It’s certainly paradoxical that Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s leftist prime minister, would celebrate the launch of projects that he has so vehemently fought against in the past as leader of the opposition: the highways, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the privatization of regional airports, the extension of the Cosco deal for the port of Piraeus.
Foreign officials have long come to understand that Greece is a special case: Politicians in this part of the world do not necessarily mean what they say, while voters do not necessarily expect to see what they voted for. At first, foreign officials couldn’t make much sense out of it. More recently, they have become used to it, and in a way it suits them.
They don’t care what party is in power; they simply want the job done. It may seem amusing to them that one politician sobs while signing an agreement as another promises to change everything in a different life. In their eyes, it’s yet another fact of the “Greek case.”
Changes in the country’s social security system were sweeping and hit a large section of the population. The leftist-led government was able to see them through without any significant protest. The size and passion of popular demonstrations has decreased compared to rallies in the early years of the financial crisis.
Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici recently wrote in his blog that this government has introduced more than 200 measures without too much reaction. People are angry, yet in slumber.
The opposition is making the mistake of criticizing Tsipras’s contradictions. Who are their comments aimed at? If it’s the 4 percent of onetime SYRIZA grassroots supporters, there is indeed no point in doing so. Some of them found a profitable settlement, others moved to Zoe Constantopoulou’s splinter party or similar groupings. Criticism of this sort is merely preaching to the converted and won’t attract many new voters.
The big question is what will happen when Tsipras is voted out of power. Few seem to believe anymore that he will have by then transformed into a classic social democrat. Foreign officials are OK with that as long as it suits their interests. Meanwhile, they turn a blind eye to the damage done to the institutions and other vital sectors.
Still, I cannot help but wonder what path he will choose to take once he is back in the opposition. Will he try to lead sit-ins, blockades and strikes? Will the people follow? The answer will show whether costly lessons paid off. If Tsipras is able to slip back into his old shoes and convince the masses to follow him, then Greece will have proved itself a very special case indeed.