Political ambition and national interest


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has little time left to choose which road to follow. Wednesday’s vote in Parliament will demonstrate whether or not the rift in SYRIZA’s ranks is irreversible. If the number of MPs voting against the prior actions agreed between the government and the country’s lenders is more or less the same as that in the first round of voting regarding the third bailout last week, this will point to a final and painful split.

If this is the case, the premier will then face a double threat. A portion of public opinion has already began to challenge his competency as a leader. The recent reshuffle reinforced his image as an indecisive leader trying to maintain inner party balances and also demonstrated – harshly – the serious shortage of capable cabinet members. The challenges will also come from the other side: Having voted in favor of two memorandum laws, Tsipras is losing his anti-memorandum edge – even before property tax notices reach mailboxes and people come to realize what has been approved by the House. What will probably emerge from all this is an anti-memorandum camp expressed by the post-modern paradox theories of Yanis Varoufakis, the accusatory tone of House Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou and the retro-revolutionary fantasies of Panayiotis Lafazanis. While their singular characters will most likely impede them from coming together under one party, they will surely represent a major portion of SYRIZA’s social and ideological base.

What are Tsipras’s options in the limited time left before the next election? First of all, he could decide to do absolutely nothing; to maintain, in other words, a balance with the left of his left and allow things to unfold one way or another.

Adopting this approach would most certainly crush him, as he would be unable to assume the role of the “revolutionary” and that of governor-manager.

Another road would be that of a new, slightly more radical, center-left. Essentially this would involve a new “Tsipra-esque” party uniting moderate SYRIZA with the left and the center-left elements of the political spectrum. Tsipras would lose a percentage of anti-memorandum votes in the next election, but would make up for this loss with those of the so-called center. This would also restore trust with the country’s European partners and he would govern through new personal and party alliances.

Tsipras is facing some serious battles: negotiations for a new memorandum, a constant threat of collapse and Grexit, the state’s progressive breakup and major inner-party pressure. This is taking place in conditions of exhaustion and without sufficient staff. In the next few days it remains to be seen whether or not he will be crushed under the weight of it all or if he will succeed in transforming into something else.

If he fails to do so, he does not have the right to take the country along with him – a hostage of his decisions and indecisiveness. Above his individual political survival lies the country’s interest.