On the way to the ballot box

On the way to the ballot box

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will have to make the big decision at some point this summer over whether to call elections for this fall or May next year. The leftist premier would certainly prefer to see through his four-year term; no one wants to give up the prime minister’s chair unless they have had enough of power or are looking for an exit strategy. Although Tsipras has lost touch with the people, his craving for power remains intact. His close aides jokingly refer to themselves as jihadi fighters, suggesting that they are prepared to give their all to the election battle.

Past experience shows that there is no limit to the means the people of SYRIZA will deploy to achieve their goals, so the rival camp should be prepared for every eventuality. The leftists may be relying on the fact that certain New Democracy officials have what late prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis used to call “the soul of a songbird,” suggesting they are a bit delicate.

Tsipras may well perform one final U-turn ahead of the next elections by announcing unilateral measures like a 13th pension and pay hikes for judges and uniformed officers, or scrapping the bailout straight-jacket for bank managers. SYRIZA policymakers believe that such measures, combined with scores of direct and indirect appointments of political cronies, would narrow the gap in the polls with the main opposition. Most prime ministers suffer from delusions of this sort in the waning days of power. Although SYRIZA has built a strong electoral base and clientele, it is nothing like the old PASOK’s in passion, size and dedication.

We should also expect a lot of scandal-mongering. SYRIZA will rehash its mantra about the old bankrupt system trying to make a comeback. Its handling of the Novartis bribery case and the large number of unsubstantiated leaks have mostly met with public apathy. It will take a very big revelation to cause a stir.

For the time being, Murphy’s law appears to have gone into effect and nothing seems to be going the government’s way. It used to be able to manipulate the agenda, but this now lies beyond its control. As past elections have shown, voters at some point just want to get the ruling party out. No one really knows when that tipping point arrives, when the magic in the relationship between the voter and the leader is lost, giving place to frustration and anger. But you start to sense it in the conversations between mature voters who are not wired to support any specific party. No one knows if the essence of these conversations will reach the prime minister’s office, but key aides are already picking sides. Decision time is looming.

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