Careful what you wish for

There are many who are partial to the idea of a second round of elections, though they do not all share the same reasoning. SYRIZA’s hard left platform deems that a second election would spare the winner from making inconvenient compromises. Others say that it would be in Alexis Tsipras’s best interest if an extension to the bailout agreement were requested by a caretaker government so that he would not have to do so himself.

Some inside New Democracy also see an opportunity here. They say that if Tsipras were to shoulder the responsibility of a fresh round, he could lose as a result. They are right about one thing: Any politician who appears to be dragging the country to yet another ballot will most likely be punished by voters. Moreover, a second election may well be held with ATMs dispensing only small amounts of money. After all, it was between the two elections that Greek banks faced the biggest problems in 2012. Partisan whims aside, a second vote is a non-starter.

Whichever party wins Sunday’s elections will be faced with a mountain of obligations. Tax revenues have plummeted and banks are under enormous pressure. Some inside SYRIZA like to believe they have a solution to every problem: Foreign lenders will give Greece ample time, the ECB will provide unlimited liquidity to Greek banks without any conditions and any funding gaps will be covered with the perpetual issuing of T-bills by the Greek state.

Or so they think. For if you attempt to cross-check the information you will find very little in the form of a convincing answer. It’s like they are divorced from reality. This is hardly a surprise, given the past experiences of PASOK and ND officials after the crisis broke out. They all seem to have faith in the magical powers of political bargaining. The problem is that the procedure followed by Greece’s partners and lenders is automated. It matters little what the Financial Times, Bruegel or some American pundit have to say. The best they can do is cheer for you as you take on the beasts. However, at the end of the day, decisions will be taken by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the Eurogroup, the IMF and the ECB. This may be illegitimate and unethical but it is how the game is played.

Sure, it would be great if Greek voters could force their politicians to reach a consensus after Sunday, to make them make a joint effort to negotiate with the country’s lenders. It seems unlikely at the moment. A large part of the public does not understand, or does not want to understand, what is at stake. Meanwhile, our foreign partners do not understand because they always think that Greek politicians will do the most sensible thing. Amid this widespread denial both at home and abroad, we are heading to the ballot box on Sunday and we invariably look for comfort in the usual beliefs that nations do not die and providence will prevail.