Greece is walking to the drumbeat of May’s European Parliament elections. The upcoming polls are determining the tactics of the government but also of the opposition parties, ushering in a period of flux if not of instability.
Expectations that the prosecution of Golden Dawn as a criminal organization would lead stray New Democracy voters back into the fold are refuted on a daily basis. The leaders of the other political parties, meanwhile, appear not to have seen that Nikos Michaloliakos’s party is a primitive and abhorrent manifestation of political irrationality. In other words, it expresses the complete rejection of the concept of unity that ought to prevail in the European Union.
Given, therefore, that it does not look like voters will be leaving Golden Dawn to return to New Democracy and that PASOK has seen its electoral base dwindle, the government is clearly most concerned about SYRIZA’s possible ascension to power.
What is odd is that such an eventuality does not seem to worry Greece’s European peers. One of the reasons may be that the government has turned a blind eye or at best has failed to react to the accusations – however justified they may be or not – leveled against a small group of people who comprise the upper echelon of the Greek economic class, giving Europeans and respected international media the impression that the government tolerates their alleged transgressions. The role that they are likely expecting SYRIZA to play is that of demolisher.
Under pressure from the possibility of a defeat at the European elections, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is heading to the EU summit hoping to negotiate the details of Greece’s bailout using political terms. He has been pushed in this direction by Deputy Prime Minister and PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, who attempted a similar strategy when he took over the finance portfolio in 2011 – and failed miserably.
There is no question of renegotiating Greece’s debt before the May elections; what remains open is the question of the fiscal gap in 2014, which the country’s lenders estimate at 2 billion euros.
The European Central Bank has already rejected a proposal by Athens to roll over bonds that mature in 2014, so whether a compromise can be reached or not will be determined in the next few days.
The way that all the political leaders have handled the issue has undermined people’s faith in European ideals. The European elections may therefore come to serve as an indirect referendum on the level of Euroskepticism in Greek society.