The policies of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister at the time, Yanis Varoufakis, resulted in the imposition of capital controls in the summer of 2015. Greece found itself on the brink of default. It was also faced with the threat of a suspension of all transactions as a result of a eurozone exit and the rushed introduction of a new currency (or cryptocurrency) without a deal to peg it to the euro and without a new loan from Europe and the International Monetary Fund.
Under the pressure of international isolation after Russia and China did not seize the opportunity to guarantee Greece’s debt and support the state’s expenditure, Tsipras deemed that implementing the “No” vote of the bailout referendum would inflict devastating national, economic and legal implications. An adamant Varoufakis resigned. Before that, he had already turned up in London, Brussels and Berlin clad in tie-less untucked shirts and irritated all of his Eurogroup counterparts. Eventually, Varoufakis’ arrogance and narcissism cost Greece an estimated 100 billion euros.
Four years later he is back to deprive SYRIZA of a crucial bit of support. MeRA25, the Greek chapter of Varoufakis’ DiEM25 movement, won 169,287 votes, or 2.99 percent, in European Parliament elections on May 26. The party missed out on the European Parliament seat, which would have gone to Sofia Sakorafa, by fewer than 400 votes. DiEM25, with a campaign budget estimated at between 81,000 and 82,000 euros, drew about 1,450,000 votes.
‘Alexis is an actor’
Many observers believe that the party’s performance presages a similar or better showing in the upcoming national election. However, the fact that Varoufakis’ party is running on its own will make it easier for New Democracy, the main conservative opposition, to win the poll.
Would Varoufakis consider working with Tsipras again? “We would never demonize anyone, but Tsipras is simply deluding himself,” the former minister told Kathimerini.
“Alexis is like an actor who walks onto the stage and immerses himself in a role, to perform a lie, at the same time knowing that in order to put on a convincing performance he must believe that the role is ‘real’ and what he says is true.”
Using that metaphor, Varoufakis rules out any possibility of cooperating with Tsipras. “Alexis knows that I know that he knows,” he quips.
Varoufakis certainly knows a lot that we do not know as rumor has it that he would record confidential government meetings and Eurogroup sessions. He does not confirm the allegation.
The former finance minister is nostalgic about the past, but mostly he is excited about the future. He wants to make sure that MeRA25 does not fall victim to the so-called wasted vote scenario. “The big margin [between New Democracy and SYRIZA] in European elections makes the theory redundant,” he says.
In his opinion, SYRIZA’s heavy defeat in the Euro elections means that the ruling party is certain to suffer a loss in the national poll. In light of this, voting for SYRIZA would be a wasted vote. “Why would we vote for SYRIZA MPs that voted for the memorandums? Will they have the courage as opposition MPs to resist fresh measures and new memorandums? There is no doubt that SYRIZA cannot lead a resistance to the oligarchs’ homecoming.”
However, Varoufakis does not rule out post-election cooperation with those he identifies as oligarchs. “Division is the worst enemy. We need to talk to each other. [New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis] wants to reduce tax rates. I tried to do the same in 2015. We need to discuss how [this can be achieved].”
Yanis and Pamela
In the eyes of his supporters as well as his enemies, the 58-year-old politician enjoys social media rock star status. Experts say that his criticism of the debt recycling mechanism on which the global economy depends consists of easy to digest soundbites.
He nevertheless does have an audience. His books give him publicity, particularly in Britain where he remains close to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell.
In the runup to European elections, he campaigned for a Green New Deal, a proposed economic stimulus package designed to address climate change and economic inequality. The initiative was advertised in Berlin with 1,000 posters featuring actress and activist Pamela Anderson, who is known to have a soft spot for “bad boys” as she visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in prison in Britain. In European elections, Varoufakis stood as a candidate in Germany but failed to get elected. But he won’t back down. With renewed confidence, he is bracing to fight, if not austerity, then the monotony of the political stage.