Latent Euroskepticism

Greece’s political system has finally come undone. The nation is drowning in a damaging cacophony of incompatible views and opinions. The confrontation is not limited to rival political parties but has hijacked the ruling coalition. A growing number of deputies are expressing society’s opposition to the decisions made by members of the Cabinet. The dysfunction is unprecedented.

New Democracy conservatives joined hands with the socialists of PASOK in a purported bid to save Greece. This partnership however is undermining the two parties that have dominated national politics since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974. PASOK polls in fifth place in most public surveys but its cadres still have significant control over the state apparatus by virtue of the percentage the party garnered in the October 2009 elections. This asymmetry is a cause of frustration among ND officials.

This is not the only tension. Another is the absence of political memory – even short-term. After PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos took over the Finance Ministry back in 2011, he attempted to bargain a political solution to Greece’s economic conundrum. He failed miserably. Surprisingly, conservative Premier Antonis Samaras learned no lessons from that failure and he too met with a wall when he tried to take the path of political negotiation.

Venizelos, who has been held responsible for PASOK’s near-elimination, is escorting Samaras to the abyss. This view is shared by most ND officials who are very skeptical of all other strategies and scenarios.

One consequence of all that is the degeneration of political discourse. Political parties are locked in an exchange of barbs and accusations that leave voters unmoved. For the first time, people are shaping their opinion on the basis of economic facts. The process is personal as ideological beliefs have subsided.

Greece has seen innumerable clashes in the context of parliamentary democracy. However, since 1981, the two mainstream parties have gradually reached a consensus on the strategic importance of EU membership. The belief was further cemented with the country’s introduction to the euro area.

But the belief in the European system has been shaken – not only among the people, but also among the key parties. A latent Euroskepticism is reflected in the direct or indirect criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Views from inside the Anglo-Saxon camp are becoming increasingly popular.

On a political level, the breakdown of the system risks fueling a bourgeois radicalism, a key feature of which is the rejection of representative democracy.