Greece’s Fear Barrier is Crumbling but not yet Destroyed
Greece’s twin economic and political crisis is building to new heights as PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos has failed to reach a deal for a coalition government, setting the stage for another round of elections. June 10th and June 17th are the suggested dates for the second attempt by voters to forge a new government. These dates give Greece just a small window of time between the vote and when the country is scheduled to run out of cash. With an economic crisis and electoral politics mixing, we can be assured mainstream politics will try to rally its base with the most overstated disaster scenarios yet.
This imminent election campaign will resemble a paternalistic Mubarak speech to rebellious Tahrir Square more than it will resemble a functional representative democracy. Already New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is attacking anti-austerity SYRIZA, denouncing the party as irresponsible and threatening the country’s Euro Zone membership. SYRIZA requested Samaras rescind his letter committing to the bailout’s austerity measures. Samaras rejected the demand, saying he would not sign onto the country’s ‘destruction’. This kind of rhetoric will only sharpen now that SYRIZA is leading the first post-election opinion surveys.
This is a cynical attempt by Greece’s center-body politics to pass off the disastrous product of their rule onto SYRIZA. An exit from the Euro is likely not because SYRIZA is polling well but because New Democracy and PASOK brought the Greek economy into dysfunction. Their economic medicine not only worsened the debt crisis, it spawned adjacent crises like the rise of the Golden Dawn party, mass unemployment, and a crumbling healthcare system. They would have Greek voters believe that SYRIZA is entirely culpable for a possible bankruptcy and Euro exit even though SYRIZA hasn’t spent a day in power.
Such fear tactics were deployed in the first round of elections to little success as 40% of Greece abandoned the two main parties. We can’t be certain they’ll fail so decisively this second time around. These elections will be taking place amid mounting threats from European officials that they’ll cut off funding support to the country. The continue flight of cash out of the country‘s banks will likely hasten, and New Democracy and PASOK would lay the full blame on SYRIZA. In short, SYRIZA will become the twenty-four seven scapegoat for any market activity that drives the country closer to a Euro exit.
Since the crisis emerged, politicians both inside and outside of Greece have made terrible choices that weighed the crisis heavily upon workers, pensioners, unemployed, and youths. Last Sunday’s election was a rare moment when those politicians payed a political price for their decisions. Now those politicians are trying to escape that political punishment. The second round elections will be an enormous test of Greek resolve to remain outside the grips of New Democracy and PASOK, the parties that engineered the country’s impoverishment. Greeks already cracked a hole in the fear barrier that constrained the country’s political life. Now they must bring that barrier to the ground.