Split political personality disorder
If the 153 votes of confidence that the government received on Sunday night were cast with confidence, it would have allowed those who cast them some sense of certainty about the next few months. That, however, is not the case, even though there were those who reined in their desire to stand apart in protest at the draft bill for the new tax code. They knew that if they did not fall into line with the leadership of New Democracy and PASOK, not only would they be expelled from the party – as was the case with PASOK MP Theodora Tzakri – but they would most likely be branded as traitors as well.
That said, because lawmakers continue to enjoy the privilege of voting for something other than what they want or say they want, we became witness once more to a semi-theatrical, semi-political phenomenon that could be called “split political personality disorder.” Ordinary citizens enjoy no such privilege: For them, a “yes” is an expression of agreement and not just another way of saying “no.” And “no” is a red line that cannot be smudged at the drop of a hat.
Among the 153 votes of confidence cast for the government, there were a few (notably by PASOK’s Costas Skandalidis and Thanos Moraitis) that were described as being forced or tolerated with great pain. They were not defined as such in a spirit of sarcasm by the opposition, but by the MPs themselves, who, after highlighting the profound martyrdom in which they found themselves, admitted to splitting their conscience – and their vote – in two. They did it in plain view too. They wanted their supporters to bear witness and take their martyrdom into account next time they went to the polls.
This is not the first time since Greece signed the first bailout deal that lawmakers in the coalition have said that they could no longer compromise their fundamental positions; even those who, in the name of the national interest, managed to digest the mutation of their party from anti-memorandum to pro-memorandum (as is the case with New Democracy) or their shift from socialist to center-right (as is the case with PASOK) and consented to the imposition of tough austerity measures, are now skeptical of the efficacy of the policy being pursued. These lawmakers are not necessarily provincial vote-mongerers, as they have been called by part of the media and the political establishment. Even lesser-known lawmakers in Parliament are concerned about the country and have ideas about how things could get better.
The vote of confidence has given the government some room to breathe, though not without terms. The leeway it has been granted will only last as long as the tolerance of this tired society. At the end of the day, the country needs different victories, not the victory of the government over the opposition or vice versa.