OPINION

Populism strikes back

populism-strikes-back

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is finally facing the beast of populism. The beast grew fat on the leftist politician’s decisions, from the time he became leader of the party until this summer’s bailout referendum. Tsipras never seriously considered the implications of becoming premier – a post he passionately fought for. Save very few exceptions, most of his political appointments were inappropriate. He engaged in extremely crucial negotiations lacking any serious preparation – and without a serious contingency plan.

In the name of SYRIZA’s anti-bailout struggle, Tsipras recruited several radical and colorful figures that have now turned against him. He never sought to dampen the extremist rhetoric coming from his party.

The SYRIZA leader was obviously not interested in the dull art of governance. What he really was interested in was political maneuvering, PR stunts and the game for power. What he is ultimately concerned with is his political survival and hegemony. For example, when two ministers are having an argument, there is no one to make an executive decision. There is little of essence in government meetings, which are more like theoretical seminars – a dysfunction reflected in the handling of the immigration crisis.

The July referendum was the last stop on a directionless course. It was a disastrous decision dictated by Tsipras’s myopic obsession with cynical political maneuvering. In any case, the referendum meant a rude awakening for him, as well as the country. And now, Greece’s future depends on whether Tsipras’s reality check will turn to be politically viable – and enough to save the country from crashing into the rocks. His popularity is still unchallenged. It remains to be seen whether he will resist the attacks from the nascent anti-bailout bloc of his one-time comrades. It would be a grave mistake to seek support from vested interests. If he continues to stand on two different boats, if he keeps on with the sorry-but-the-policy-was-imposed-on-me mantra, he will have a bad political end.

The voters who believed in Tsipras will not do so forever. As they start to feel the pinch from the fresh taxes, the mood will change. Given the state of the opposition, things could turn ugly. Without hope and animated by the belief that “all politicians are liars,” voters are likely to move to the political extremes.

It is a great peril for the country. Tsipras will either tame the beast that he raised, or the beast will destroy everyone in its path. Starting with Tsipras of course.