It seems that the government’s basic concern is to fulfill only as many of the lenders’ demands as are necessary to keep the country on life support while not alienating the hard core of leftist voters and cadres of the ruling SYRIZA party. With the party’s congress slated for next week, the government has recently felt the need to polish its leftist credentials. And so, without a plan, with their only framework a philosophy that allows them to deny doing what they do, ministers repeatedly find themselves trapped between ideological dictates and hasty retreats. In this way everyone loses – the government, institutions and the country.
In recent weeks, the government has faced serious challenges on all fronts. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced to meet with Archbishop Ieronymos and agree to “a dialogue from the start” on an issue that had already been decided by the Education Ministry regarding the syllabus of religious studies in schools. On Thursday, the prime minister met at his offices with the leadership of the country’s top courts, at a time when the Council of State has been rocked by dissent at its president’s decision to postpone a hearing on the legality of the government’s procedure awarding television licenses. On Monday, the bankruptcy of the strategy “we are not what you see us doing” was highlighted by the government’s shock at the use of tear gas by police when demonstrators at a pensioners’ protest tried to overturn a police bus being used to block access to the prime minister’s office. Tsipras, in his anger, instructed the minister of public order to prohibit the use of tear gas at demonstrations of workers and pensioners. This raises the question of what police will do the next time protesters try to break through their line. Will they use water hoses, clubs and shields? Or will they wave them through? In both cases, those in government will quickly realize that it is one thing to govern and another to maintain an image of naivety.
In another incident, an attempt to send a “warning” to Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras (with anti-corruption prosecutors seizing documents at his wife’s company) at the time the central bank was blocking government appointments to a small lender, resulted in yet another compromise after Tsipras met with Stournaras.
The backtracking (or testing of the water) may create the confusion necessary for SYRIZA to maintain that it is a radical force and not a government which does, in fact, rely on the support of a far-right partner to stay in power. Citizens’ increasingly angry voices – to a greater extent than opinion polls – show that this tactic is now exhausted. At its congress, SYRIZA will have to decide whether it will attempt a revolution or maintain the “system” and stick to its rules. The continual back-and-forth allows Tsipras and his ministers to keep pretending that they are an uncompromising opposition force while enjoying the fruits of power. But it does not lead to the economic and political stability that the country needs.