The way ahead

Several Greek premiers have in the past pledged to shut down loss-making state organizations.

Former conservative leader Costas Karamanlis had said that ailing state carrier Olympic Airways would close right after the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, while his successor in the driver’s seat, Socialist George Papandreou, mulled the closure of the heavily indebted Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE).

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was the first to have the political courage to do so, with his decision to close the country’s public broadcaster, ERT. Regrettably, his aides handled the issue in a naive and amateurish manner that canceled out any political benefits from the move.

But what’s done is done. The question is, where do we move from here? One scenario is that the three coalition partners will reach some form of compromise on Monday. Brussels and other key governments do not want to see a fresh period of instability. No one would like to see an accident or an adventure, as it were, ahead of Germany’s federal elections. But if the government trio is to reach a compromise, they will first have to change their attitudes.

Samaras will have to be more collective in his decision making and remove some of his conservative politicians who shy away from the hard stuff. They are not small in number. Despite their fresh language, some politicians never really left their old partisan habits behind. As for the other leaders in the coalition, they must understand that they finally have to free themselves from the weight of old party barons and politicians who act as unionists. To be sure, this is no easy task. The cracks in the government coalition are perhaps irreparable.

If this is true, elections will be the only solution. I personally believe that an election would mark the beginning of a long period of instability and political turmoil. It’s very hard to see how a government can be formed.

The figures just don’t add up or they suggest unworkable coalition governments. Of course, there is always the scenario that Samaras will sweep all pro-Europe votes and achieve a clear victory. His best chance would be to form a pro-European “emergency” alliance with the participation of capable figures from across the political spectrum. But even so, it’s hard to see how he would win enough votes to form a government on his own.

Things will not be easy. The Greek risk has entered our lives and the European stage from the back door. It seems like the true restructuring political system has only just begun. It was long overdue, but it presupposes that the country does not come apart in the process.