OPINION

Heading toward the iceberg

There are plenty of things which come as no surprise. The Greek left always says ?nyet? to everything, for instance, and we would expect nothing more. At the same time, a number of its officials are fantasizing about taking their revenge for past defeats or even that Greece will turn out to be an innovative example of the capitalist system?s demise.

Equally unsurprising is the stance taken by true populists who believe in ?little Greece? and are not bothered by the idea of a return to the drachma or an isolated Greece with no powerful allies. Another thing that also causes no shock waves is the kind of marketing strategy carried out by latter-day populists whose philosophy is that if you run a shop in Monastiraki you must sell ?tsarouchia? (in reference to the traditional Greek shoes). Finally, what is also unsurprising is the systematic and clever way in which many are pushing for the return of the drachma. These include those in danger of going to prison because they went too far (even for Greek standards), those who have gone bankrupt and wish to hide their bankruptcy behind a generalized disaster or find money in a kind of underdeveloped Greece, or have taken their money out of Greece following decades of scamming and want to buy the country for a nickel.

What does surprise me, however, is the behavior of responsible politicians and parties who supposedly believe in the euro, are in favor of reforms and wish to avoid disaster.

For starters there?s George Papandreou, who is delaying the process for the election of a new PASOK leader because he has been persuaded by some that he is the most popular choice for those making up the 15 percent still voting for PASOK. Consequently he has blocked any kind of political development and is undermining what, supposedly, matters to him: avoiding disaster and for the Lucas Papademos government to succeed in its mission.

At the same time he has burdened the country and the prime minister with a dozen of his close pals, people who have no role to play or any kind of utility in such an emergency government. Perhaps Papandreou believes that Antonis Samaras will prove to be ?irresponsible? in the next few weeks, that Papademos will fail and that we might all yearn for him. Somebody ought to tell him the truth, however, and persuade him that his obsession with power is eating up any leftover hope regarding his reputation and legacy.

In the case of Samaras, his passion for power is truly incredible. Nevertheless, the New Democracy leader surely must be aware of all that has to be done within the next few weeks in order for the country to remain in the eurozone. Yet he insists on unfeasible election dates, going against spending cuts and basic reforms, while creating the impression that he is trying to undermine the Papademos experiment. It would only take a little bit of good sense for him to realize that New Democracy does not have the kind of winning team or ability to deal with what lies ahead.

No matter how fresh and powerful the people?s will is, it will take a national understanding and a major alliance for the country to stay in the eurozone. Samaras?s hurry to be prime minister amid the ashes in impressive indeed. And besides, how can a party whose leadership shivers, not to mention bows, before genuine lovers of extreme populism, govern the country? I?ll leave Giorgos Karatzaferis out of this, because even his most faithful interpreters have become dizzy with all the about-faces.

If these three leaders do not change course and continue to place their personal and party interests above the nation, they are bound to lead this country back to the drachma. This is not an exaggeration. It will be infuriating, however, because we could and can stand on our own two feet, but to do so it would take another Eleftherios Venizelos or a Constantine Karamanlis, and we don?t have any politicians of that caliber.