Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Challenges and risks

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics

Autumn is when we can expect things to really get tough, as the real economy is put to the test. The money from the European coronavirus recovery fund will take some time to start trickling into the market, banks are moving at a frustratingly slow pace and tourism will remain at very low levels. Everyone needs to come to terms with this reality.

Greece must also contend with the huge elephant that’s always in the room: Greek-Turkish relations. Our partners have finally started to understand the magnitude of the problem and are trying to avert an accident. The prime minister has been very clear in the messages he has sent and on Greece’s red lines, but so too has the Turkish leader. His manner in talks with international players borders on the imperial, all the more so because of the special relationship he has cultivated with US President Donald Trump.

It is in such a setting that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis must decide on his next moves, primarily on whether to reshuffle his cabinet and how, and on whether early elections are on the table or not. Like any prime minister, he does not want to be influenced by the media, neither in the essence nor on the timing of his decisions. His advisers who are in favor of the status quo are recommending a small reshuffle and no snap polls. More experienced aides believe that elections in the fall are the only way forward and the only way to avoid the kind of political “suicide” we have seen other leaders committing in the past.

Neither a reshuffle nor early elections will have any point, however, if the prime minister is not prepared to make bold and difficult decisions. Right now, he has the advantage and valuable political capital. He can do more or less whatever he wants without worrying about any backlash from within his party. He has governed successfully for a year that was fraught with difficulties and has a good understanding of the people and issues at hand.

A reshuffle is only good if it gives important posts to people who deserve them by virtue of their abilities, not of their rank within the party. There are no excuses for compromises. The chancellery system works well during a crisis but not so much in the day-to-day business of government, because that’s when ministers start to feel like they’re running a fiefdom and the state is able to resist every change and reform. Right now, everyone in the government needs to feel like they are on a common mission, to the death – nothing less will suffice.

Early elections, meanwhile, would make sense only if they signal a shake-up of the political system. Voters have become more demanding and do not care for elections held only as a tactical maneuver; they expect more.

The decisions now rest with Mitsotakis. However, the argument of “Why take risks when we’re doing well in the polls?” is the favorite albeit often fatal one put forward by those who are afraid of change because they feel threatened by it – and the prime minister has shaped his brand on risk.

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