High stakes

Greece is going to have a crucial date with history in about three months from now, irrespective of whether or not 180 MPs end up voting for a new president and general elections are avoided. We should not forget this, even if everyone’s attention is now focused on the presidential election. Political uncertainty comes at a hefty price. I’m not talking about missed opportunities in terms of growth stabilization, deals and possible investments. Markets have bidden us farewell for the time being and possibly much longer. Their message to us is “Sort out your problems and we shall see when and if we shall return.” Many people who love and care about Greece are clearly concerned: “What exactly are you doing? Things had calmed down, you were on the way up again, and here you are playing your old-style political games again.” This is exactly what happened.

The country’s lenders will forward us the bill at one point or another, no matter which government is in power at that particular time. The country’s situation could very well end up being much worse than that it found itself in in early December. Greek are likely to stop paying their taxes and their loans over worries concerning their and their country’s future. Meanwhile, cabinet ministers and the state in general have downed their pens and are leaving reforms, which the country has pledged to carry out, for later. The gap which is being created will be huge, while our lenders do not appear willing to grant any kind of leeway to any Greek politician.

The country stands at a pivotal point. The election of a president by the current House could give some extra time and breathing space to the coalition administration in order for the government to pull itself together and find its footing. If Samaras survives the presidential election – in which case he will have no excuse vis-a-vis history and the Greek people – he will have to overcome his weaknesses and lead the country ahead, even if the latter is only just governable. The process of electing a new president before December 29 will give Greece a much needed chance.

Meanwhile, it has now become clear that the opposition, beyond its rush to rise to power, has no particular plan with regard to what happens if its tough guy attitude toward Europe fails. This question must be answered clearly before deputies today, and perhaps citizens later on, make their final decisions. If a president is elected we will all be obliged to demand a serious government which will get back to work, leave political favors behind and move on with certain reforms. If not, it’s quite possible we will have to watch an inexperienced troupe acting in a play which has never been performed anywhere in the world before, a play without rehearsal time or a finished script.