European Union

Greeks Withdraw Millions of Euros Ahead of Weekend's Election

|

Greek Political Rally

Greeks have withdrawn close to 800 million euros from major domestic banks just days before this weekend's election. Rumors of a Syriza victory and a return of the drachma has lead to panic buying of canned foods in preparation for financial collapse. Much of the panic can be attributed to the lack of polling, which is banned in the run-up to elections. Unofficial polls are being leaked that provide contradictory predictions on the outcome of the upcoming election.

Both of the major parties, Syriza and the New Democracy Party, have pledged to remain in the euro. However, Syriza has pledged to abandon Greece's austerity bailout agreement, a move that would greatly increase the likelihood of a Greek euro exit.

While both Syriza and New Democracy are almost certainly the two most popular parties, it is far from clear if either will be able to form a government after the upcoming election. Smaller and more radical parties may be needed to secure a functional government, and they offer nothing approaching fiscal or political sanity.

There are the communists, who believe that Syriza's anti-privatization policies are too right-wing, and third way socialists, who are part of the socialist international. A left-wing coalition with Syriza and these two other left-leaning parties would almost certainly prompt a swift Greek exit from the eurozone.

Other parties include the nationalist Independent Greeks, who also campaign on an anti-austerity platform, and the Popular Orthodox Rally, whose platform combines tax cuts for individuals and businesses with a strong anti-Turk, anti-Macedonian, and anti-E.U. form of nationalism.

Then there is Golden Dawn, against which both Independent Greeks and Popular Orthodox Rally seem moderate. Recently a Golden Dawn representative, Ilias Panagiotaros, said:

If Chrysi Avgi [Golden Dawn] gets into parliament [as polls predict], it will carry out raids on hospitals and kindergartens and it will throw immigrants and their children out on the street so that Greeks can take their place. 

Golden Dawn, whose campaign slogan was "So we can rid this land of filth" in the last election, achieved some prominent international coverage after one of its MPs assaulted two panelists during a live TV show. The same MP is now suing both women for defamation. 

With all of these parties in contest there is no reason to be optimistic. Whatever government the Greeks manage to put together it will not be one capable or willing to make the reforms Greece needs. The recent bank withdraws indicate many Greeks think the same.