Discord has reared its head in the ranks of the three-party coalition government, but this should come as no surprise. Negotiations between the government and the troika are inching closer to an agreement, which will deal a heavy blow to public sector workers and pensioners. For the junior members of the coalition — PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis — it is part of their political nature to complain — if not directly — about the fact that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of New Democracy does not brief them on every step of the negotiations.
But, it would be rash to jump to the conclusion that the coalition is in crisis. This discord is most likely simply an expression of intense embarrassment. The leaders of PASOK and Democratic Left keep telling us that nothing should be taken for granted regarding which measures they will support, even though their stance is clearly predetermined.
Recent public opinion polls have shown that both parties are experiencing a steep decline in popularity. As such, they share a common interest in maintaining the coalition in the hope that the Greek economy will finally get back on track in a tangible way.
Samaras, in turn, is facing a major problem in the defections from New Democracy?s traditional electoral base to the far-right Golden Dawn. But he hopes that the party will succeed in attracting centrists, liberals and moderate leftists whose greatest concern is that Greece remains in the eurozone.
Of course a party without a hard core of supporters runs the risk of gradually disappearing, as was the case with PASOK under the leadership of Venizelos. As a politician, Samaras has a duty to keep hoping that he will succeed in making the conservatives strong again. The government made a step in this direction when it launched a campaign to crack down on illegal immigration, but the plan backfired as rather than instilling a sense of security among the public, it managed to earn Golden Dawn more points. Following Golden Dawn?s recent raids against ?illegal? street traders, the government has now turned to cracking down on unlicensed street commerce. But Golden Dawn is foremost an anti-establishment party, especially now that SYRIZA has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity and is facing the dilemma of what character it will display.
None of these issues is considered pressing, as for the time being all we hear is the cacophony between the three coalition partners. But this tension will have to find an outlet, otherwise we may be looking at the rapid demise of the political system.