COMMENT

Another Greek paradox

By Alexis Papachelas

Irrespective of the European Parliament election outcome, there are those who foresee dangerous times lurking ahead. Let’s assume that the election leads to no major surprises and that everything points to political stability. The problem is that given the current climate in Parliament it will be extremely difficult for even the most obvious and sensible reforms to be approved.

If the issue of outdoor fruit and vegetable markets managed to threaten the government’s very survival, one wonders what will happen when fresh adjustments to the social security system or the rest of the OECD’s structural changes reach the House.

Even if we agree that management changes in the street market system were untimely and unnecessary, the kind of reaction that the issue sparked shows that divisions are now running very deep. For their own reasons deputies feel that they no longer wish to carry any more weight on their shoulders. Besides, the majority of MPs never really believed in the reforms in the first place but on the contrary feel that their mission is to dismantle those approved a few months ago under the pressure of fears some bailout tranche might be held back.

Socialist PASOK MPs have apparently given up and see no future, be it for themselves or the party. Meanwhile, conservative New Democracy deputies are angered every time a minister does a PASOK “dissident” a favor and so on.

Can the current parliamentary mood change? Could deputies bear to be put through another test? Those who visit the House on a regular basis are not very optimistic. In fact, as the country moves away from the threat of a eurozone exit, deputies appear more liberated to carry on with their mission, just like in the old days.

Greece’s partners have made it abundantly clear that a new round of reforms will be required in order to move on to the final stage of debt relief. They also know that they no longer have any particular negotiating power over Greece, due to the country’s primary surplus, and that a new deal would have to be based more on the carrot of reducing debt and certain growth measures as opposed to the stick. The question is whether the Greek Parliament will have a majority of deputies willing to listen to the details of such an agreement before deciding what to vote for or whether the country will enter a new period of instability, not as a result of the upcoming elections but because of the government’s inability to pass the basics through Parliament. This would be a case of yet another Greek paradox.

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