Summer turbulence

By Costas Iordanidis

High summer temperatures appear to have messed with the reflexes of officials at the top echelons of Greece’s power-sharing administration. A sense of anxiety has gripped the political system and it feels as if the country is in pre-election mode. Optimistic projections are made one day, only to be refuted on the next.

All of a sudden, it was announced that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had decided to hold the September 3-5 meeting with troika officials in Paris so as to avoid the tension generated by the inspectors’ occasional visits to the Greek capital.

Some officials went so far as to interpret the decision as a confirmation that confidence in Greece was finally restored – a feat that rendered the troika’s actual presence in Athens almost unnecessary. Only the very next day, a representative for the European Commission said that notwithstanding the Paris meeting, representatives of Greece’s foreign lenders would still travel to Athens to carry out the fifth review of the country’s adjustment program as planned.

Impervious to the fact that Greece went bankrupt in 2010, successive administrations have over the past four years tried to create a virtual reality. What really happened, of course, is that the country avoided a credit event by borrowing money under very tough terms in order to stay in the eurozone. Of course, European banks, which were exposed to toxic Greek bonds, were also saved. Greece is going through a controlled default but it has now relinquished the bargaining power of being the weakest link that can break but at the same time take the entire European system down with it.

The handling of the Greek debt crisis has impacted on the country’s political system. Forty years after the end of the country’s military dictatorship, we are now faced not with a reboot but with a complete breakdown. Traditional PASOK voters have defected en masse to SYRIZA while New Democracy has over the past couple of years struggled in vain to steal right-wing voters back from Golden Dawn.

Some thought that pre-election handouts would lure members of the armed forces and the emergency services. Failure of that policy was confirmed by the results of European elections and the strong showing of GD. The Council of State ruled that the cuts to army and police wages were unconstitutional but new Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said that the court had no say on the issue.

All that happened in July. Let’s hope that Greek politicians will keep silent through August. Their incoherence is not the only problem. The bourgeois leadership of the center right lost the control over the Right. It is no longer acknowledged as “political authority” and as a result things are continuing outside conventional patterns. This is unprecedented at a time of political stability and it could be a harbinger of instability.