Saturday, July 13, 2019

Out With the Old, In With the New. Sort of


Last Sunday, Greece elected a new Parliament, and though the results were generally as predicted—NEW DEMOCRACY in, SYRIZA out—predictors are now hard at work anticipating all that could go wrong.

I guess it’s more newsworthy to look at the half-empty glass.  To me the question has always been what’s in the glass—and is it flammable—but that’s another story.

Still, there were some surprises.  

Most telling, perhaps, is the defeat of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avyi (aka Golden Dawn) party, which is (for now) out of Parliament by reason of failing to gain the necessary three percent of the vote.  Many suggest their supporters deserted them for the far right pro-Russian, nationalist Greek Solution party now in Parliament, led by a TV host who sells what he says are original handwritten letters by Jesus. 

Yes, you read that correctly.

So, what’s the overall picture for the future? Don’t ask me, I’m too busy writing my next Kaldis novel at a feverish 1500 finished words per day pace to keep up with all of that for now. So, I’m cribbing—wholesale—the opinion of Alexis Papachelas, Executive Editor of Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper.  Some say he favors the center-right party that won (NEW DEMOCRACY) and is antagonistic to the far left party that lost (SYRIZA), but I respect him as a journalist…even if I may not agree with everything he writes.

So with that introduction, here’s Alexis Papachelas and his July 10, 2019 column, titled “Which way will SYRIZA go?”

It will take a couple of months before we see what kind of style SYRIZA plans to adopt in its reprised role as the country’s main opposition party. For the time being at least, it appears willing to cut some slack to the new government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

Party chief Alexis Tsipras has already stated that he won’t “do New Democracy the favor of acting as he did before 2015,” before the leftist party was elected to power. He obviously understands that such a tactic could have a boomerang effect and push a crucial chunk of the middle class into New Democracy’s arms over the next few years.
He is also, of course, seeking to safeguard some of the good relationships and political capital he built up in certain European decision-making centers and elsewhere during his tenure as prime minister.

Nevertheless, Tsipras is not likely to sit quietly by.

Mitsotakis has paid an enormous amount of attention to putting together a new government with a technocratic grasp of the issues at hand.

But regardless of how successful his administration proves in practical terms, it will ultimately take a huge public relations effort so that it is not cast by the opposition as pandering to the International Monetary Fund, as defending the interests of Greece’s international creditors and its business community, or put across as an Orban-type government [Hungary’s Prime Minister].

It will be a vicious and relentless battle.

The damage to the country will be significant, though, if SYRIZA does not change its mentality, if it does not undergo a cultural shift. A well-structured opposition is something we should all wish for; what we don’t want is a return to dangerous social division.

Greece needs to see a future and to move forward in what is an incredibly difficult and competitive environment. It is easy to turn central Athens into a hell of protests and marches, to bring services to a halt, while also destroying whatever progress has been made with the markets.

Certain wily SYRIZA officials have already suggested as much, saying: “just wait six months and you’ll miss our version of normalcy.” They argue that a leftist government can pull off measures that a right-wing administration can only dream of, and can do so without causing so much as a ripple.

The problem lies in the fact that Tsipras is obviously drawn to the center-left, from an intellectual standpoint, but old habits and pressure from the party’s hard core are pushing him to a no-holds-barred style of opposition.


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