Being the opposition to the left-led government of Alexis Tsipras is no easy task, not because the administration doesn’t supply ample opportunity to be criticized but because its policy line is so haphazard, you can’t really pin it down.
One minute it is openly turning a blind eye to the forces of violence, showing them how far they can go without consequence. The next it is cracking down to assuage concerns about collapsing law and order.
This is a government that signed its own bailout deal yet every so often preaches its opposition to the measures it committed to. The government has a hard core that is opposed to the Church, the military and every other traditional institution, yet it shamelessly uses symbols and institutions when this suits its purposes and has given the armed forces the most prominent symbolic role it has held in public life since the end of the dictatorship in 1974.
There is no evidence of a single ideology here, of a backbone. If SYRIZA’s outspoken MP Nikos Filis needs to be thrown under the bus to placate the Church this week, then so be it. If some measures need to be passed next week that upset the clergy, then that’s okay too. This government has no problem laying down red carnations at anti-war memorials and visiting Donald Trump in the White House as part of day-to-day business.
The opposition meanwhile, tends to fall into the trap of accusing the government of changing its position on major issues. It forgets how tired and confused the people of this country are. All sorts of crazy and outrageous things are going on which at any other time would have prompted mass protests. The only people getting angry at Tsipras’s ideological mutations are those who abandoned him in the summer of 2015 and a few more disaffected supporters who have followed suit today.
The government has another advantage over the mainstream parties: it has none of the compunctions of the political game’s systemic players and will stoop to any low to harm an adversary.
What does all this mean? Probably nothing at the end of the day, because the political circle will close one day and the damage to Tsipras’s reputation will be irreversible. But what it does result in is a culture of cynicism in society and this is very serious indeed. At this rate, it won’t be long before we are ready to accept everything – backtracking, low blows and fickleness – as an integral part of politics. Such a mentality leaves no room for more constructive things like vision and sincerity.
The opposition will have to ask itself soon how it plans to play the game on such a dirty and treacherous field. Half the party will want to play dirty, to be aggressive. The other half will show confidence and point out that there is a calmer way. It’s a tough choice, but hopefully the opposition will choose the latter path, because this is what society needs to escape the quagmire.