The burden of hope

The wave of popularity that the government has been riding since its election reveals people’s need for hope. SYRIZA was elected on the promise that it would release the Greeks from the troubles of the past few years, concentrating on its opposition to the memorandum and its hostility toward the creditors’ troika.

The wave of enthusiasm was born of the party’s pre-election promises, the repetition of those promises after the elections, and the sense that citizens can hope for radical change in their lives and the restoration of personal and national dignity.

The government won a confidence vote in Parliament after policy statements by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his ministers that were a long wish list – part of an ideal world in which no one had to count the cost of new measures nor the rollback of old ones. Having set the bar so high, and committed to forcing its policy on our partners and creditors, the government now faces excessive expectations in a very difficult environment. Its strategy and tactics will determine whether it fulfills people’s hopes.

The choice of governing partner (the far-right Independent Greeks), the policy statements and the talks with our creditors show that SYRIZA’s core issue remains its opposition to the memorandum, to the troika and to the commitments Greece undertook in the loan agreement. This single-minded pursuit is complicating the negotiations with our creditors and provoking tensions within the ruling party. Any agreement with our creditors will be the result of a compromise, whereas party members are addicted to maximalist demands. Arguments that work on one front cause problems on the other, further complicating a difficult situation. We saw this when senior members were angered by comments made by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in his negotiations with our partners.

But it is not the troika front that will determine the government’s success. What matters is citizens’ hope for a better life. A clash with our partners will instill a sense of pride in some, but it will not improve the economy nor anyone’s daily life. It will make things worse. Previous governments fell because people lost faith that they would improve their lives.

Leaders must have a wide range of tactics, they must know when to attack and when to retreat, they must choose the correct weapon for each encounter, so as to achieve their final goal. SYRIZA won the elections on a glut of promises and bravado. Now, to succeed as a government, it must quickly end the clash with our creditors, forge party unity, unite the Greeks and take on problems that have remained unsolved for many years. Tsipras’s party has the hopes of most Greeks riding on it. This is his strength. If SYRIZA wastes this favorable wind, lost hope will turn into even greater disappointment and rage.