Wanted: Hope for the future
Greece?s debt crisis — has changed the way people think about politics. It has also changed the way people here judge others.
Who would have ever expected a few years ago that grassroots supporters of the PASOK socialist party would end up throwing their weight behind the New Democracy conservatives in a bid to keep the country in the euro area.
Who would have expected that Adonis Georgiadis, a former member of the ultranationalist LAOS party and now a deputy for New Democracy, would ever attract positive comments from people on the left.
And, finally, who would have expected that conservative voters would turn to a hard-left party like SYRIZA.
In older times, when you entered a coffee shop or a friend?s house you?d automatically know who everyone voted for. Of course, there was also that decent chunk of middle-ground voters who sided with the reformist socialist Costas Simitis before giving their support to Costas Karamanlis of New Democracy. These people found themselves political orphans although they mostly went to New Democracy in the last elections.
It seems safe to predict that once the crisis is over, nothing will be the same again in terms of parties and political staff. It is striking that parties like the extreme right Golden Dawn managed to hold their ground on June 17 — a fact that suggests that they don?t reflect some temporary frustration among the electorate, but rather a more permanent shift.
More profound divisions in Greek society appear to be emerging to surface. It used to be that the deep dichotomies such as populism vs modernization, nationalism vs modernization, West vs East, were intense but nevertheless tempered within the contours of the dominant parties. PASOK was comfortable enough to accommodate champions of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan next to Europeanists. Similarly, inside New Democracy, the populist right coexisted with members of the enlightened Europhile camp.
The crisis has reactivated old fissures and the repercussions from this are and will continue to be huge. The questions is whether these fissures can be closed.
Historically, Greece made progress when each of the two main parties was dominated by a reformist, modernist-minded leader that could inspired the masses and win over people with different inclinations. Can New Democracy glue back together all of Greece?s right-wing formations? Can the center-left create a new pro-European party whose influence will not be limited to a handful of Athens elites?
For the time being, the dominant trend in Greek society is against structural reforms.The momentum of Greece?s anti-bailout forces ebbed only when voters realized what was really at stake.
Greece will not be able to move forward without a radical transformation of its political system. The existing one has come full circle, and it would be dangerous to expect too much of it, especially at a crucial time like the present one.
The existing Parliament is perhaps the last opportunity for the political system to come up with solutions to pull the country out of the impasse.
If Greece?s pro-European forces want to win the battle against their enemies, they will have to rely on hope, not just fear. This means that they will have to rally their forces and convince the people that they have what it takes to govern. The only sure thing about Greek politics is that nothing really can be taken for granted anymore.