Two months after his defeat in the general election, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is expected to speak at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) and offer a detailed critique of the first two months of the new government’s activities, as well as presenting his and SYRIZA’s intentions for the future.
Boosted by having secured nearly 32 percent of the vote in the July 7 election, the former prime minister is expected to signal his intentions concerning the opposition strategy he intends to exercise. He has to show that he has learned from his time in power, and that he now understands the big difference between irresponsible criticism and populist claims, and responsibly trying to find solutions to difficult problems and complex equations.
He can no longer claim ignorance or illusion. He ruled for four and a half years, saw the reality of politics up close and personal, both on the domestic front and abroad; he experienced pressures, he made compromises and he was forced into making concessions. Today he is a young but experienced politician, one who must meet the challenges of his new institutional role if he is to achieve his goal of one day returning to power.
His moves during his last days in office, and also after his defeat, show that he has made the strategic choice to try to express the broader progressive coalition, which covers the ideological spectrum from the radical left of SYRIZA to the center. It is obvious that he will face internal reactions, but if he wants to create a wider coalition, which is the most reasonable move for him and his party, he should start by putting forward a narrative that is not limited to calling for more social justice and will not solely focus on redistribution of income through benefits, but will be positive regarding the creation of a business-friendly environment.
In Thessaloniki, Tsipras will obviously talk extensively about the accomplishments of his government and the policies of his successors; he will highlight issues like primary surpluses, labor laws and privatizations. It would be useful for him and, most importantly, for the country, to destigmatize entrepreneurship and profit. The state is not in the business of expanding the economy. What incentives one provides and how profits are taxed is a fair debate.
The leader of the main opposition should talk about healthy entrepreneurship and contrast it with what was happening in previous decades and which contributed, to a great extent, to Greece’s bankruptcy. But he should refrain from battles about the past. Public opinion is concerned about today, and especially about tomorrow.
It is also expected that he will put special emphasis on the Prespes agreement. Here, there is room for criticism. The fine line which New Democracy walked during the election campaign is well known, as is the fact that the now ruling party exploited the issue politically. However, ND had stated from the outset that, despite its objections, it would respect and implement an agreement signed by the democratically elected government of the country.
Finally, if Alexis Tsipras were to note some of the current administration’s positive moves, he would be doing himself a favor, as that would convey a sense of seriousness and lend more credibility to his criticism on other issues.