Greek Elections Again
Christos C. Evangeliou
Professor of Philosophy
The Greek people are led to early elections once again, rather unwillingly. According to the polls, about 75% of the people did not want another election at this critical time, but they are going to have one anyway, on Sunday, January 25, 2015. The two leading parties, SYRIZA and New Democracy, are responsible for this development, since they failed to elect a new President.
SYRIZA wanted to use the presidential election to topple the coalition Government of ND and PASOK, to force early elections in hopes of taking over and implementing its program to save the suffering Greek people from the burden of the national debt and the hated Troika. ND, on the other hand, had arranged to have the presidential election months earlier, with the hope that the Parliament would succeed in electing a new President and thus be able to continue with the coalition government; or, in case this failed, it would have SYRIZA to blame for that.
Under these conditions, one would have expected that the Greek people would have turned against the two parties responsible for the unwanted early election, but this did not happen. According to the polls again the two main parties have polarized the electorate. Together they gather more than 60% of the vote, leaving the other parties far behind. Also, all polls show that SYRIZA is ahead of ND by 3-6 points, and will win this election in all probability.
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, and they have not revealed it to us. 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 Mnemonion; 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.
Christos C. Evangeliou
Professor of Philosophy