When the country’s leftist opposition leader portrays government ministers as thugs and slams the power-sharing coalition as the “memorandum gang” in front of his party audience, it is only natural for there to be no shortage of tension in the House. It became evident from early on that the quality of debate in this Parliament would be the lowest that it has seen in decades.
As a result, it was hardly surprising to hear various opposition politicians throw light-hearted, as well as idiotic, allegations about juntas, nooses and executions during the plenary session on Monday. We were also treated to the familiar antics by the Golden Dawn spokesman, but then again, nothing better was expected of him to begin with.
Perhaps Alexis Tsipras fails to see that his rhetoric is fanning the spread of political violence that has for years dogged this nation – and which plays into the hands of the country’s neo-Nazis. The SYRIZA chief has gone as far as to give his blessing – albeit not always directly – to the harassment of his political rivals and to the violent protests in Keratea, Skouries or anywhere else, regardless of the reasons.
If Tsipras cannot see this, or if his aides fail to inform him of this, it means that he lacks historical knowledge and is out of touch with Greek society. If, on the other hand, if he does realize what he’s doing and keeps doing it despite being aware of the possible repercussions on Greece’s political life, then he is cynical beyond belief.
What is certainly beyond belief in the behavior of Tsipras and other deputies – with the exception of neo-Nazi MPs whose ideology and objective is the collapse of representative democracy – is that their attitudes are effectively undermining their very political foundations. The former, who aims to become Greece’s next prime minister, is bound to become the target of political violence should he one day make it to the top. The latter obviously fail to see that they are pulling the rug out from under their own feet either because they lack basic understanding or because they would not have what it takes to justify their presence in Parliament. Some of them perhaps mistake their seat in the House with that on a television panel.
The problem is that all this populism is bad for the country. The argument that the rhetoric of violence is the product of current conditions is groundless. Political violence has been around since the foundation of the Greek state and extremist, polarizing rhetoric is only pouring oil onto the flames. Those who indulge in it should know better.