A Pyrrhic victory after an own goal

Due to the involvement of the eurozone?s top brass, the ?consensus? operation nearly turned into a political wound for Antonis Samaras. That?s why, when George Papandreou called him on Wednesday to propose the formation of a unity coalition government, the New Democracy leader turned the tables, setting his own terms for his participation, such as the appointment of a jointly approved prime minister, on the one hand, and for the new government to renegotiate a new memorandum, on the other. For a few hours, the disagreement was over who had tabled the idea of changing PM. Later, however, PASOK?s chief backed down, effectively offering his opponent a great political gift with his own goal.

At a time when the government is losing legitimacy and being destabilized, the incident was an indirect yet explicit admission by Papandreou that he can?t handle the crisis. This, along with his return to the same dead end, almost inevitably led to cracks in the parliamentary group. What saved him, of course, was not the ridiculous propaganda of defection which was spread by government mouthpieces. It was the imminent danger of a total collapse that set in motion the government camp?s survival instinct.

This development buys the prime minister some time but does nothing to change any of the factors which created the financial, social and political dead end in the first place. Until recently, rising to the helm of one of the two major parties was a passport to becoming premier. Things are different today. Society is not just turning its back on the ruling party and the political system. It is actively turning against them, as demonstrated by the Indignant movement and confirmed by public opinion surveys. The applause by the Socialist parliamentary group yesterday has no political effect on society and that is why it will not get Papandreou out of the dead end. Meanwhile, as it identifies with its leader, institutional PASOK is being led toward political disdain.

Chances are the PM has secured the midterm fiscal plan vote and hopes the reshuffle will upgrade his government and give it a new dynamic. It is likely, however, that tomorrow he will once again face the same, familiar dead ends. The Indignants will keep filling up Syntagma Square, ministers will continue to meet with disapproval and the economy will keep sinking deeper into recession, giving rise to financial and economic ruin. Under the circumstances, the task of reducing the deficit will increasingly look like a dog chasing its tail. It looks like society has crossed the Rubicon and as a result, the Papandreou government has no political fuel to live a long life.

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