After endless talks, existential questions

After endless talks, existential questions

We got the much-desired loan instalment, we pledged more reforms to the IMF and the Cyprus talks have ended. Greece suddenly finds itself outside the framework of talks with creditors and partners. Nor are there any elections on the horizon. Now the government has to govern, the opposition has to present a program for better government and citizens have to cope with the challenges of the new era.

We will go into an existential tailspin. For the past seven years, with very few intervals, we all had our eyes focused on the “others,” waiting for the demands of foreigners in order to react, to consume ourselves with to-ing and fro-ing, with giving and taking, before finishing up where they wanted us.

Now we are left to ourselves. Now we will see the inadequacy of our political personnel – or we will see inventiveness and survival instincts return. We will see if the government is able to rein in its more uncontrollable members, such as Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, and whether it will survive such an effort.

Or will Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remain captive to the improvizations that come from having no purpose other than political survival? This is a fundamental question, because from the start of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition it was clear that the only cohesive element between such different forces was the benefit of being in power.

That is why Mr Kammenos acts as if he represents a great majority rather than a party on the brink of exclusion from the next Parliament. That is why extreme behavior by government officials is supported – either because the prime minister does not dare risk his majority, or because he wants to maintain the myth of SYRIZA being a rebel, anti-systemic force.

Now that citizens are groaning under the burden of higher taxes and lower incomes, now that the growing mountain of overdue bank loans, social security dues and taxes will lead to more confiscations, the coalition partners will see that wielding power is not just a pleasure ride. The lack of a common program will be clear. They will have to choose between working towards consensus so as to deal with the country’s problems, or intensify their war with political opponents and “institutional obstructions,” as they so aptly put it, in an endless attempt to motivate supporters.

The last two-and-a-half years suggest that the government will choose the latter path. And the opposition has no intention of making things easy for it. Because the endless tension will make future consensus even more difficult, the behavior of both the government and opposition is crucial. If the former shows that it cannot or will not govern responsibly, citizens will have to be persuaded by the latter that they are both willing and able to do so. That is when we will see the difference between painful responsibility and selfish indolence.

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