Society is the ultimate censor

The main opposition party’s censure motion for a vote of no-confidence by the Greek Parliament in the government is something of a rare occurrence in the post-dictatorship era in Greece and while it sounds very serious indeed it really is not.

What the vote will really do is test the strength of the government’s majority of 155 MPs in the 300-seat House, or, more simply put, it will test the loyalty of the lawmakers of coalition partners New Democracy and PASOK who have expressed their exasperation and/or defiance over the past few weeks toward the possibility of additional austerity measures having to be adopted and of a new tax code that is currently under consideration.

The vote on Sunday is not likely to bring down the government. It is basically a tactical move by the opposition aimed at wearing down the coalition.

It also signals a new phase in the power play between the ruling coalition and opposition SYRIZA ahead of the elections in May for the European Parliament and for local government in Greece.

The government however, is being worn down anyway by hitting its head against the dead-end which the rescue program has entered. Due to a lack of political will to redesign the program in Berlin, Brussels and Frankfurt, the troika of foreign lenders is pushing the Greek government hard based on their own inflexible (and often arbitrary) findings and admissions rather than on the reality as it stands in Greece.

And the truth is that you cannot have a real political negotiation with the troika’s technocrats and never could. They are simply carrying out orders.

The orders of the political superiors concern the quantity of the measures and the continued repayment by Greece of its debts. Their orders are about meeting fiscal targets rather than hammering out a long-term sustainable solution.

They are consistent in their demands. After all, they don’t believe that their program is at fault. They believe Greek governments are at fault, reality is at fault and the data are at fault – and they don’t miss any opportunity to reiterate these beliefs.

All this said, how long the government will survive depends on how Greece’s creditors will act. If they allow the government to give its people some relief it will be able to breathe. But it also depends on society – on its tolerance, which is quickly running short – and on the tolerance of the political system.

Ultimately the real censors are the people.

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