Throughout the world, opposition parties oppose. They oppose policy, point out government errors, expose their rivals, put forward proposals etc. What the main opposition in Greece does, though, is threaten.
Most recently, we heard opposition chief Alexis Tsipras telling Parliament: “The only things I have to say to the government benches is don’t you dare exclude key SYRIZA cadres from the investigative committee! Don’t you dare!” And let’s say they do dare? What then?
This was not the first time that the leader of the minority sought to command the majority with threats. In 2014, he used the podium at Parliament to warn Antonis Samaras’ government not to make any “important moves, crucial negotiations or decisions that will tie the hands of subsequent governments without the approval of the main opposition.” “I say it again so it will be heard not just by you, but by Brussels, Berlin and Washington,” he added.
Brussels and Berlin did indeed hear the message, and went on to pull the rug out from under Samaras’ feet by not signing off on the final assessment of the second memorandum. SYRIZA teamed up with Independent Greeks to form the next government and embarked on negotiations with untucked shirts. SYRIZA won and it was happy days for all of us.
As a rule, the Left is of a visionary bent. But this lot is only interested in the short game, acting on a “come what may” philosophy. Otherwise, how can we explain Tsipras’ other recent warning: “You can forget the niceties from us… We will be there, present, inside and outside Parliament.”
What can he possibly mean, assuming that niceties were being observed in the first 100 days of the new conservative government? They’ll be ready to come to blows in Parliament? They’ll slander their political rivals, denouncing them as “pawns of the creditors”? And, really, is there any chance that the Greek public will buy into SYRIZA’s claims that it will never put its signature to “any agreement that constitutes a continuation of the memorandum regime, any agreement that includes a continuation of austerity under whatever guise,” as Tsipras threatened in October 2014?
Tsipras is yearning for the days of 2014 again, but it will never happen. Social and political circumstances have changed too much. They only type of opposition that is effective now is actual opposition; not big talk and threats. The problem is that to exercise meaningful opposition, you need to be a meaningful party, with solid positions and proposals – things that SYRIZA is still looking for.