The aftermath of Greece’s polls: Further pain and uncertainty ahead
DIMITRIOS TRIANTAPHYLLOUThe message that the Greek voters delivered at the ballot box on June 17 is a very simple one. They do not trust their leaders enough to give any political party an outright majority. Much like the May 6 elections, the voters have opted for a coalition government which the political leaders were unable or unwilling to deliver last month. The new New Democracy and PASOK coalition (together with the Democratic left Party) looks very much like the coalition government led by the technocrat Lucas Papademos that was in place between November 2011 and May 2012 except for the fact that PASOK was the leading coalition partner at the time.
One may well ask, therefore, if the two elections that ensued were really necessary. As a result, reforms have fallen by the wayside, and the country’s creditors have threatened to stop their funding, thereby leading to a total collapse. One of the dominant themes of the elections has been the need to either renege on the memorandum with the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission that keeps the country afloat, or to renegotiate its terms in favor of a more lenient repayment regime in order to allow for growth strategies to be implemented in tandem with the austerity and reform measures it calls for. Whether the new government will be able to achieve some leniency or, more importantly, whether it will be perceived as such by the electorate remains to be seen.
As a result, the real victor of this election, the radical Left Syriza Party with its charismatic leader, Alexis Tsipras, has assumed the mantle of main opposition party for the first time in its history while it is getting ready to reap the benefits from the almost certain demise of the new coalition government in the next few months and win the next elections whenever they are held. Syriza has just gained breathing room to transform itself from a vocal opposition party with often contradictory positions on the euro, the European Union and even the legitimacy of the country’s institutions to one that could eventually govern when called upon. Much will depend on the quality of its opposition. Will it be a vocal but responsible opposition force in Parliament or will it continue to take the lead in calling for street protests, university and school takeovers and other such street tactics often leading to violence as it has being doing to date? There are many reservations about its ability to change its tactics.
Also troubling is the now permanent fixture of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party as well as the populist Independent Greeks party in Parliament. The anti-immigrant rhetoric that is also a dominant trend within New Democracy and even to a certain degree with PASOK has manifested itself in growing violence against various immigrant communities in the country. The increasing inability of the state to retain the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order (as per Max Weber), whether to curb right-wing violence against immigrants or left-wing violence against state institutions, does not augur well in these times of frustration and anger.
The new government takes charge at a time when the eurozone and the EU are facing existentialist challenges and in fear of the collapse of the much more important for the global economy Spanish and the Italian economies. Under present conditions, the continued stalling game that the Greek political elite are so apt at could very well lead to the creditors refusing to bail out the country and its bankruptcy with the ensuing political and social unrest that this entails.
In other words, the slow descent into hell of the average Greek citizen will continue for a while regardless of the formation of the new government.
Dimitrios Triantaphyllou is the director of the Center for International and European Studies (CIES) at Kadir Has University.