Failing to rise to the occasion

Greece is being dragged to elections that will inevitably lead to a dead end for the three parties that claim to be ?pro-Europe? — New Democracy under Antonis Samaras, PASOK under Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left under Fotis Kouvelis.

They could have formed a government with 168 MPs, but failed because they lacked the political courage. The idea that they would face Alexis Tsipras from the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) as their main opposition made them beat a hasty retreat. But thanks to the devastating choice made by the leaders of those three parties, the conditions that will shoot SYRIZA to the top of the polls may well prevail.

Their anxiety was such that Venizelos went so far as to argue that having a majority of seats in Parliament was not enough to ensure the requisite legitimacy. The head of PASOK seemed to ignore the fact that every country in the West is run by a government that is not supported by the majority of the electorate. In fact, Greece has only had a government supported by the majority three times since the end of World War II: in 1952 under Alexandros Papagos, in 1964 under Georgios Papandreou, and in 1974 under Constantine Karamanlis.

Like it or not, Greece?s future will depend on the performance at the polls of SYRIZA, which is viewed by the three ?pro-Europe? parties as a movement based on challenging the established political order. Even if the polls are wrong, though, and Tsipras does not sail to the top, SYRIZA will certainly come second once more.

Close aides of Samaras estimate that ND will see some gains, but that nothing will really change substantially. Samaras will still have to negotiate with the same parties — PASOK and Democratic Left — and maybe with another like-minded party that manages to garner more than 3 percent. Should that negotiation work, Tsipras will again lead the main opposition and the scramble to form a government that has beleaguered the country for the past 10 days will be repeated under even direr circumstances.

That is the best-case scenario and that is why new elections are completely pointless.

PASOK and New Democracy have obviously entered self-destruct mode. The decision to hold elections on May 6 was mad, but the new elections may well herald the complete collapse of the political system. The May 6 elections gave extreme parties a strong foothold in Parliament, which will convene for one day and then be disbanded. The next elections may lead SYRIZA to victory simply because the three ?pro-Europe? parties could not rise to the occasion.