Mikis Theodorakis versus Tsipras and Brussels

Mikis Theodorakis versus Tsipras and Brussels

Last June, the renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis conducted a gigantic concert of his music with the participation of about one thousand singers and tens of thousands of spectators at the ancient marble Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. Many thought it would be his “farewell” appearance. At 92, though, this prolific composer with a life-long involvement in leftist politics, personally conducted some of his famous songs from his wheelchair before his ecstatic audience, including the president of the country and most of Greece’s political leaders.

But, there was one noted absentee, Greek Prime Minister Alexi Tsipras, with whom Theodorakis has had a thorny relationship. Since his election to power two and a half years ago, Tsipras has been the target of Mikis Theodorakis’ continuous and merciless criticism targeting the prime minister’s support of Brussels’s austerity measures trying to steer Greece out of its longest economic crisis.

But while many might have thought last June’s great concert would have been Theodorakis’ “grand finale,” he continued his “call to the people” to rise against the “treacherous Greek government” with the same enthusiasm. By using his favorite method of “open letters,” he continued his relentless attacks on the government for selling the country to its creditors and for having mortgaged its national sovereignty forever.

Yesterday, he went one step forward. In a signed article, he suggested there was “a national need to stop this anomaly” by now and “the only viable solution compatible with the current constitution was for all opposition MPs to resign.” He even made an interesting revelation: that when the current Greek prime minister asked him to cooperate in his new leftist government, Theodorakis had told Tsipras the current political circumstances and the geopolitical location of the country cannot allow the emergence of a leftist government.

No doubt Mikis Theodorakis will keep on raising his critical voice for as long as he is physically able to do so and will try to raise the political awareness of the Greek people through his music in more concerts to come. He already celebrated his 92nd birthday last month by putting on a concert with his songs. Similar events are in the pipeline.

But can the dramatic appeals by this leftist veteran or indeed by anyone in opposition to the Greek government change the political mood in Greece? The official opposition of the center-right party of New Democracy under Kyriakos Mitsotakis are repeatedly asking for early elections—they are due in 2019—but the appeal of the new leader is somewhat wearing out. His program that includes a drastic reduction of civil service is not convincing enough. Although theoretically, Greece is due to come out from the bail-out programs in the summer of next year, many think whoever is elected to the government will follow the same strict economic policy approved by Brussels. Early elections are also the central demand of the rest of the political parties. But there is a spate of small ambitious parties in the center-left political spectrum. It will be difficult for them to join forces under a single political roof but they are trying to do so at the moment.

“I admire Alexis Tsipras. I think he is a successful politician capable of leading his country to the path of stability” said Europgroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, responsible for the economic and financial affairs of the euro area when visiting Greece earlier this month. He suggested Greece should not go for early elections, thus upsetting the opposition and stated Germany’s (strict) policy towards Greece will not change after the departure of the Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. As if in an agreed move, Schaueble stated yesterday the Greek economy is on the “right path” and “trust has returned.”

Alexis Tsipras changed the personnel of his press office last week. Some of the new staff comes from the Soviet-era Communist Party of Greece (KKE). It will be interesting to see how they will try to convince an exhausted, over-taxed and disillusioned society to vote on this leftist government once again that is now liked by Brussels.

Ariana Ferentinou, Opinion, Tsipras