What a difference two elections make

Prime Minister and New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras is right in saying that a deal ought to have been reached between Athens and its foreign creditors on the austerity measures ?yesterday.? In March this year the caretaker government of Lucas Papademos had reached an agreement with the troika for spending cuts worth 5.6 billion euros, which was to be signed and sealed in June.

Measures regulating the public sector labor market had been nowhere to be found in that agreement. Had it been implemented, Greece would have already received the 31.5-billion-euro tranche of bailout funding, local banks would have been recapitalized and the measures would not have been as painful as they are today.

A few days ago German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble pointed out that a very good deal had been struck at the time with the write-down of privately held Greek debt to the tune of 53 percent, though he added that the fiscal adjustment had been derailed because of the two general elections in May and June.

SYRIZA was elevated to the position of main opposition party, while far-rightists drifted away from New Democracy to join the ranks of Independent Greeks, and ultranationalist Golden Dawn has seen a steady rise in popularity.

Fear that SYRIZA would form a government and that Greece would go back on its obligations compelled the country?s creditors to change their stance toward the country.

The three parties that formed the current coalition government following the June elections believed that the troika could be placated with political negotiations. They were wrong. They ignored the fact that any deal reflects the circumstances under which it is made.

In the meantime, the situation in the rest of Europe also changed dramatically with the dramatic escalation of the crises in Spain and Portugal and the rift between the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The negotiations of March are now a long-lost dream.

Today we are seeing a repetition of the same vicious cycle of sparring between the parties that has so exhausted and disgusted the average Greek citizen for decades.

At the same time, the cohesion of the coalition government is being sorely tested, as is the tolerance of the parliamentary deputies that compose the majority in the House. It would certainly be a good day if the coalition government were to stop focusing on its narrow interests and begin looking at the bigger picture and act accordingly.

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