When naysayers lack vision

One can only wonder why the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) lost so much of the dynamic that it had managed to garner before the European parliamentary elections in June. Perhaps it was due to Alexis Tsipras’s lack of experience, which led him to believe that he could muster the kind of popular support enjoyed in recent times only by Andreas Papandreou. Or maybe it was his rather radical views, especially those expressed in response to the widespread riots in December. The fact of the matter, though, is that the one party that was once expected to breathe new life into the leftist movement has lost its momentum and is expending most of its energy on inner-party politics rather than on regaining that momentum. Yet the party has doggedly refused to acknowledge the chasm between some of the extreme views it often espouses and a large portion of well-tuned-in center-left voters, who have simply taken SYRIZA off their radar. The most recent example of SYRIZA’s perplexing stance on certain issues was its reaction during Parliament’s vote for the creation of a park in the Faliro Delta and the construction of an opera house, funded in part by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Anna Filini, an MP known for not having made any compromises over the course of her political career, expressed no objection to the bill and was replaced by Grigoris Psarianos, who ended his argument against the project with the accusation that the Niarchos Foundation launders money. It was a ludicrous stance that obviously aimed to throw SYRIZA into the spotlight and appeal to a small faction of the party’s extraparliamentary electoral base. Needless to say, the Faliro project will be a great addition to Athens, while it has been years, if not decades, since the capital has seen such an ambitious undertaking. The state, we also know, is not in any position to pull off a project of such scale and quality. In contrast, the state mechanism has a reputation for putting the brakes on such developments, as it did with the donation from the Goulandris Foundation, trying to appeal to local sentiment. Greece, after all, owes many of its monumental buildings and some of its best projects to national benefactors. This is a tradition that has given much to the country over the course of its history and only dried up in recent years, as the concept of giving back to society has become distorted. Add to this a growing public skepticism about such foundations and projects, and the end result is a small portion of society that does not believe in anyone wanting to benefit others, in altruism. The bad thing, as far as Greece’s political arena is concerned, is that the main opposition party, PASOK, often gets sucked into this rhetoric as well. It happened with the Niarchos Foundation trust, when PASOK refused to vote for certain parts of the bill and cited some of the same arguments we heard from SYRIZA. It has also been known to have done the same in the past. But these tactics are losing PASOK necessary support from the middle ground: the support of voters who are disillusioned with ruling New Democracy but would never entertain the idea of voting for a party as far to the left as SYRIZA. The only comforting thought that comes out of this affair is that Athens will finally acquire an invaluable park, a new national library worthy of any European capital and a luxurious new home for the country’s national opera company. Once the project is complete, we can expect a whole new round of talks and arguments over who should maintain and run it. We can only hope that this too is put into the hands of the Niarchos Foundation or some other independent body, because if the naysayers have their way, we will see another great project go the way of state neglect.