The angry kingmakers

All signs suggest Greece is heading for an early general election. It could be one of the most crucial polls in the country’s modern history, in more ways than one. It is important that we know what is at stake, because, once the votes are cast, political developments will come down thick and fast.

In my mind, the choice is clearly between the euro and some sort of a memorandum, on the one hand, or the drachma – only this time without a memorandum – on the other.

It’s not a pleasant position to be in. I am afraid that the position of leftist SYRIZA lawmaker Panayotis Lafazanis is more honest from an analytical point of view: It is unrealistic to believe that Greece can stay in the eurozone without being subjected to strict monitoring, austerity measures and some sort of memorandum.

Sure, some people out there like to believe that Greece can afford to play the card of a disorderly default. European governments, the argument goes, will have to back down in the face of a new Greek government that refuses to pay the bonds that expire in 2015. In addition, they say, Greece will benefit from the political changes and alliances between the countries of the European south which are to come.

Such claims are, of course, full of holes. To be sure, the euro could at some point come apart as the north and south of the European Union prove unable to work together, or because it could turn out that the structure of the common currency zone was unsustainable from birth.

That said, it is disconcerting to know that Greece was the weakest link in the euro crisis, and that it could now become the first link to come apart from the rest. If history is any guide, the weakest links always pay the heaviest price, especially when we are talking about a country with weak institutions, an anemic production base and a political staff that leaves a lot to be desired.

This is a crucial period and we need to be honest about facts. There are no easy solutions. Any new government will be in for a big reality check. Greece will have to deal with a large fiscal gap, with a social security crisis and other challenges.

This is more or less the context in which Greeks will find themselves if they end up going to the polls. Some people realize that there is a lot to lose. Others disagree because they believe there is not much left to lose. And then there is a third category of people, who are angry and desperate.

It could be that they will be the ones to decide the outcome.