Interior Minister Haris Kastanidis is a key figure in this Referendum riddle

Research by The Slog has revealed that the Referendum Law being invoked by George Papandreou is a mere 29 days old. There is evidence that the Greek leader purposefully promoted the man behind it, and that thus his use of it was premeditated. But his exact motive remains unclear.

The newly-passed Referendum Law allows for various forms of referendum. However, right at the end of the law is this proviso:

‘As concerns referendums on issues of national importance, the quorum will be decided by the competent parliamentary committee.’

Papandreou has made it clear that he is calling a ‘national importance’ referendum. Imagine that.

George Papandreou also personally promoted the man behind the drafting of this Referendum Law. He is Interior Minister Haris Kastanidis, and in the past he has called into question whether the austerity measures being applied to Greece are too painful. A passionate believer in democracy and human rights, Kastanidis’ attitudes have been framed by a youth spent under the Colonels: his father was persecuted by the Colonels, to the point where his health failed and he died young.

On 4th October this year, Kastanides publicly cast doubt on the austerity measures that Greece is applying as a result of its agreement with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. He suggested that the country could even survive without the help of its lenders.

“They [the Troika] are leading to the Greek people having a standard of living that is not acceptable,” he said during a recent interview on Vima FM radio. “They are threatening to lower the living standard to unprecedented levels for a European country.”

Kastanidis went on to hint that the troika was being egged on by business interests, or “certain nonpolitical elements,” in terms of the austerity measures being demanded. “The Greek populace can decide for itself if it wants to break with its dependence on borrowing as long as it is aware that spending has to be equal to revenues,” said the minister. “Then, it can consciously decide whether to accept a lower standard of living.”

Very much at Papandreou’s behest, having previously been Minister for Human Rights, Kastanides was reshuffled in June this year into the Interior Minister role. From that point on, The Slog understands, the Greek Prime Minister has worked closely with his ally. The fact that, less than a month after passing into Law, it has been pointedly employed to the horror of lenders, markets and europols suggests strongly that George Papandreou’s referendum call was planned some time ago.
Whatever his original plan may have been, Papandreou tonight finds himself at the centre of a potentially devastating political typhoon. After a long and puzzling day, I remain open-minded about the Greek leader’s motives, but convinced that we are only seeing a part of what’s going on. In today’s earlier post, I speculated that some side-agreement with the Germans might be involved: be this right or wrong, Merkel herself remains tight-lipped about her reaction to the referendum development. She and Nicolas Sarkozy are to meet Papandreou tomorrow, but I seriously doubt if anything much will emerge from that.
Three weeks ago, I was picking up strong hints from well-placed Paris sources about rogue French diplomatic lines having been laid with Athens. But that move, if it was real, has seriously backfired in some way or another; perhaps the Greeks saw through the French self-interest. Their country is, after all, being sacrificed to the eurobanks’ survival.
Papandreou heads a Socialist Party, and Haris Kastinades is virulently anti-banker. It’s possible that, last summer, the Greek Prime Minister decided he had eaten enough sh*t for one lifetime, and made a principled decision to stuff the banking community. However, my experience has taught me that very few politicians fall on their swords about this kind of stuff: while the media tonight are almost suggesting that the thin-skinned George Papandreou is having some kind of depressive breakdown, he doesn’t look like that to me.
But based on this new information, we can at least be certain that he didn’t dream up this idea over the weekend. Since last June at least, Papandreou has been looking for the best way out of this hole for his countrymen. With or without a German alliance, we are now watching the output of his thinking. The next few days will reveal whether he can ride this tiger, and survive.