS: Well, whatever the Greek people
may or may not be prepared to do, there are two fundamental realities that remain, and
today’s election has not altered them one iota. The first is that Greece’s debt is unsustainable.
This country does not have the capacity to pay back the debt that it currently owes to
its creditors. And it’s going to have to take–it’s going to have to default on that debt to a
far more serious degree than it has up until now, and its creditors are going to have to
take a far more substantial haircut than they’ve been willing to take until now. And the fact
of the matter is that those losses have been realized. They’re just being, you know, swept
under the rug. And it’s going to be better for the Greek people, better for the European
banking system, better for Europe as a whole that the reality of Greece’s inability to
pay back this debt be recognized. That’s not changed. And the second reality that’s not gone away,
notwithstanding the fervent wishes of the European elite, is that these austerity measures
are a massive failure. Not only is Greece not growing, not only has the economy not
recovered–in fact, the economy continues to decline and, in the most recent report
of Greek unemployment, for example, is at Depression-era levels. It was already in excess
of 20 percent. It has now gone in excess of 23 percent. That’s on a workforce-wide basis.
Youth unemployment levels continue to exceed 50 percent. I mean, really a catastrophic
economic situation in the country. By any stretch of the imagination, austerity must
be deemed a failure. And it’s not going to be sufficient, in my
view, for the European–the EU leaders to moderate to a limited degree their austerity
demands. There’s going to have to be radically new thinking of the way–of the means by which
this crisis must be confronted, and I just don’t see that happening. So I think that
ultimately this is going to do nothing more than buy Greece a few more days or months.
It might not even be more than a few more hours. But eventually those two realities
are going to resurface. It’s going to be in the near-term that they will resurface. The
efforts of New Democracy and PASOK to steer a path through this crisis will ultimately
fail. And at that stage, you know, what happens at that point is anybody’s guess. Hopefully,
by that point in time the country will not have descended into chaos and anarchy and
it will be possible to hold an election in peaceful conditions. But I fear that that
might not be the case in two or three months’ time. JAY: Last time–or one of the last interviews
we did with you, you talked a bit about your sister and the village she lives in and how
much society was deteriorating. What’s she at now? I mean, I should say, what’s the situation
in the village, and what are her plans? LASCARIS: Well, you know, the village, the
conditions within her village, which is about an hour from Athens, reflect, I think, very
much the conditions on a nationwide basis. You know, shops are closed everywhere, a very
substantial proportion of the local population is out of work. Businesses have failed. Crime
rates continue to escalate. People are living in a condition of extreme insecurity, both
economically and physically–they fear for their physical–you know, for their lives. And my sister, after much discussion with
her husband, has decided that she’s going to give up on Greece. She has spent the last
15 years of her life there. She’s raised her four children there. All of them were born
in Greece. And she’s going to be returning to Canada at the age of 51 years old this
summer with her four children to start a new life. She’ll be coming back here, and I and
other members of my family will be doing what we can to assist her. Her husband is going
to be remaining behind, trying to figure out what to do with that expensive German machinery
that he invested much of the family wealth in several years ago, and, hopefully, he’ll
be in a position to come and join them sometime soon. I can say that, you know, I think my sister’s
leaving with mixed feelings. You know, this is the country in which she raised her children
and where she went 15 years ago to start a new life. But she’s much relieved to be coming
to a country where there’s some opportunity for her and her children to lead a relatively
prosperous life. JAY: And just finally, back to the politics
of all this, so SYRIZA says they will not join the coalition. They say they can be better
suited in opposition. And what do you make of the argument some people are giving that
if SYRIZA didn’t have a really big majority in order to implement really alternative policies,
in some ways this may be better for SYRIZA, ’cause if they had just squeaked in as the
first party, they probably would have been in the middle of a mess anyway? LASCARIS: Well, I think that this is actually
the cynical reason for which PASOK is demanding the participation of SYRIZA in the current
coalition, because if they don’t know, they certainly fear that any attempts to steer
a path through the current crisis by means of continued and even more severe austerity
is likely to fail, and they want SYRIZA to go down with the ship. And they know that
if SYRIZA is in opposition, they may emerge from this entire crisis much stronger than
they are in the current electoral climate. And that may be the silver lining to all of
this, that ultimately it will enable SYRIZA to form a majority government and to do what,
you know, the Greek leadership ought to have done many months ago, and that is to stand
up to the EU and to say quite clearly that the austerity measures being imposed upon
the Greek people are a failure, the debt is unsustainable, and a radically different path
must be pursued in order for this crisis to be resolved. JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Dimitri. LASCARIS: My pleasure. Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.