One last chance

New Democracy’s chief, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, risked the ultimate reformist move by shutting down state broadcaster ERT in order to assert his role as leader over his two smaller partners, PASOK, headed by Evangelos Venizelos, and Democratic Left, led by Fotis Kouvelis.

The outcome of the second – and again unsuccessful – meeting between the coalition leaders yesterday is that it became all the more apparent that they will have to change the manner in which they govern the country if we are to be spared the turmoil of early elections.

New Democracy would still be the chief partner in the coalition, but its presence in the Cabinet may may weaken compared to the situation up until now. As far as Samaras is concerned, he would still be the prime minister of a tripartite government, but he would no longer have the ability to act alone and surprise his partners. It will be difficult for him to adapt to such a reality, but it is also absolutely necessary.

This, of course, should have been the case from the very first days that the coalition government was formed a year ago. But the incredible provincialism of our politicians created a ludicrous situation that means every day is a struggle, on the one hand between the three partners and on the other between the coalition and the opposition.

Venizelos and Kouvelis have basically refused to have any real participation in the government they agreed to form a year ago because of their own partisan interests. Samaras, on the other hand, lacks any sense of moderation and went ahead as though he were leading a New Democracy government with a majority of two-thirds in Parliament. He believed that acting unilaterally would enhance his image as an assertive leader. His expectations have been seriously dashed.

It is clear that the coalition has been undermined by all three of the political leaders who assumed the task of managing the crisis and averting a Greek default – even though this effectively occurred at the start of 2010. Perhaps the time has come for them to show a little maturity. The conclusion of today’s meeting will tell.

What the three political leaders need to know is that their first order of business is to maintain the present makeup of Parliament, where it has a dwindling yet sufficient majority to pass measures pertaining to the fiscal adjustment program. Nothing else really matters, and elections – for any reason – would be nothing more than opportunism at this point. The result of snap polls now would be the derailment of the adjustment program, Greece’s ouster from the eurozone and possibly even its ouster from the European Union.