Prophets of the fall

We journalists are always in a hurry to turn into prophets and, naturally, end up being completely off in our predictions most of the time.

Still echoing in my ears are profound statements such as “Karamanlis is heading toward a third mandate” and “Papandreou got rid of everyone, he will reign supreme.” In the end, all of these predictions went up in smoke in the political arena and the tough reality – especially predictions made in the last few years.

So now we’ve moved on to predictions regarding the longevity of the current two-party coalition government. There are those who believe that the administration comprising conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK will not survive beyond the summer, while others are prepared to grant it a maximum of one year, until the elections for the European Parliament. “No one knows” is the correct answer to this question, of course, because the only thing we can be certain of are the factors that will influence this government’s viability.

The first and foremost factor, much as we might underestimate it, is the dynamics in terms of personal relationships forged between the members of the coalition government.

If ties between PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras – and by extension those between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Venizelos – become strained when the first tough negotiation take place, the situation will reach a critical point.

The second crucial factor is PASOK’s party machine and inner workings. Personal egos and conflicts could result in the government blowing up if someone takes things too far and does so in a clumsy fashion. The last thing the country needs is a disintegrating Socialist party of too many sick egos.

A third factor has to do with the position that our partners and creditors adopt. If for some reason they decide to pull the plug in the fall by demanding new measures worth 4 billion euros, then the future of the government will be deemed uncertain, if not bleak.

Although this is not a likely scenario, it’s hard to tell what difficulties are lurking down the road in view of the upcoming German elections in September or what the International Monetary Fund is up to – in other words, whether or not it wishes to disengage itself from the Greek program.

The country will find itself at a crucial stage after September, that much is certain. Until then, all of our predictions should probably be read as an enjoyable summer novel.

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