Elections are always a great bet and only the result of next month’s vote will show whether Alexis Tsipras did well to roll the dice in order to gain a “clear mandate” to govern, as he requested from the people Thursday, or whether he simply resorted to a tactical move because he could not bear the responsibility of difficult choices. In the first instance, we will see whether Tsipras is sincere when he says that he wants to change Greece for the better within the eurozone and the European Union; in the second, we will find ourselves facing the same dead ends as we do today. With economic and political stability being the greatest “prior actions” needed for the country’s salvation, we can only hope that the impending instability of elections might just lead to the desired calm.
The signs, however, do not allow much optimism. The way Tsipras appealed to the people for help in the July 5 referendum, only to ignore its result a few days later, suggests that this time too he is choosing a dramatic, excessive gesture in order to get out of an impasse, turning his personal discomfort into a matter of national import. Before the referendum, he had forced national elections to be held on January 25 – as his refusal to support any candidate for the presidency of the republic caused deadlock and drove the previous government to resign. After the election, Tsipras and his SYRIZA party found themselves in an economic dead end. Very little suggests that this third round of balloting in eight months will result in a government capable of understanding the country’s problems and of managing them successfully.
Tsipras has found himself in one dead end after another. His policy of conflict with creditors brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy and exit from the euro. Thinking that the referendum could help him avoid the consequences of the impasse in negotiations, he came to another dead end and realized at last that it was his responsibility to avoid economic catastrophe. He was forced to make a great U-turn, which, however, brought him into conflict with members of his own party, resulting in the loss of his coalition’s parliamentary majority.
Tsipras’s choices – all difficult – were to continue governing without former comrades and with the tolerance of opposition parties, to seek the formation of a broad “European” front, or to propose a government of several parties with the specific task of passing difficult measures demanded by creditors. It was only a matter of time before he would seek elections as a way out.
Speaking to President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, to whom he tendered his government’s resignation, Tsipras explained his decision, saying that now economic stability had been achieved it was time to do the same in politics. But anyone who believes political stability will be achieved only by repeated throws of the dice has not understood anything from the economy’s woes over the past months.