Only clear messages can convince voters

Only clear messages can convince voters

There are very few supporters of Greece’s main parties – and not protest parties – who want to play the guessing game when they go to the polls to vote next month. Most people want to know exactly what will emerge from the ballot box on Sunday night: Will it be a single-party government, a coalition, a minority, a national unity government – what? To persuade voters you need clear messages, especially in a country that has been through a lot. A large part of the middle class is very afraid of instability, of mishaps.

The leadership of main opposition SYRIZA is not sending a clear message. Of course, it is not in its culture to do so because it has emerged from an environment where matters are talked to death. In 2015 SYRIZA’s message was clear because it was based on anger and a big “NO” to the bailouts Greece had signed, the troika enforcing them and everything related to them. Today there is anger but not as much as then. Neither is there hope that things can change with a magic wand. That chimera died in the summer of 2015. What people are looking for is managerial competence.

The clear message is missing. Voters are confused. The system of proportional representation introduced by SYRIZA has become a huge trap for the party because Greece is not Germany, and potential coalition partners either belong to an ideological extreme, or lack seriousness. The idea of a coalition government with MeRA25 leader and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis looks like a return to adventurism, problems and uncertainty. The idea of a minority government does not seem particularly robust and convincing. How will such a grouping be able to make decisions and handle critical issues when its fate will be judged every day in Parliament? Who would vote in favor of it and under what conditions?

However, the polyphony in SYRIZA also illustrates the fact that its president never wanted to clean up his own party. Alexis Tsipras knows that, for his party, he is (in relative terms) what late premier Andreas Papandreou was for socialist PASOK. It is very difficult to imagine SYRIZA as a serious contender without Tsipras. And yet, having grown up in an environment favoring party balances and meetings, it is very difficult for him to behave the way Papandreou did toward his comrades. As a result, there is a polyphony that during the pre-election period looks like an absolute cacophony. Everyone has an opinion that they express without considering the costs and consequences.

It doesn’t seem like there is anyone who can bang their hand on the table and say: “Enough! Only one person will talk here.” After all, that doesn’t fit the culture of SYRIZA.

We are only a few weeks away from the general elections. Time is running out and we are entering the period when voters start to operate a little more cerebrally, to put their anger aside. The worst thing a party can do at this crucial moment is to give the impression that it has no plan for the future, that it has no answers concerning with whom and how it will govern if it secures first place. Time is running out and it is proving that the basic rule of politics always applies: If you do not clean up your party decisively and in time, long before the elections, its burdens will pin you down at a crucial moment, when it will be too late to get rid of them.

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