The cost of reality


History is littered with all manner of what-ifs, which remain unanswered and are only discussed by historians and armchair pundits.

I was thinking the other day how different things would have turned out for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Greece if he had been wiser in his selection of coalition partners and government officials from the outset.

How different, for example, would things have been with a SYRIZA-To Potami coalition, instead of what turned out to be an alliance with Panos Kammenos’s Independent Greeks party? What made Tsipras rule out that possibility in January 2015?

Stavros Theodorakis, the leader of the centrist party, was prepared to join a SYRIZA alliance – and he later paid a heavy price for it as it confused party supporters. Tsipras and his aides have said that Theodorakis and his deputies would not have withstood the pressure of crucial decisions and clashes with outsiders.

Perhaps they are right. The fact is that SYRIZA and Potami were worlds apart. There would be consensus on certain social reforms, but deep disagreement on many other issues.

Tsipras used Kammenos on many occasions. He used him to attract dejected right-wing voters and to scare off the country’s international partners.

As opposition leader, Tsipras behaved immaturely. He never prepared himself for what was to come. He did not study, he did not speak with people who had a better grasp of the issues, he was not careful when picking his aides. He was essentially carried away by the anti-bailout hysteria that catapulted him into power. He made a lot of mistakes and he was burdened with people that weighed him down in the exercise of power. He got rid of them, in installments, at a huge cost to the country.

Tsipras’s alliance with Kammenos was part of his anything-goes dogma. When Tsipras decided to change course, he had no qualms about throwing his former junior coalition partner under the bus.

Had he taken a different path at the start, it’s very likely that he would have spared Greece much of the costly trouble. The Europeans were ready to negotiate without the bogus heroics and tough-guy posturing in Athens. Many were convinced that the new government of 2015 could be afforded an improved deal as long as it pushed the reforms that supposedly the old political establishment was not willing to promote.

In the end, everyone pretty much got what they wanted. The Europeans got Greece off the radar. Tsipras is still in power, he is the darling of many international players and is undergoing yet another transformation. All that of course, came at some extra cost for the country.