von Konstantinos Koulocheris, 13.9.15
Week #6, Saturday, September 12th, 2015, Athens, 25°C, Summer still lives here.
There are two things that cannot be underestimated these days in the pre-election political climate of Greece. One is the immediate state of stupor every Greek gets into while thinking about the Third Memorandum of Understanding applied in the country; and the other is the fact of SYRIZA led coalition scheme having no chance of getting more than 5% in the Greek border-line territories, who have been affected by the recent immigration waves.
The first part of the above refers to the second electoral clash taking place within less than a year for pretty much the same reason as the first; incompetence of a government to secure and maintain a majority in the parliament. This could result in low turn out rates in this coming election – lower than ever in the modern history of Greek politics – since the current political system has failed to solve the nation’s financial problems. The Greek economy appears frozen capital controls are still emerging with distractive impacts on both exports and imports, unemployment keeps on growing while liquidity problems have devastated a high number of small-to-medium businesses across the country.
After an eight-month long term, SYRIZA has managed to shut down any talks of a Grexit — at least for the time being — and Alexis Tsipras is perceived as a superhero who can keep their savings safe, at least by those in the high populated urban areas of the Greek mainland. Latterly, this might give him a significant lead in the ballot despite the rebellious tensions in his party the past months.
Things are notably different on the Aegean islands, which are at the heart of an ongoing humanitarian crisis, right in the middle of the busiest tourist time of the year. This catastrophe has nothing to do with xenophobia or whether refugees are welcome or not, but the inexistent mechanism either in diplomatic or pragmatic terms, to counter the phenomenon. The islanders are unhappy with this and they won’t hesitate to express their anger in the ballot, if they ever take place that is: more than fifty thousand refugees remain packed in Kos and Lesbos alone.
And when saying packed, this refers to the fact that that large numbers of asylum seekers remain in the streets, squares and with questionable living conditions – mostly depending on donations of the residents of the islands involved in this frenzy.
In a diplomatic sense, the Greek government could have established some kind of communication under the credentials of the European Commission with Turkey, where most of refugees come from. They could together, at least attempt to tackle the trafficking organisations who take advantage of these war victims and they could try to somehow secure a safer transportation method for the refugees to the EU, as their advance north is inevitable. The picture of the Syrian toddler lying dead in the Turkish shore manifests itself another lost fight with deep moral consequences not only as a national issue but as a wider European one.
Getting back to the talk of the town these days, Tsipras main opposition in this campaign, Vagelis Meimarakis, has managed to improve the popularity of his centre-to-right New Democracy party over the past months. Meimarakis’ great display of moral politics was timely, just as SYRIZA was losing the support of its MPs and electorate. His side voted in favour of the Agreekment, aligning themselves to their opposition, he showed his party are currently putting the country’s interests, rather than their own politics at the fore – as it would be an instant call for national election. When Tsipras brought the outcome of his negotiation with the creditors in Brussels to parliament, many SYRIZAs MPs didn’t agree with the new bailout reforms, which jeopardised the majority in the government. The New Democracy’s MP’s votes in favour of the negotiation deal were crucial as the SYRIZA government didn’t have a high enough threshold of its own MPs support to get the paper passed. At the time, Meimarakis explained his decision to vote for SYRIZA’s plan – despite being political enemies – as the ultimate solution before bankruptcy. New Democracy is now closer than ever to SYRIZA in opinion polls and Meimarakis won’t hesitate to urge a pro EU partnership to form a government, if things go well.
It is apparent that from all participants in this national election in Greece, the only radical position expressed is by the far left “Laiki Enotita” party (Popular Unity for Greeks), which claims that the risk of a Grexit wouldn’t be as painful as the media insinuate. The leader of the newly formed party and one of the rebellious of SYRIZA, Panagiotis Lafazanis, claims that the prospect of withdrawal from the euro-currency will allow Greece to resurrect its economy based on its own resources.
What the former member of the SYRIZA led coalition government hasn’t yet said — and what might cost him on the 20th of September — is, how and with what resources this is to be achieved. There’s no doubt that Lafazanis’ party aims to — and probably will — attract large scores of those who voted “No” in the July’s referendum, while there is still a high percentage of the undecided in the latest polls.
In a final review — one of many that will arose across media these days — any government that will come out of this election will hardly serve its term in full. It has been already seven different Prime Ministers since 2007, the time the crisis erupted in Greece, and these days nothing seems to be stable in diplomatic or social aspects. And this guarantees a painful time to come…