OPINION

Greek society’s and lenders’ fatigue

The issue of early elections continues to dog the coalition government despite all the official denials. That the administration is losing its cool is obvious. The political discourse has now entered the sphere of incoherence. If you add the erratic behavior of opposition SYRIZA to the mix, you’ll get the full picture of the current Greek political landscape. In the face of this case of extreme irrationalism, those outside Greece can only look on in amazement.

A comment attributed to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during an informal meeting with conservative deputies and journalists on Tuesday, in which the premier was quoted as saying that “there wouldn’t be a euro left in the banks” if early elections resulted in a SYRIZA victory was, simply put, unbelievable. This is the kind statement that could lead sensible citizen to withdraw their savings right away, well before the ill-fated day the SYRIZA leader is actually sworn in as the country’s prime minister.

A few days ago, PASOK chief and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos proposed an amendment to the electoral law that awards the party earning the most votes a 50-seat bonus. There could not have been a greater display of loss of self-control.

We don’t want to believe that the government’s leadership is truly in a panic. That would be disastrous. Nevertheless, the strategy chosen to deal with SYRIZA is completely wrong. The tactic of head-on collision with Tsipras on every single issue has rallied SYRIZA’s forces. The party’s factions are keeping quiet. The prospect of rising to power has become very attractive.

At the same time, the strategy picked by the administration has gradually led society to familiarize itself with the rising “beast” that the government is trying to exorcise, possibly in vain. SYRIZA is beginning to look not quite so bad to citizens who have no ideological ties to the left. Besides, Samaras was famously “anti-memorandum” before doing an overnight about-face.

Samaras will try to reverse the government out of the dead end it reached with the troika in Paris when he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin next Tuesday. The Greek PM’s political argument, as usual, will be that if the country’s lenders show no flexibility and understanding, SYRIZA’s rise to power will be unavoidable.

The constant repetition of this position over the last two years has perhaps caused fatigue among Greece’s lenders. International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde’s statement that she was the recipient of death threats regarding the subject of tax evasion of Greece’s rich was perhaps over-the-top, clearly not a verbal slip-up, but a comment that surely places Greece on a par with countries like Columbia. Invoking the SYRIZA threat might have resulted in fatigue on the international level as well.