Election anxiety

The ongoing crisis between the government and the troika has been magnified to dramatic proportions by the specter of early general elections if the present parliament fails to elect a new president. The dissolution of the monarchy, hailed by those who prompted the referendum 40 years ago as the biggest achievement in the post-junta era, has led to turmoil every five years – whether minor or major is irrelevant – in a political system that is incompatible with the needs of society and the country.

For the past six months the coalition government of New Democracy and PASOK, which together hold 155 seats in the 300-seat House, have been focused on gathering the 25-plus votes they need to reach the magic number of 180 deputies in order to hold Parliament together.

We will not discuss the legitimacy of claims by Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras that votes are being bought. Nor is the latter in the right when he accuses the prime minister of fomenting apostasy.

Constantine Karamanlis was elected president in 1980 by “apostate” MPs but Andreas Papandreou, a radical, did not question the constitutionality of the election or make any claims of apostasy.

The biggest – and most embarrassing – problem for deputies outside the government coalition who may be reluctant to contribute to the dissolution of Parliament is that ND and PASOK have not yet presented a candidate. As a result, the debate is being conducted in terms of Greece’s problems with the troika and its future in Europe or in terms of fears of the unknown. In other words, the debate has become based on SYRIZA’s own arguments by stressing the country’s need to be freed from austerity.

More importantly, the anxiety of early elections has led to the government adopting the same tone and rhetoric as SYRIZA over the past six months. The clash with the International Monetary Fund, the demonization of Germany and premature announcements of an end to the memorandum have made the people of Greece and the country’s partners more comfortable with the idea that SYRIZA may come to power.

This tactic has undermined the credibility of the government and resulted in a political farce. Tsipras is a special kind of politician as he does not lead a party but a motley collection of factions. He has no real fans and can’t even gather a thousand people together. But he has voters and his biggest purveyors of votes are New Democracy and PASOK. The existing political class, on the decline, is promoting the politician that will succeed it.