It was only natural for a prime minister who likes to treat politics as an exercise in spin. Particularly in light of the devastating incompetence displayed by his leftist-led government and the state apparatus during the July wildfires, which Maximos Mansion tried to cover up with public relations stunts and staged interviews.
Instead of seeking to comfort the Greek people with an uplifting, unifying speech about the formal exit from the bailout programs, Alexis Tsipras once again resorted to polarizing language in a bid to galvanize his supporters. In his address on Tuesday, he levelled the same old allegations about entanglement and corruption, dark interests and fascist gangs, tax dodging and big money, and the impunity of media owners. It was yet another rerun of the divisive us-or-them narrative, only this time there was a Cavafian touch involving Laestrygonians, Cyclops and Ithaca, which the ingenious Greeks will never surrender to the suitors.
Such a campaign to polarize voters is hardly a leap for a government that did not hesitate to transfer convicted November 17 hitman Dimitris Koufodinas from a maximum security jail to a farm prison just to appease a section of the party audience. But Tsipras did not stop there. In his effort to reconstruct an anti-conservative front to prevent a humiliating defeat in the next elections, he went so far as to launch a personal attack on Yannis Stournaras, the Greek central banker who has played a key role in protecting the country’s interests, as well as on former interim prime minister Lucas Papademos. “Democracy was humiliated. Bankers became prime ministers and ministers became bankers,” he said.
And even if one could explain Tsipras’s hostility towards Stournaras for serving as finance minister in the New Democracy-PASOK administration, the same cannot be said about Papademos. How could this highly skilled technocrat – who graduated from MIT before becoming an economics professor at Columbia University, who served as Bank of Greece governor, as vice president of the European Central Bank and president of the Academy of Athens, and who was invited by Parliament in 2011 because of his international reputation to assume the leadership of the country – be humiliating to democracy?
Let alone that this man was targeted by terrorists and almost lost his life over his involvement in rescuing the country? Far from apologizing for his hate-mongering, anti-bailout rhetoric (“traitors, Nazi collaborators”) Tsipras went on the offensive. A bit of humility would have been more appropriate.