If we go by the polls, SYRIZA is set to win Sunday’s election and form a government. New Democracy did not really campaign, or perhaps it did so in a way that can only be explained if the party wanted to come in second. Those who realize what the country stands to lose will vote for the conservatives. Even people who have never voted for a right-wing party will do so this time. Perhaps these anxious, last-minute voters will close the gap. Many will support smaller parties with a clear pro-European position because they were disappointed by the government, especially after May.
Let’s go back to where the country stood prior to December’s presidential election. Greece was in growth mode in the last quarter of 2014 and all predictions were pointing to a 3 percent growth rate for 2015. New entrepreneurship was also making timid steps and there was a small drop in unemployment. More importantly, many Greek and international investors were already positioning themselves in the local market or preparing major deals. A success story? No, and we never claimed this to be the case. But we did have the requirements to do better. As a foreign friend put it, “Your economy would have done better in spite of your politicians.”
Due to their eagerness to rise to power, the opposition rushed to lead the country to national elections. But, let’s take a cooler look at what could have been. Suppose Antonis Samaras had concluded the negotiations and taken on the political cost until fall. The memorandum would have been over and we would have made some kind of market comeback. Given that only a few government bonds expire in 2016, Alexis Tsipras would have been able to do as he pleased, to the point of completely disregarding Wolfgang Schaeuble or Christine Lagarde.
But he wanted to rise to power now, because politicians only know how to play one game. The “hawks” set up a masterful trap. They pulled the rug from under Samaras, deprived Greece (and Tsipras) of 7 billion euros and are now waiting. And that’s where it gets tough. The distance between what SYRIZA’s chief says and what the party’s decision makers have in mind is vast. The distance between what Tsipras would agree to vis-a-vis what his people would be prepared to accept is equally chaotic.
Don’t get confused with what commentators or politicians say for local consumption – that the train that is Europe is chugging into the future and a SYRIZA government will be on it.
Most probably the train that is quantitative easing will pass in front of us and we won’t even realize; or, even worse, it will crush us because we were waiting at the wrong place at the wrong time.
It’s hard to predict at this point what will happen in the next few weeks. Those abroad are expecting an about-face. Those at home believe that those abroad will give in. A compromise would be the sensible thing. But logic is not always the driving and determinant force of history. Quite the contrary.