Commenting on the movement of citizens who organized Wednesday’s demonstration in central Athens’s Syntagma Square under the “Resign” banner – clearly directed at the coalition government and, specifically, at Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – is hardly necessary.
The right of people to assemble is safeguarded by the country’s Constitution and, besides, gatherings expressing “popular disapproval” of whoever is in power are a frequent phenomenon in Greece. In this case, the protest had the novel dimension of being promoted by a movement, given that demonstrations of this kind are usually organized by opposition parties and union bodies.
What is interesting to point out in this case is the embarrassment, irritation and unacceptable statements of government officials, who felt that they, together with the country’s creditors, were being threatened by yesterday’s protest. This led to an expected confrontation with the so-called pro-European parties, which voiced complaints and strict warnings.
From a certain point of view it was a reflective reaction. The essence here is that modern technology and social media allow for the development of such initiatives. They are not solely used by the educated and well-off and essentially reveal the inability of political parties to speak for new social movements. In short, this means that this kind of initiative passes onto various groups which are no longer aligned to institutionalized political parties, but still dictate party behavior. Political leaders become hostage to popular sentiment while a sense of self-preservation should lead them to seek to recover their lost prestige.
There is no doubt that Tsipras took advantage of the public’s anger to rise to power, and in his effort to adapt to the European system agreed to a horrendous bailout, refuting all – including the most moderate – expectations.
Tsipras, however, is not an example to follow, but a case study to avoid. If there is one thing that Greek society has been gradually and painstakingly realizing over the last six years, it is that irresponsible management of finances led the country to bankruptcy. The same thing occurred on the political level as well.
As a result, Greece will never exit the crisis without a radical transformation of its political mentality too. The situation which has developed is not reversible. The overtaxation of citizens and business is nothing short of obscene. But registering a complaint is not enough. The problem is the government’s inability, weakness or perhaps unwillingness to broaden the tax base, which could lead to some kind of tax relief. Financial activity must stop being governed by an Ottoman mentality and clientelism must be eradicated. Last night’s gathering expressed a mood, and by no means constitutes politics.