Devoid of clear vision and principles, and true to its herd mentality, the Greek establishment, as it were, is once again going with the flow (provided that its interests are not at risk).
“Tsipras-ism” is the latest thing. Before the last elections, the feeling among Athens’s more conservative circles was that it would not be long before the leftist leader would move toward the center, clinch a deal with lenders, and put Greece back on track. In the end, of course, none of that happened. Alexis Tsipras was constantly standing on two boats and only signed up to a deal after the Greek economy nearly collapsed.
Some people will respond that he signed an onerous memorandum and saw his party break in two, paying a heavy political price. The question however is: Can the SYRIZA chief transform his party and rule the country with the help of skilled technocrats? Can he take the tough decisions that are necessary without paying heed to private and partisan concerns?
So far the signs are discouraging. Tsipras chose to rely on a narrow circle of close allies. He proved to be really bad at picking officials beyond that circle. Yiannis Panousis was a rare exception to the rule. Also, Tsipras went on to staff the broader state apparatus with party cronies.
Experienced politicians say that people hardly change after they are 40 years of age (Tsipras is now 41), regardless of circumstances. It’s hard to see how Tsipras can evolve into a deft CEO to run Greece because he simply lacks the experience and ability to do so.
Even if we assume that critics are wrong, the next question is: Do we really know what Tsipras believes in? I think the answer is whatever it takes. He has no such thing as a national vision. He sees power as a process of smaller and bigger trade-offs. Sure, politics is a lot like that, but it does take some vision and romanticism.
Again, some counter that this exactly is his main strength. He does not obsess about principles and visions; he is pragmatic and flexible. This is the legacy of Andreas Papandreou. We have come to admire a politician’s ability to lie and to mislead his followers and still get away with it.
Perhaps it would be great to have a leftist populist leader who would mislead the masses as he is busy pushing privatizations, rebuilding the state and education system, and curbing corruption. Such a leader would be mostly welcomed by centrist voters. I am afraid that is too much to expect from a politician who is the par excellence political and cultural product of Greece’s post-dictatorship era.
There is of course the cynical view. As a veteran politician was saying the other day: “It is would be good if Tsipras stayed in power a little longer. After all, all you needed him to do was to place his signature, not govern.”