The first 100 days of the coalition government comprising SYRIZA and junior partner Independent Greeks have not changed everything. This is not just because it is too short a time to rid the country of problems that have built up over decades. Nor is it just because the government, completely unaccustomed to power, needs to overcome its own inexperience and lack of preparation on many fronts, not to mention the reaction of certain parts of the state mechanism. The biggest obstacle is that Greece is not making its own way, free of external obligations and pressure, with its sovereignty intact and an independent economy. Greece is bound by debt.
Even if it wanted to make its own decisions based on the mandate of January’s elections, it couldn’t because of its obligations. It would be forbidden from doing so by its creditors, foremost its European partners, who prefer to look upon the situation like seasoned lenders, even though they know that their severity is leading the Greek economy to dry up completely – with all the risks that entails for a society that is already emotionally and psychologically battered and financially ruined. To justify their stance, they keep monotonously quoting the gap between expected and existing figures and percentages, which, in turn, become ever-more demanding from an economic standpoint and ever-more destructive from a political one every time there appears to be some hope on the horizon.
All of this of course does not exonerate the government from its mistakes in the ongoing negotiations, some of which have even been admitted by Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos.
On a different note, another thing that has not changed since the elections is the popularity of Greece’s political parties and the difference between them. Every opinion poll so far has shown that while the percentage of support for the government’s negotiating strategy has dipped, SYRIZA still firmly holds the lead in popularity. As far as the gap between SYRIZA and second-placed New Democracy is concerned, this remains wide at around 15 percent, with some polls showing it to be even greater. In regards to other parties, there are no significant changes, though PASOK’s post-election survival is appearing increasingly difficult.
The fact that the opposition parties remain more or less in the same place should not be seen as a confirmation of their opposition strategy. For the two parties that ruled the country together until January especially, their stagnation shows that they are still being punished and that the people do not regard the post-election stance of their defeated leaders as corresponding to the weight of their own responsibility for today’s predicament.
They may have failed to read the clear message of the elections, but are they also blind to how ruthless public opinions polls are?