The prime minister has come to a decision. It can’t have been easy, but nothing is when it comes to governing this country, especially at times like these. We have had one crisis after another, without having the requisite institutions or state machine to handle them on autopilot. The decision not to go ahead with early elections was institutional in nature because the country must, at some point, enter a historic phase of having elections at the end of each four-year term. This habit of talking about when the next elections will take place just months into every new government is a sickness. The decision was also a personal risk, however, because Kyriakos Mitsotakis is very aware that the winter ahead will not be easy – and that’s putting it mildly. Are there other risks in his decision? Oh, yes. A campaign period lasting several months will inevitably entail pressure for more handouts even though there is no fiscal room for them. Athens is certain to be tested with street protests and there will be those who will be intent on causing chaos on the road to the polls.
The members of cabinet need to be reined in, because they’ve already started hosting dinners, sending out text messages and going on tour. Some are busy doing their actual work, but they’re only a handful. The government needs a hard reset – and tough luck for anyone who cannot handle it.
Inflation and the cost of energy will continue being the big unknown X factor. Some believe that Europe will take drastic measures in October that will address these challenges to a significant degree. Others foresee Russian President Vladimir Putin playing hardball and destabilizing certain European countries.
And then there’s Greek-Turkish relations, of course. By some diabolical coincidence, we will be having elections in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey if not at exactly the same time, then close enough. The summer may pass quietly, but the more pressure builds on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan domestically, the bigger the specter of a flare-up in the Aegean or the Eastern Mediterranean.
And in the middle of all this, we have that ticking bomb in the foundations of the Greek political system called simple proportional representation. Its very existence is like a dark cloud on the horizon. It is a system that needs to go, because the country simply cannot handle political instability nor has it a culture of consensus to cope with such challenges.
The prime minister has roughly a year. Having assumed the risk – for himself but not for the country – he can carry on as is, ignoring public opinion polls, gossip and the overall atmosphere, and accomplish two or three goals that he finds politically ambitious and sufficient to bring success. After all, he has demonstrated his ability to handle being thrown in at the deep end; it’s in the shallow end where the government often seems unable to stay afloat.