by Vassiliki Siouti
A few days ago, the president of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Klaus Regling, stated that: “It makes no difference who will be the next Greek government, since 80% of Greek MPs have already voted for the bailout program”.
In saying that, Mr. Regling reminded us that whatever government comes out of the Greek ballots on Sept.20th, the political program which will be imposed is the one implemented by the bailout deal. The program which includes the terms forced by the creditors. Everybody knows that this program is nothing more that the IMF recipe with a few alterations.
Since it has already been voted in the parliament by both the major parties who have a realistic stake at gaining power, none of them will be able to question it the next day. Demagogues may shout and mice may roar. The foolish attempts to waste time or to prove that day is night might continue. But nothing further than that can be done.
There will be no useful, real reforms for the true benefit of the Greek society since none of the candidates has no such plans. Nor have they presented us with any plans for economic growth. The term is only used in speeches but its void of any meaning. None of the parties’ think tanks have done any work concerning economic growth and the Greek citizens are well aware of that.
Both parties question and doubt the IMF’s neoliberal recipe that is imposed on Greece for the last five years. Yet none of those parties have come up with a national plan that would prove that another way is realistic and feasible.
Greece’s creditors have tried to force those policies upon the country for the past five years. Ideally, they would have preferred to be met with total compliance and no reactions. On the contrary they were faced with a strong anti-memorandum front. This front found its main political expression through Syriza who developed from a small, left wing party of protest, into a major party who rose to power.
The most recent and triumphant victory of the creditors was that they managed to break up this anti-memorandum front. They dragged the leadership of Syriza exactly where they wanted and they forced it to vote for the latest deal. It was inevitable that the party would break up, as the left wing within it would have never obeyed. At the same time, these developments, erased ANEL (the junior coalition party) from the political map.
ANEL is a populist, right wing party, who’s only raison d’etre was to offer voice to those conservative voters who disagreed with the memorandum. Once the party joined the pro-memorandum camp and voted for the most recent bailout deal, the voters had no more reason to support them.
Syriza has lost its core it was not only the left wing (Left Platform) that abandoned it; the most active, political and ideological part of the party, as well as the members of its youth organizations have followed suit.
It is telling of the decay of Syriza’s infrastructure that, after the pro-memorandum u-turn made by the leadership, the party marches towards the elections without a general secretary (who quit without being replaced). Additionally, the youth organizations are in tatters since most of its members have also quit. Another impressive signs is that this is the first time that a Greek party of the left, had to pay for pre-election campaign work as they could not find enough volunteers.
The main communication campaign was made by professionals with the use of the media. Although Syriza has repeatedly accused the mainstream media of being corrupt, it seems that a truce has been reached with most of them, as many of that very media offer their discreet, or not so discreet, support.
Syriza is, however, well aware that it is walking on thin ice. The losses to the left continue and they will not stop after the elections. At the same time, those right wing voters who supported it in order to protest against high home-ownership taxation are abandoning it too.
Syriza’s strategy was to lure in voters belonging to the centre-left, and as far as the centre-right, of the political spectrum. The reasoning was that once Syriza abandoned its extreme character, the voters would no longer have a reason to be afraid of it. Syriza is swiftly turning into a leader-oriented party. The party mechanisms are in disarray and the entirety of its campaign focuses on the leader who is “younger” and therefore less “worn out”. The campaign and the arguments have no real political content whatsoever.
The country is going through its most crucial period since democracy was
reestablished in 1974, yet it is surprising to note that these elections are among the most downgraded. The main reason for that is what Klaus Regling explained. It is the first time that the result “doesn’t count”. The Greeks are not voting in order to decide what program will be imposed. Everybody knows that this is decided, and the elections cannot change it.
What they are asked to do is decide who will manage the specific program and none of the candidates seems desirable enough.
Mr.Tsipras was proven to be very weak and not prepared to deal with such a hard situation. He also was found to be insincere. He was elected because he promised to get rid of the IMF and end the austerity programs. After a short while he went to the people with a referendum, asking them if they wanted a new bailout. The people answered ‘no’, like he urged them to. Right after the referendum, the PM turned the people’s ‘no’ into a yes (his critics accuse him of totalitarianism) and he went on to sign an even harsher bailout deal with even more austere measures dictated by the IMF.
The leader of the opposition, E.Meimarakis belongs to the elite of the political formations which ruled Greece for the past 40 years and the people consider them to be primarily responsible for the dire situation of the present.
It seems that the reason Mr.Meimarakis’ party (ND) is enjoying a come-back, is that the voters who had left it for Syriza are now returning to it. The party can also claim that Mr.Tsipras had to do a u-turn when he also understood that the IMF method is the only viable one, thus justifying ND’s arguments.
The leading team of Syriza is not very fond of political analyses and they tend to ignore the consequences of their decisions. They seem to forget the reasons why they went from being a 4% party to a 36% government; the reason was none other than their rejection of the bailout policies and their commitment to stop them. Today these reasons are no more. In an attempt to get a new breath of life, the government rushed to call for elections before the people would realize how harsh the new measures will be. The government of Syriza went so far as to postpone the collection of taxes. The goal was to create a short period of pleasant virtual reality. After the elections, this bubble will also burst and the people will be enraged again. But, by then, the elections will have finished.
If Syriza manages to stay in power, new measures will have to be imposed and these will continue to weaken the party.
The liquidity of the political establishment, and the high mobility, will continue while it is not easy to see how the country and the society will be able to escape this vicious circle.