This may be the closest we get to a mea culpa from Alexis Tsipras so it has a certain value, but his recent comment regarding his possible “self-deception” does not reveal sincere regret. It is a trick, an effort to avoid assuming responsibility for all that he and his party did and did not do before and since their election. His excuse is that, whatever happened, his intentions were good, so he himself is a victim of circumstances and not of his choices. This argument, however, may signal something good: Perhaps the prime minister wants to tell us that the time of self-deception – and deception – is now over, that his eyes have opened and he will act accordingly.
Responding to criticism from opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Parliament last Sunday, Tsipras declared: “You are making an unprecedented effort to create the impression that SYRIZA, the SYRIZA-ANEL government, I personally, my ministers, are not telling the truth. Why? Obviously because you compare [now with] the pre-election period of 2015, when we asked for a mandate for tough negotiations [with creditors]. You may accuse us of self-deception, not for not honoring our pledge, nor for telling lies, Mr Mitsotakis. And you accuse us by comparing January 2015 with 2016. You keep repeating this comparison. You forget, though, that the Greek people judged both the agreement and our effort and our honesty. And we went to elections in September with this agreement on the table.”
Tsipras is addressing both those who accuse him of telling lies before SYRIZA’s election in January last year and those who charge that he betrayed them before the second election. He claims that he meant all he said before both polls. He does not explain why the message changed between elections. Like many before him, he has learned the inkfish tactic, believing that silence, denial and smoke screens erase responsibility.
Some may blame Tsipras for lacking responsibility in his first phase of governing, others because he changed course. In neither case can he claim he was the victim of self-deception. From 2012, political rivals, analysts and many voices from abroad warned Tsipras and SYRIZA that our partners in the EU, creditors and the markets would not submit to their will, that a collision with reality would be at Greece’s expense. Tsipras may have been seduced by fantasist revolutionaries in his camp but he is solely to blame for choosing not to listen to anyone else.
Even today, a strange left-right patriotic front slams anyone who argued the case for “yes” in last July’s referendum as if he or she is a soldier of some enemy power – not as someone who showed concern for Greece’s place in Europe earlier than Tsipras. If the prime minister really does believe he is the victim of self-deception and not the agent of deception, he should show that he now understands who is fighting for the good of the country and who is not.