Only cooperation will work

Some of us had hoped the crisis would change the political system, making it more capable of dealing with the country’s problems. Almost a year-and-a-half after the last national elections and with polls looming again in May (for local governments and the European Parliament, at least) developments in the public debate remain disappointing: Most politicians, economists, constitutional law experts, journalists, professors and others act as if they believe that just by sticking to their positions they will bend reality to their will. Don’t they see the impasse or do they simply pretend not to?

Citizens, though, know full well how much things have changed. It was their choice to break up the two-party system that had governed since 1974 and send several smaller parties to Parliament. It was clear that our politicians would have to learn to cooperate and compromise, things that were anathema to them. Cooperation, however, is limited to handling some issues demanded by the troika of Greece’s creditors and partners, while compromise stems from the friction between our government and the troika, not between parties. Generally, the tension between governing partners New Democracy and PASOK harks back to the time when they were the only two parties that could govern and cared only about not upsetting their voters.

Even though conditions demand cooperation, the situation is so difficult that the protagonists of public life cannot make themselves cooperate. When voters are already upset, when there are neither funds nor jobs to hand out, when our creditors care nothing for the political anxieties of a dependent country, one would expect local initiatives for broader cooperation. A positive, though belated, development was Wednesday’s discussion between the finance minister and ND MPs on the thorny issue of a new property tax. And that was between a minister and members of the ruling party. Only when the government believes in what it is doing and the opposition takes part in fruitful talks will citizens be able to accept difficult measures.

The coalition partners, pressured by internal divisions and the troika’s demands, often act spasmodically, without confidence. The other parties act as if they will always be in opposition and therefore don’t need to prepare for reality. It is indicative that Manolis Glezos, the oldest of SYRIZA’s leaders, is the only one to have voiced concern over how the party will govern if called upon to do so.

The battle to relieve ourselves of debt and move toward growth concerns reforms that we must carry out, but this will also be decided by continuing negotiations with the troika. However much they may disagree at a political level, our parties could agree on necessary reforms and present a united (therefore strong) front to protect Greek society. Instead, they quarrel. It is as if they believe that some foreign force is waiting for the result of their conflict in order to reward the victor. But no one cares.