The closer we get to general elections, the more the prime minister and his SYRIZA cadres will go back to the playbook that dictated the stance of the leftist party back when it was in the opposition and its support was still in the 3 percent range.
They may have changed their tune about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Americans and the need for attracting foreign investments, but they remain steadfast on certain specific issues.
We don’t know whether this insistence is some expression of nostalgia, an alibi for their about-face or insecurity over the possibility of losing more of their traditional electorate.
One issue that is non-negotiable for SYRIZA is Article 16 of the Greek Constitution, on the issue of public university education.
The sector could have been opened up years ago if the mainstream political parties hadn’t gotten themselves in such a bind over it. New Democracy’s Costas Karamanlis had recommended the article’s amendment and PASOK’s George Papandreou also brought up the issue in a bid to differentiate his position from that of the old guard in the Socialist party. He bent to pressure from party spokesmen for the unionists, however, and an opportunity was lost.
A fresh opportunity is presented to us today, as a number of universities in other parts of Europe and the United States are seeking to open branches in Greece. The country’s history, location and myriad attractions make it a particularly compelling option, while many diaspora Greeks would be happy to contribute to the foundation of nonprofit educational institutions here.
These universities could also contribute to the country’s economy, as has been the case in Cyprus. The Left there gave its blessing to such private institutions. Here, though, our leftists prefer to do nothing so as to maintain the status quo. They would rather continue with sundry schools posing as proper colleges and uphold the mediocrity of an easy ride at state-funded institutions thanks to the enduring bonds between student unionists, political parties and university administrations.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could bring about change on an issue that is so close to his roots, but he obviously can’t get himself to do it – so the country will just have to wait until another self-evident and untapped opportunity presents itself.