On January 1, Greece assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union in a state close to suffocation, not only via austerity adjustments since 2010, but also literally, by a toxic cloud fueled by wood fires that replace conventional heating.
The beret dense smog that grips these days Athens or Thessaloniki is also a metaphor for the political gridlock: the government insists on not lowering the tax on heating oil to intractable limits for broad social layers, but a group of 41 deputies of the conservative New Democracy (ND), rector of the bipartite Executive, has unsuccessfully raised a parliamentary motion to reduce it. An authentic rebellion aboard the party of Prime Minister Andonis Samaras. ND and Pasok socialist now number just 152 seats in a House of 300, and the rebel MPs representing about one-third in the ranks of ND.
The mutiny of the conservatives is just the penultimate chapter of an intestine, economic, but with clear political implications, the result of six years of recession and unfathomable weariness of citizenship to the endless cuts crisis.
- 27.4% unemployment (nearly 52% among those under 24 years)
- 3.8 million Greeks living in poverty or social exclusion in 2012 (400,000 more than the previous year)
- 350,000 households without electricity for non-payment bills
- 30% of the population have no access to public health care
- Virtual paralysis of the universities, which since September run almost unattended by the dismissal of officials
- Three killed by asphyxiation because of home fires for warmth
- Four out of five blocks of flats facing the winter without heating due to inability to afford it
- 21 continuous quarters recession
- 34.6% of the Greek population at risk of poverty or social exclusion
- SYRIZA, leads most polls of likely voters ahead of ND
- Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn carries between 9% and 11% of the votes and is now the third political force
- Only 33% of citizens believe possible ND victory if the election were held today
- The once mighty Pasok, houses more than a trashy expectations 5% support, compared with 44% of votes in 2009
How much longer the "New Democracy" government of Prime Minister Andonis Samaras can hang together remains to be seen.
Should Samaras lose a vote of confidence for any reason, the Greek house of debt that cannot and will not be paid back all comes crashing down.
For those counting, Greece received 240 billion euros in aid, in a foolish attempt by the Troika to keep Greece in the eurozone. Most of the loan has been earmarked for the recapitalization of banks and the payment of interest on the debt, which now accounts for 157% of GDP.
Germany and the ECB are adamant there will not be writedowns on that debt. Both are in fantasyland.
Default, accompanied by a messy eurozone breakup awaits.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock