by Professor Christos C. Evangeliou
On Sunday, September 20, 2915, Greece will hold another general election, the third in nine months, and the polls indicate that it may give SYRIZA a third victory in a row. This would mean that the Greek electorate will commit the same mistake not twice, but three times, which is certainly not wise. In that case, the question will be what Mr. Tsipras would do with such victory, given the fact that he did very little with the previous two victories.
His lack of experience in governing, combined with his lack of a credible plan for dealing with Greece’s creditors, and his poor choice of partners in key governing positions, especially the fiasco of Mr. Varoufakis with his prolonged and damaging theatrics, managed to split his party, while it brought the country to the brink of total catastrophe and international humiliation.
In an article, which I wrote for the Hellenic News of America and published before the first election on January 25, 2915, among other things, I pointed out a few facts and made some predictions which, unfortunately, have come true. Let me quote here a few of those comments.
“So, for the first time since the return to Democracy in 1974, Greece is posed to elect a leftist government by a great margin, repeating the triumph of Andreas Papandreou and his PASOK in 1981. What will happen next only the Gods of Greece may know, but they have not revealed it Anyway, the two main parties, more so than the others, claim that they will tell the truth to the people this time, given the serious problems that Greece faces as a result of the economic crisis, which has hit it harder than the other small counties at the periphery of the EU.
However, so far at least, ND and SYRIZA have failed to tell the whole truth to the people before the crucial election, to help them make the right decision and save Greece and the EU from many troubles ahead. ND has not explained to the Greek people why it failed to come to an agreement with the Troika and get the last dose of the hated Mnemonio; or why it would be easier for it to reach an agreement after the election, when its PASOK partner will have split up further, after Papandreou’s desperate decision to create a new party with left-overs of PASOK.
More significantly, SYRIZA has also failed to reveal and explain to the people how it plans to proceed, if its European partners are not interested in re-negotiating the agreement on the debt and its proper service. It is not clear at this point how far SYRIZA will go, if they are as hard on the SYRIZA government as they have been with the coalition government of ND and PASOK. Will they dare to take Greece, at this critical moment, out of the protection of the Eurozone and perhaps the EU, and call on the people to follow them down into the abyss of uncertainty and possible national disaster? Will it lead to another Zalongo dance of heroism or perhaps to the glory of the brave OXI and a new Resistance to this new occupation of Greece?
To these questions SYRIZA and its President, Alexis Tsipras, have not given the clear answers which many Greeks would like to have before they make up their minds. The leader of SYRIZA has been aptly characterized, among other things, as a new Andreas Papandreou. Of course, he does not have the academic credentials of the old PASOK leader, nor the air and ease, with which he moved in international fora; but he is as charismatic and demagogic a leader, having the power to connect with the people with genuine empathy, which is rather rare and reminds the Greeks of the American Diaspora of Bill Clinton in his early and promising times. At any rate, to take a small party of the 4% and to raise it to 34% in less than four years cannot be just a matter of chance or good luck, like his good looks. Credit should go to the organizing skill of the ruling council of his party as well as to the charismatic leadership of Alexis Tsipras.
The real test is ahead of him, however, if SYRIZA wins this election and is called upon to form a government. He regards his own and the party’s lack of experience in governing as a plus, for they have not shared in the corruption of the other two parties which have ruled Greece over the last forty years. That may be so, but the political art of governing any people, especially the devilishly clever Greek people, is difficult and takes time and practical experience to master. Improvisations can work for a while, but SYRIZA and its charismatic leader will certainly need solid political advice to navigate the rough seas of national and international political realities. Another blessing of the Pope, or the Ecumenical Patriarch, may also be efficacious in this case.”
Evidently, some of these statements proved to be prophetic. The SYRIZA of Mr. Tsipras had no credible alternative plan for Greece, in case that the Troika (or the Institutions) were not interested in re-negotiating the previous agreement with the Greek Government, or in reducing the debt to help the first leftist government to implement its spending program, which SYRIZA so generously and deceptively had promised to the Greeks before the election to get the votes.
Mr. Tsipras, and his Minister of Economics, Mr. Varoufakis, ought to have known that the Troika would be tougher with them than it had been with Mr. Samaras and Mr. Venizelos at the negotiation table. They were not fools to buy the rather cheap argument of Tsipras, which run something like this: “I got the majority of the Greek vote by giving them false promises; now is your turn to open your banks and give me the money I need to pay for my liberally spending program, so that I can stay in power and give you all kinds of trouble now and in the future!”
No wonder then that the SYRIZA negotiating team ended in the disgraceful failure of July 13, 2014, and in the signing of a third and more onerous Memorandum for the Greeks in August 14, 2015. The fact that the NO vote got 62% at the Referendum on July 6, 2015, did not help Mr. Tsipras in his negotiations with the tough and sharp creditors, so he had to capitulate completely, which inevitably split the party. If, in spite of this painful experience of the last nine months, SYRIZA manages to come first party in this election too, God only knows what will come next for Greece and the Greeks who suffer greatly. But the prognostics is not good at all.
Depending on the election results and the possibility of cooperation or not, Greece may take the road of Marxist “class war” or even dissolve under the pressures of external wars and the refugee crisis in the area, from Iraq and Syria to Turkey and Ukraine and Hungary. This can turn out to be one of the most crucial elections. It is high time for serious political responsibility.
Christos C. Evangeliou
Professor of Philosophy
Honorary President of IAGP
Towson University, USA