Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

A new chapter for Greece

COMMENT

The dilemma Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras presented voters with has failed. Despite the unreasonable handouts he announced at the last minute and continuous references to “two colliding worlds,” his SYRIZA party suffered a resounding defeat on Sunday.

On the other hand, opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis proved that his greatest asset is the fact that his opponents consistently underrate him. He may not have the prime minister’s gift for putting on a compelling public performance, but the people understand that this is not what this country needs.

This is not to say that the president of SYRIZA will simply disappear; no one should make the mistake of believing that. Despite his arrogance throughout the course of the pre-election period, he knew on some level that he was already playing for the elections that still lie ahead of us.

on Sunday’s results in the European and regional and local elections came as a surprise to certain officials at major decision-making centers abroad who believed that Tsipras would emerge from the contest undefeated or that the margin between SYRIZA and New Democracy would be very narrow.

It has now become apparent in Berlin, Brussels and Washington that a new landscape is taking shape. This is a fact that the prime minister certainly considered before he made any decisions on Sunday.

The apostles of the modern-day Greek mythology had gone on and on about how foreign officials would make sure of a SYRIZA victory, but on Sunday made it clear that it is Greeks who go to the polls and their hand that casts the ballot, not some invisible force. It is also interesting that the Prespes name deal played a role, though not one as pivotal as some believed. The rejection of SYRIZA was much more widespread than that.

It is a very welcome development that the country will go to an early election. An extended pre-election period would freeze the economy and, perhaps, result into complete fiscal derailment. A great deal of damage could have been inflicted over the course of just a few months. At the same time, rising tensions in relations with Turkey require a strong government.

It would perhaps be premature to say that the era of unfettered populism has come to an end. It is nevertheless striking that the Greek people have voted in a mature manner at the time when the rest of Europe is caught up in the gales of populism and nationalism.

It was a costly class, but at least we seem to have drawn a meaningful lesson from it.

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