Crisis breeds political uncertainties in Greece

Crisis breeds political uncertainties in Greece

The short message came on my cell phone: “As much to right as possible!” It was the answer to my question “And now, what?” The addressee was a trusted political observer in Greece who had served me with accurate forecasts.

This article was written before the conclusion of the crucial vote in the Greek Parliament to give authority to the government to go ahead with the second Memorandum between Greece and the “troika” of IMF, the European Commission and the ECB, over the austerity package applied so far as well as a bailout agreement and a restructuring of Greece’s private debt. Mass demonstrations were expected yesterday evening before the Parliament while the debate on the package was taking place. The final vote was expected around midnight, but in spite of several defections from the two main parties that support the government and the negative votes from the left and the right, the proposal was expected to pass with over 200 votes out of a total of 300. After the general vote is over, the law that would specify the application of the new austerity package would be brought to Parliament in two weeks.

On Saturday, the appointed prime minister in a TV message appealed to the nation to accept the new agreement, otherwise an “uncontrolled default would throw our country to a catastrophic adventure, it would create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion,” he warned.

On the same day, the two main political leaders Yorgos Papandreou and Antonis Samaras, in an equally dramatic style, appealed to their deputies to vote in favor of the new package that may throw the country into a deeper recession. “I invite you to see your responsibility towards the homeland, not towards the party,” said Samaras of the center-right New Democracy party whose strong opposition against the Papandreou government earlier was based on rejecting the package!

Already many nightmarish scenarios have been circulating about the economic future of Greece.
But less attention has been given to the effect that the dire economic state of the country may have on its political balances from now on. In an unbelievably short time, the Greek middle class found itself from a comfortable living to the position of a newly impoverished social group. The shock of this change is reflected in recent opinion polls, which show a collapse of the center left party of PASOK and a decrease of popularity of the New Democracy. It is also shown on the near disintegration of the “patriotic right” of LAOS and the forecasted entry of a new ultra-right party to the Parliament. On the left, an impressive increase of a moderate left party is an indication of a fast migration of disgruntled supporters of PASOK but further to the left an increase of anti-EU, anti-euro supporters is a development that surprises no one.

The coming elections are expected to clear the recent fuzziness in Greek politics through democratic means. But what will happen if they don’t? If they do not grant enough power to the first party – expected to be that of Samaras – after its recent backtracking over the memorandum? How can Greece be governed when its mainstream parties have lost their credibility among society? How can the creditors of Greece rest comfortably if a large portion of society does not have any respect for its mainstream political representatives?

The situation in Greece has strong similarities with Turkey just before 2001. The problem is that no obvious political alternative exists to fill the political vacuum after the exit of the old parties from the central stage. AKP was the answer for Turkey then, offering a conservative, free market, religious alternative. I cannot imagine what would be the answer for Greece. This brings me unfortunately to the short message on my cell phone. I hope it is wrong.