The hottest topic of debate all around the country these days is whether it would be better for Alexis Tsipras to be re-elected prime minister or be replaced by New Democracy’s Evangelos Meimarakis. Surprisingly, the question is often asked by people who have no ideological affinity with Tsipras’s SYRIZA party and didn’t vote for him in January.
Their reasoning is simple. If ND wins and forms a coalition with To Potami and PASOK, SYRIZA will go back to being an anti-memorandum and pro-protest opposition party. The coalition’s majority would also be slim and it would have to deal with major challenges in the months to come. In contrast, if SYRIZA returns to power, it will be obliged to implement the terms of the new bailout deal but the country will not experience too much turbulence. This would also allow time for New Democracy to regroup, to plan its future and, most importantly, to renew its staff.
These are all reasonable arguments, except for the fact that such cerebral strategies rarely work in Greek politics.
Sure, we would love to see a scenario in which Tsipras becomes a champion of reform and opens his government to the bright minds of the market, of public life and of the sizable Greek community abroad. It would also be wonderful to see Tsipras transformed into a leader with guts, ready to embrace a new role after failing in the last one.
The problem is that we are not seeing the former prime minister taking any major decisions, maturing or changing. He continues to be surrounded by cadres and aides who are either vague about their intentions or only too open about them. One sneakily suggests putting privatizations on hold while another dreams of a rebellion against foreign creditors. Tsipras is still not clear about where he stands. He may, in fact, feel that he lost his soul when he signed the third memorandum and with it his passion.
The last thing Greece needs is a morose prime minister who needs to implement a program he detests. The argument that SYRIZA would also contain public unrest also doesn’t hold water. Hard-core unionists and extreme leftists already hate their former comrades more than they do they old regime. Young Greeks who voted for Tsipras, meanwhile, are feeling betrayed and entrapped, and with youth unemployment steadily above 50 percent, their anger will only get stronger.
So what’s the solution?
A coalition between New Democracy, To Potami and PASOK could help the country out of the mire. If it showed a commitment to reforms, Greece’s creditors would cut it some slack. The best solution, of course, would be a coalition that includes SYRIZA but this is something that requires a lot of maturity. On the other hand, maybe the voters will force the political system to do what it should have done at the start of the crisis.