The Greek vote had a class dimension: the haves voted to keep what they have and the have-nots voted for change and a chance to have or have again. This makes it very clear that if current trends persist, the ‘have nots’ will win with a solid majority in the next elections. While everything suggested that the ‘dynamic’ was with SYRIZA, and most analysts predicted a SYRIZA win, the households, and especially those households that still had money in the bank, some form of satisfactory or semi-satisfactory employment.
The Greek people wanted and want the euro. At a high cost, clearly. But not at any cost.
The electoral success of SYRIZA – only 2.8% behind New Democracy (ND) – is both a worrying and a useful phenomenon. The fact that a once fringe party, struggling to surpass the 3% threshold to get in the parliament now emerged as the most dynamic force of the Greek political system, incrementally increasing its electoral power in 6 months effectively from 4.5% to 27% is one worthy of serious contemplation and analysis. Clearly, its agenda is the main explanation for the SYRIZA phenomenon: an Anti-Memorandum, anti-establishment, anti-politics in effect party, which promises few unwelcome reforms for the many and many unwelcome reforms for the few. However, the fair counter-argument that over-taxing the flailing Greek firms is likely to lead to more unemployment in the private sector worked, this time. The issue is that if more and more people feel that there’s no future for Greece in the Eurozone of German-led MoU’s, SYRIZA’s vague semi-Communist ‘tax the rich’ proposals and ‘programme’ will gain that party an overwhelming majority in the parliament.
Its simple – the MoU’s are ‘killing’ the parties supporting them. Anti-Memorandum parties sustained and increased their power in these elections. The far-right ‘Independent Greeks’, the neo-fascist/neo-nazi Golden Dawn, and SYRIZA are three parties betting on the failure of the current anti-crisis strategies and the failure of the emerging ND-PASOK-DIMAR coalition. This is an issue as far as reforms are concerned – they will be resisted vigorously in streets and parliament (even violently). At the same time, these parties, and especially SYRIZA, will be an advantage, the negotiating asset in the Eurogroup meetings and EU negotiations ahead. Angela Merkel, together with the Finnish, Dutch, Austrian and Slovene colleagues of hers must know by now that the nightmare of political instability is not far away – the fascist influence (who are openly nostalgic of the Metaxa’s and the 1967-1974 Juntas) are a disgrace for Greece and an embarrassment for Europe – as it is as much a product of Greek history as it is of European policies and style of intra-EU, and intra-eurozone especially, negotiations. It is the perceived iron-fist response to a corrupt political elite, a skewed political system, a dysfunctional state – which can not even guarantee the security of its citizens, an exploitative economic elite and an unfavourable European context which seems to disregard the interests and prosperity of the Greek people prioritizing debt-repayment and the security of banks and interest groups over the security of Greek and European citizens. Either Europe will change the page of history now and move ahead to integrate further in terms of its politico-economic structures – as once envisaged by Monnet, Duchene and Mundell, or the page of history will put Europe on its list of incomplete and/or failed projects. The risk of disintegration at a very high cost has never been greater.
The Troika will come to Greece very soon – it must be ready for major breakthroughs and revisions. Similarly, the new government must be ready for the swift and efficient implementation of far-reaching structural reforms, simplification of the legal and bureaucratic structures, frameworks and transaction costs. The political cost will be high indeed, but possible failure – in terms of economic collapse during the term of the coalition will leave no hope to ND and PASOK especially to see their joint percentages dominating the Greek political scene again in the future. Interestingly, this government seems to be emerging as Greece’s best hope and with, unexpectedly, good odds of success. If this administration plays its cards right and Europe accommodates accordingly, Greece has good chances of making it. The ‘Hollande momentum’ needs to be capitalised. PASOK’s leader Evangelos Venizelos and his relationship with the French President is an asset, and so is Venizelos’ perception in Europe (but also in ND and DIMAR) as a skilful politician with an unchallengeable commitment to Greece’s future in Europe and the euro. Samaras’ (ND) asset is that he has been the winner of last Sunday’s elections and may prove an effective negotiator given that he was the ‘father’ of the ‘re-negotiation’ line having included such a clause in his letter to the Troika committing to honour Greece’s obligations in the near future back in 2011. Lastly, DIMAR and Fotis Kouvelis are valuable in adding legitimacy and, crucially, a ‘left’ legitimacy (counterbalancing, mitigating or at least partly diffusing SYRIZA’s influence). Kouvelis’ DIMAR can serve as an explanation to groups once connected (wrongly and clientellistically) to ND and PASOK as to why this new government will have to put an end to their imperviousness to reforms and measures.
Using SYRIZA as a negotiating card is important, but not as important as a domestic strategy for growth. Greece’s new government, together with all willing (serious and democratic) social and political movements, members of the academia and related technocrats must design an informed, realistic and representative Greek model of economic development and sustainable growth. Once this feat is completed, the European-Greek ‘Growth Pact’ will not be far away. But if Greece continues to rely on German/Troika-led dictums alone, we all know that there’s no future for Greece and its people. The recipe does not work, and if the cook remains bad and un-innovative, then the news are bad, primarily for Greece, but also for other crisis countries, the Eurozone and for the EU.
*This article was initially published as an Op-Ed with Pravda (Sk), 20.06.12.