COMMENT

Coalition shooting itself in the foot

By Costas Iordanidis

The system is headed straight for collapse when the political battle is being fought for the sake of show, aimed at either placating or agitating the citizens. This was clearly the case in the debate on the confidence vote in Parliament last week. The result was that instead of rallying the majority, which was what the government intended, the process unleashed a barrage of accusations and counter-accusations: Claims were made that MPs’ phones are being tapped, that politicians are being swayed by big financial interests and that deputies were being bribed in order to secure the super-majority of 180 seats in the 300-seat House that the government needs to see its presidential candidate elected and snap polls averted.

Incomprehensibly, the New Democracy-PASOK coalition government has for some time now been adopting SYRIZA’s positions in the hope that this would contain the growing popularity of the leftist opposition, when in fact all it has achieved is the exact opposite.

Coalition partners Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos have become obsessed with ending the Greek bailout and getting the International Monetary Fund to agree to pull out. It is impossible to imagine why the government, instead of stressing the increasing instability in Europe and the country’s good fortune at already having secured a loan from the IMF of 12 billion euros at a rate of 4 percent, insists on borrowing from the markets, where the yield of Greek 10-year bonds has skyrocketed to 7 percent.

One strong argument in favor of staying put would instantly discredit SYRIZA’s rhetoric. Instead, the government has embroiled itself in a race for who will be the first to tear up the memorandum, and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has found mimics where he least expected them.

SYRIZA’s rise in popularity is not due to its platform nor to the strength of Tsipras’s rather vapid speech in Parliament. His whole address basically boils down to a warning that he is on the way in and initiatives will not be tolerated. The political leadership, meanwhile, panicked, while the country’s economic elite is already preparing itself for a SYRIZA government, the product of the lamentable all-around political handling of the crisis.

For over four years, Greece’s creditors have pressured for a broadening of the tax base. ND’s and PASOK’s clientelist ties prevented them from following through. A few weeks ago Kathimerini published front-page news that 10 billion euros’ worth of corporate loans ended up in the personal bank accounts, abroad, of certain businessmen. Neither the Greek banks that approved the loans nor the leadership of the Bank of Greece had a clue.

In short, the fiscal adjustment program – irrespective of whether it was the right way to go – has been undermined by successive governments, creating the conditions for a political upset.

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