How long will Tsipras’ credit last?
“Halk, halk!” said the woman who was sitting opposite me. “Tsipras is for the people, he does not make distinctions between Muslims and Christians. He took away the cars from the politicians!” This Turkish manicurist in her 40s, in a small hairdressing salon last Saturday, was becoming more and passionate about the current Greek politics, unlike the young male hairdresser who obviously had never heard the name of Tsipras in his life and I am sure had very little knowledge of his country’s next door neighbor.
It had all started a few minutes earlier, when she had heard me speaking on my mobile phone. “You are Greek, aren’t you?” she asked after I finished. At my surprise as to how she could determine my language, she replied: “My family is Greek, I mean Turks from Thrace, they all live in Komotini [Gümülcine]. I was born here, my mother died and I want to join the rest of my family, my uncles, my cousins. I have applied for a permit to move there.” She – like the rest of her family in Gümülcine – was an ardent fan of the current Greek prime minister.
But this lady who was getting more and more frustrated with the indifference that her young co-worker had toward Greek politics, was already four months late on the political developments in Greece.
Since the election of the new leftist-led Greek government back in January, things have not proceeded in a way that the people, the “halk,” had hoped. Greece’s creditors in the EU and IMF continued to refuse to unblock the money due one year ago, trying to squeeze the government into an austerity program. After protracted negotiations with its creditors, the Alexis Tsipras government has made small back steps against its electoral promises, although it claims it will never step over its “red lines.” Meanwhile, more warnings are coming from all corners – mainly from market sources and financial circles – about an imminent disaster if no agreement is reached.
Yet, Tsipras, remains the most popular person in Greece. His personal charm remains strong enough to weather all the adversities that have hit his government since it came to power. He kept the Greeks calm and hopeful that something better and fairer will come into their lives, in spite of the continuous foreign pressure and the lack of money in the state coffers and against the worrying cracks within his party over the degree of compromise the government may have to find with its creditors. Can Tsipras rely on his personal political credit for long?
Against the possibility of a terrible new agreement to avoid a default, the prospect of new elections may be back on the table.
New elections may reshuffle the cards of Syriza. The present cracks may bring a real split where the extreme leftists of Syriza leave the party. If a new less extreme Syriza wins, a new coalition may emerge with a moderate centrist party – perhaps with the “River” – a more digestible option to the Europeans who have stated that Syriza, as it is now, is not a “normal” party.
Back to my Turkish manicurist who longs to join her Turkish relatives in Gümülcine. If she manages to move to Greece, she will have to revise her hopes to find her dreamland society of fairness and equality there.