A cliché situation: “Strange bedfellows running Greece”
In normal circumstances it would have sounded like a joke. Yet, the crisis that followed the pulling out of the small partner DIMAR from the three-partite government coalition in Greece last week, ended – for the moment – in a most surreal way. It brought the former deadly opponents, the socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy to power alone in “the same bed.”
After monopolizing politics by alternating at the helm of Greece for almost four decades, and raising generations of sworn enemies of each other, they will now have to swallow their anger and attempt to govern a country deeply in crisis and chained to the suffocating terms of bail-out agreements which they signed with the EU-ECB-IMF.
Almost four decades after the fall of the Greek junta in 1974, the two parties had to bury the ideological gap between them because of the exigencies of the country’s near economic collapse.
Of course the ND-PASOK “unlikely” marriage was preceded by an unusual ‘engagement” caused by the inconclusive result of two general elections in May and June 2012. New Democracy running a fierce campaign against the “treacherous” policies of PASOK under George Papandreou who had agreed to get the country into a bail-out straight jacket, it won the highest number of votes but not enough to form a government. It was then, that PASOK agreed to support the ND coalition with the small leftist party of DIMAR from outside.
DIMAR pulled out last week citing problems in the functioning of the coalition and accusing the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, of acting on his own without consulting his partners. The decision of the leader of DIMAR to pull out his party from the government has caused reactions against its leader Fotis Kouvelis, but also sent shivers down the backs of Greece’s creditors as well as the leading country in the eurozone, Germany, which has demanded political stability from Athens.
So, what was considered as the most unlikely combination in Greek politics, took place last week forcing the members of both parties to omit several principles from their ideological ethics.
Whether it was politically a good move for the new leader of PASOK Evangelos Venizelos to share power with Samaras, at this particular moment, is debatable. Of course his party was on a downward trend having been blamed for the mismanagement of the crisis when it first broke out-under the then prime minister George Papandreou. But one may say that by joining Samaras he is resurrecting his party by himself becoming a deputy prime minister and a foreign minister while Greece takes up the presidency of the EU during the first part of 2014. He also managed to place key members of his party as ministers in the new government.
Whether it was good for Samaras to accept Venizelos as an active partner instead of going for elections, that is also another question. Certainly his move has not pleased the ultra right wing of his party who keep their door ajar even to some elements of the fascist Golden Dawn.
There is a lot of skepticism about the longevity of the new government if not for ideological reasons, certainly for social consequences of the austerity program. The new ND-PASOK government will have to axe thousands of jobs from the public sector – which includes education and health – in order to attract investment and initiate development sometime in the future. Economists challenge the austerity program as unsustainable and the society could not sustain a further deprivation of its living standards.
“The real crisis is just beginning,” said an eminent analyst, and it will be a huge task for this “unmatching marriage” to be a lasting bond.