A Note on Greek Elections and Our New Movement (KINIMA)

ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/01/21: Giorgos Papandreou attacked both New Democracy and SYRIZA for destroying in his words Greece.For
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/01/21: Giorgos Papandreou attacked both New Democracy and SYRIZA for destroying in his words Greece.Former Prime Minister of Greece Giorgos Papandreou and president of the 'Movement of Democratic Socialists' political party gave a speech during the main political rally for the 25th of January Elections for the Greek Parliament. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This post is adapted from a note the author wrote and disseminated prior to the Greek election results.

As Greeks head to the polls today, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you on the current political situation and my decision to create a new party, the Movement of Democratic Socialists.

After the government failed to secure a majority in Parliament in electing the next President of the Republic, we were forced by the Constitution to proceed to national elections within 25 days. These elections come at a crucial moment for the country as we are still under the EU-IMF-ECB program.

In the coming months, important decisions will have to be taken concerning the future, the handling of our debt problem as well as whether we will continue to apply austerity policies.

The internal political situation is highly polarized between political forces playing with fear and insecurity and others capitalizing on anger and despair.

This inflates extreme right and left populism. Much irresponsible and opportunistic rhetoric abounds. This polarization is squeezing out moderate left-of-center forces that historically have been fundamental in promoting democracy and reforms in Greece.

Facing these circumstances, I needed to make a bold political choice. PASOK, the party I belonged to since my youth, and led for many years, had become assimilated into conservative practices and policies.

In particular, it showed clear symptoms of being subsumed into clientelistic politics, rather than confronting a clientelistic political and financial establishment that has dogged the Greek political scene for decades. This flawed system is at the heart of the recent crisis.

It became identified with the austerity of wage and pension cuts, with heavy taxes through our inefficient tax authority, rather than good governance, equitable taxes and deep reforms that would have lifted much of the burden from the middle and lower classes.

This alienated the largest numbers of our voters. Consequently, most of our followers have distanced themselves from politics or adhered to other parties.

Myself and many others had repeatedly appealed to the current party leadership on the need to reassess our strategy but also increase our support through a democratic, open Congress before the elections were called. Unfortunately, we were not listened to.

What therefore became a growing demand of progressive citizens from the left of center, was to create a genuine alternative, a new movement.

The conservative New Democracy party will need time to recover from its expected electoral defeat while the populist left SYRIZA party will be tested in government. One test has to do with their style of governance. They come from a tradition of Marxist Leninists and fringe leftist movements and often espouse deeply authoritarian dogma. Running an inefficient state with more (left) authoritarianism would be a catastrophe. Let's hope this will not be the case.

On the other hand they will be facing a dilemma on the EU-IMF-ECB program: either to pursue policies based on their populist pre-electoral rhetoric, which could easily clash with the EU and derail what progress Greece has so far made, or change its course by doing serious bargaining with our partners on a realistic plan for deep changes in Greece.

It is this second option which is the goal of our new movement.

We seek radical change in our governance institutions and also demand change of an EU policy that relies on a failed focus on austerity.

Our alternative is specific:

  • We are proposing to take the ownership of the plan (away from the Troika) that will lead the country out of the crisis.
  • A 'Greek Plan' of fundamental reforms, from the political to the tax system, from transparency to meritocracy to e-governance.
  • A functioning democracy in juxtaposition to a failed clientelistic state capitalism. Reforms along the lines of the initial reforms we pushed through - beginning in 2010 - when we were in government.

We call it 'the revolution of the self evident'.

This plan, I believe, will put us in a good bargaining position in negotiating the issue of the debt. Which in turn would free us to use our budget surpluses for growth, investment, needed social services and lighter taxes on the middle class.

A wider stimulus program in Europe would be more than welcome. Draghi's ECB recent quantitative easing is important. But a robust fiscal stimulus program with public investment in infrastructure and training throughout Europe is a must.

Concerning Greece, I have also proposed that we convene a global conference of experts on Greek debt to both discuss ways of alleviating our debt burden and help in our negotiations with other EU partners and the IMF. Our proposal is that this Greek Plan and an agreement with our partners on forms of debt relief, should then go to a referendum.

A carefully planned national referendum to approve the Greek Plan would be a guarantee to our partners in the EU that we are committed to a road map for change in Greece. The referendum would bind all parties in a deep national commitment to help implement these changes.

We also have a powerful agenda on the issues that guarantee an open society, respect of human rights, fight against racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism, transparency and accountability.

On the economic front, we put emphasis on a stable and fair tax system and investment in a green economy, that will address the current problems of both foreign investors and Greek citizens.

Although the time frame was extremely short (25 days), we decided to launch KINIMA (movement) in order to have a voice during this polarized pre-electoral period. We managed in three days to secure candidates in all constituencies of the country. We organized large public meetings in all the main cities of Greece.

I appeared on all the big TV channels, reaching extremely high audience rates, trying to explain the current challenges for Greece. I also had the chance to put right many of the myths around how we handled the initial crisis in 2010.

According to some top analysts, KINIMA is the Greek party with the most enthusiastic and cohesive core followers. A network of volunteers (on and offline) has now been created throughout Greece.

This offers great potential to build on for the future.

And we plan to utilize global and innovative experience in creating a movement based on wide participatory practices, deliberation, self-organization, crowd sourcing solutions, continuing education and transparency.

In this context, we would be grateful for your thoughts and contribution in becoming the most innovative democratic movement possible.

What we have already achieved is unbelievable.

If we do enter Parliament in today's elections, we will have made an important first step -- beyond many people's expectations. Of course, our real test will come in the next elections that will likely take place before this four-year term is over.

In this challenging and creative endeavor, I count on your friendship, advice and moral support.

Warm greetings, George