Anger vs fear

Most Greeks are vacillating between anger and fear. If, as all signs indicate, the country goes to elections, the outcome will be decided by which of the two eventually prevails. Right now, anger seems to have the upper hand. However, fear is starting to creep in, even among people who until recently appeared confident that “there’s nothing left to lose, wrong as things may go.”

In the world of Greek politics, one month is a near eternity. A single incident, a poor statement by a leading opposition figure or a faux pas by a government official can be enough to produce a turnaround. As the election campaign gets tough and key players grow tired, mistakes are to be expected.

The angry voters want to punish the government for high taxes and old-party tactics. A lot of them openly disagree with SYRIZA and the other so-called anti-systemic parties on most issues, but they mostly care about voting the conservative-led coalition out of power. The problem is they underestimate the risk of bankruptcy. They are not prepared to hear arguments about how their pension could be reduced further.

Anger is deeper in the under-40 age group – and with good reason. These voters are not afraid of losing assets or houses, simply because they do not own any. They envisage sweeping political change, and they believe the risk is worthwhile. Greece’s mainstream political system has done very little in terms of ideas, politicians and arguments, to convince these voters.

Inevitably, voters who, despite their frustration, are aware of the risks facing the country are key to the next election. They too find little comfort, but they nevertheless acknowledge that the economy had finally posted some growth, that Greece had started to attract some foreign investment, and that 2015 could have been a relatively good year. Now the economic achievements have been put into doubt and the specter of a Greek euro exit has returned. These people realize that big mistakes were made, particularly after May. They have no illusions about what is really new. But they deem that this is not a good time for experimenting and putting too many captains at the helm of the ship without a map and compass. They would prefer a vote of hope and enthusiasm. But they are bound to back the pro-European parties out of fear and self-preservation. They know that we cannot afford to take risks when there is no money and when some of our European peers wouldn’t have any qualms about leaving us behind.

This election will not be a match between conservatism and hope, between yesterday and tomorrow. Few people will cast an anti-systemic vote out of real optimism and hope. The delusions are long gone. This will be a contest between anger and fear.