Thousands marched on the streets of Athens today. There was some tear gas, some shouting and some scuffles. But, by local standards, it was all reasonably peaceable. The big questions, however, are whether street protests could escalate – and whether Greece’s financial crisis actually imperils the country’s political stability.
On the plus side, George Papandreou, the prime minister has very high popularity ratings at the moment. The trades unions, are also closely linked to the ruling party, PASOK – which makes it less likely that popular protests against the austerity programme will get out of control. Of course, there must be a threat that if Greece is in for a long, long period of austerity and reduced living standards, there will be a drift to the political extremes. But, at the moment, the communist and extreme nationalist movements still seem relatively weak. I met Loukas Tsoukalis, an eminent Greek political scientist, in London earlier this week and he seemed completely confident that there is no plausible threat to Greek democracy. Read more