Greeks on the defence in (yet) another Euro battle
‘The way we play the game, organise it and reward it reflects the kind of community we are’. Does Arthur Hopcraft’s statement in his classic ‘The Football Man’, apply to politics as well? Apparently it does. Much like the Greek national team in the on-going football tournament, the country’s political performance consists of weak, prone to ‘early goals’ defence; an offence that lacks any vitality, imagination and creativity; a few missed opportunities; a complete inability to bounce back in the face of adversity; and an overall unattractive game in a hostile environment, against opponents much stronger and/or better organised. The limited calibre of both Greek politicians and the negotiating weapons in their hands, have proved to be disastrous for the Mediterranean country.
Regardless, Europe is holding its breath over Sunday’s election. So what are the possible scenarios? Either pro-memorandum New Democracy will form a broad right-wing coalition government and try to softly renegotiate terms with the troika; or anti-austerity Syriza will form a broad left-wing coalition government and try to forcefully renegotiate terms with the troika. Despite predictions for the contrary (like the one made yesterday in The Times) that even after this second round of election, the result may be inconclusive, it is more than likely that a government will be formed, even if it takes some fragile marriages of convenience.
In any case, the Right will be strongly represented in parliament by two parties -populist Independent Greeks and extremist Golden Dawn. Journalists, commentators and analysts will declare their surprise and aversion at the results. Truly, there is nothing unexpected about them. The nation has stopped voting based on logic. For half the population, this is an extreme situation and extreme measures are absolutely necessary; hence, they are prepared to vote for anyone except the two mainstream parties that brought the country to its knees. The other half has been so disillusioned by feeling weak and powerless for years, that they are going to cast their votes for ND (in fear of what might happen with an inexperienced, left-wing government in power) or for Syriza (hoping that they are honest and courageous enough to act in defence of the nation), regardless of their political ideals, policy statements and personal qualities.
Almost all parties have aligned themselves with a willingness to stay in the Eurozone at virtually any cost, and while Syriza may not appear as keen as the others, their partners in government (whoever these may be) will not allow for any deviation. Only hard-line communists and right-wing extremists want to go back to the drachma and they will not be participating in any government anyway –the former because they refuse to do so, the latter because nobody wants them by their side, be it for ideological or public image reasons (despite a prominent ND member’s late willingness to recognise the ‘kinship’ between them and Golden Dawn). On top of that, the (probably justified) stunning deterioration of the citizens’ confidence in politicians and the increasing populist speech of all parties in an effort to muster as much strength as possible, make voters very sceptical about whether they will actually deliver what they promised.
At the same time, today’s events alone are indicative of what Greeks are expected to deal with on an everyday basis. Chancellor George Osborne suggested that Angela Merkel’s government may sacrifice Greece irrespective of the outcome, in an effort to justify to German voters “why they need certain things like a banking union, Eurobonds and things in common with that.” A few hours earlier, German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble declared that "The Greeks are free to vote for what they want, but an election result will not change anything about the real situation of the country, which is in painful crisis owing to decades of economic mismanagement." Feel free to translate this to “your vote does not count; we will continue to dictate your policies”.
According to a news piece published in the Greek newspaper Ethnos, the troika are prepared to ask Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras for written assurances of compliance with the terms of the memorandum –something he will most likely reject. Finally, according to Spiegel, the EU is ready to renegotiate the terms of the austerity agreement with Athens, ‘as long as they keep their promises’. Despite the spreading opinion that Grexit would be disastrous, its effect reaching even beyond the confines of the Eurozone; and that the ‘medicine’ proposed by the troika is failing for all ‘patients’, the country’s creditors are ready for a savage renegotiation that may eventually lead back to the drachma, or even the dissolution of the Eurozone. It is highly unlikely that this will happen soon and in a disorderly fashion, in any case, the decision does not appear to be in the hands of the Greeks.
This does not look much like a thriller after all. It does resemble low comedy however, with the protagonists in expensive suits throwing custard pies at each other and the Greek people caught in the middle; which indeed, is precisely what the national team’s passing game looks like. At least the Greek team made it once to the very top, despite their ugly tactics. It remains to be seen if Greek politicians will follow their example.