I am tempted to think that the outcome of the May 6 elections may have had some positive ramifications for the nation.
The results, which saw Greece?s traditionally dominant parties PASOK and New Democracy lose significant support, shook our European partners — particularly the Germans — who realized the limitations of horizontal wage cuts in the state sector and of unemployment in the private sector. Also, our foreign lenders are more aware of the risk of Greece going the way of the Weimar Republic. Already there is talk among European officials of providing Greece with growth packages, of revising the terms of the bailout agreement, and of introducing extra measures that have so far been caught up in the red tape of Brussels.
Furthermore, the election result, which saw the hard-left anti-bailout SYRIZA coalition party rise to second place behind the conservatives, also rocked the domestic political establishment. PASOK and New Democracy received a very strong message saying, ?Sober up and get your act together.? As for Greece?s entrepreneurial class, they finally realized that apart from getting a subsidy, they also need to engage in public affairs.
Most importantly perhaps, there was something in this election result about the people who voted. The Greek electorate appears to have let off some steam, but the real dilemmas are still ahead. One of the positive implications of the vote is that the tendency to discuss important issues in crazy media debates over the past two-and-a-half years seems to be subsiding in favor of serious analysis for public consumption. Some critics say it?s too late for this. They claim that the more desperate parts of society are no longer responsive to reasonable arguments. This could be true.
Interestingly, it?s not only the politicians who have been shaken, but voters as well. We have to wait and see whether this will influence people?s preferences in the next election. This will to a large extent depend on the intelligence and flexibility of our European partners. But it will also depend on the ability of our conservative and Socialist parties to run meaningful election campaigns.
The ideal scenario for Greece would be the following: Our lenders would consider a revision of Greece?s bailout terms; New Democracy and PASOK would sober up and energize their fighting forces before joining forces in a big government coalition; and SYRIZA would become a lever of pressure for Greek interests.
Here?s what scares me: First of all, the dismal state of the real economy, which is heading toward a spectacular meltdown. Even healthy businesses are finding it hard to make ends meet, while the state has been reduced to total paralysis. It?s a desperate situation and we are alarmingly close to the point of no return. If the coming election fails to put an end to political instability or if we end up with a SYRIZA government, an economic collapse should not be ruled out.
I would like to believe that the river of outrage and unchecked protest can be tamed by the powers of reason and patience so that the country can once again stand on its own two feet. If things go wrong, the risk of a certain degree of civil strife cannot be ruled out.
However, for the ideal scenario to work, we would need great leaders with dynamism and prudence, leaders who can keep a steady hand on the rudder. We would need leaders that will steer away from populism and rather explain to the people what is true and what is in the national interest. Regrettably, I don?t see any such statesmen out there at the moment, unless they emerge from the crisis.