Assuming that the government succeeds this weekend in closing the first chapter of the Greek crisis – which began with many bad omens and a harsh bailout deal back in April 2010 and will possibly close with a third, equally harsh and inevitable cash-for-reforms agreement – what is it that we will remember most clearly in the future?
Will it be SYRIZA’s policy of constantly slamming the previous coalition government under Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos, or of it voting against every effort at structural reform, or perhaps the assaults on inspectors from the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) trying to do their jobs on the country’s islands by SYRIZA officials and members?
In his pre-election speech at a party congress in early January this year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had accused the government at the time of making unpopular promises to Greece’s creditors, such as hikes in value-added tax rates on medicine, food and utilities and the abolition of special benefits for low-income pensioners as of 2015. He accused then-Prime Minister Samaras of stirring fear in the people, of resurrecting the specter of a Grexit and of bringing Greece closer to bankruptcy. He accused the previous administration of lying. We are not going back to the past (which though just six months ago seems like years) in order to vindicate the previous government or to dismiss this one. Either way, SYRIZA is simply a continuation of the same bankrupt political system.
What makes the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition stand out from its predecessors is that it is drowning in its own contradictions. It needs to manipulate memories that are still extremely fresh, something that is making the final hours of the ongoing negotiations extremely unpredictable as all the scenarios simply differ in the magnitude of the disaster they foresee. This is why what we see on the faces of government officials is a look of confusion and panic, and what we sense is an environment that is potentially dangerous even to the most well-established democracy.
Symptoms of intolerance with anyone expressing a different opinion, particularly when it comes from the media, and high-minded interventions with undertones of legal threats, suggest a kind of totalitarianism that uses demagogic rhetoric and old-school (yet effective, as it turns out) propaganda mechanisms. The only thing containing all the craziness is the European institutions and we can only hope that they will continue to do so.