The final stretch

It?s remarkable that some people display a fixation or even a mania for the country?s collapse. They even go as far as to suggest that this would be a release for a people that do not believe in anything and is being constantly tormented.

Some people behave as if they would really like to see a replay of the Argentinean experience of December 2001, when President Fernando de la Rua resigned and ultimately fled his official residence in Buenos Aires by helicopter to escape the angry crowds. In effect, they are doing all they can to sway the people who are suffering and who simply want to make ends meet with some dignity — the people, in other words, who will only suffer more after a possible economic collapse. They were successful on October 28 and they will keep trying, until they get their Bastille moment.

Next to them stand the far-right populists who have become preachers of hatred. Everywhere they see conspiracies like the supposed inflation of deficit figures. Among them, reactionary critics dream of the day they will toll the bells to celebrate the country?s return to the drachma and its supposed liberation from the bonds of the Fourth Reich.

Fascist populism usually thrives in environments of poverty and gloom. The champions of hatred and of the drachma parade across our television screens advertising their conspiracy theories.

The alliance includes those who want to see provisional Prime Minister Lucas Papademos leave the stage and the country to hold national elections as soon as possible. Is it that they do not know? Is it that they do not care? Is it that they do not understand? Do they really think that this will protect them against the unfettered storm of a populism that would come with a disorderly default? Or are they convinced that the drachma is the only solution but do not have the courage to say so?

And then there are the people who think that they have nothing to lose, even if the country was completely destroyed. If only we had a credible political elite which could convince these genuinely frustrated people that there is still room for creativity and productivity in this land.

I sense that the effect of the political Valium provided by the formation of the Papademos administration has all but worn off. The time of truth has arrived.

Antonis Samaras, New Democracy?s conservative leader, seems to have escaped the influence of the extremist elements inside his party. Will he manage to complete the switch? He knows all too well that negotiations with the country?s foreign creditors will not be easy, but there is still space for a game changer.

Should Papademos come up with an initiative, and Samaras have the courage to see it through, then Greece will have cleared a crucial hurdle. I am referring here to an initiative like shutting down the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) or other debt-ridden public utilities, or an impressive change in the labor market. Our international creditors would likely interpret such a measure as evidence of a change in mentality and would as a result ease the pressure for brutal belt-tightening measures.

In any case, we are entering the final stretch. The forces that want to see us go down have no contingency plan that would save the country. They are betting on the anger, the blind rage, the evident deficiency of the political system.

They want elections now, they want to see Papademos going back to Boston, and a big gamble with unknown consequences in the bargain with our lenders. Reason has it that they will not win the game and will not destroy the nation. And this should give us some hope at this crucial hour.

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