July 23, 2015
After the second vote on prior actions yesterday, the Greek government has achieved to close a big chapter that started last February. Prior actions have passed by the Parliament with absolute majority, as SYRIZA and ANEL coalition government got the support from opposition parties New Democracy, PASOK and The River. For the next 10 days things will calm down in the Parliament, but the SYRIZA party is entering into a huge crisis after more than 40 MPs voted against the legislation or abstain from voting.
PM Tsipras is completely dependent to the support of opposition parties that are increasing pressure on him and his party, especially after his statement yesterday that he does not believe in this new bailout package, but was forced to accept it. In an effort to defend himself and the government, PM Tsipras seems willing to clear out things with internal opposition, and call for extraordinary congress after mid-August to open the discussions on the next day of SYRIZA as a left party, but also as a government party that accepts and implements a recessionist bailout. PM Tsipras is criticized by leading figures of his party, such as Zoi Konstantopoulou, President of the Greek Parliament and daughter of the ex-President of the party in the 1990s, Yanis Varoufakis, former Minister of Finance, that openly assess the deal is designed to fail, and Panayiotis Lafazanis, leader of internal opposition Left Platform that calls for return to national currency. These three pillars of opposition are separate from each other, following different lines, though all exerting influence in the Greek electorate and the members of the party.
Front opposition party New Democracy is making a huge effort to capitalize on the weaknesses of PM Tsipras, investing on re-embracing the big segment of floating voters that want Greece to remain in Eurozone, that have supported SYRIZA in the last elections hoping for a better deal, but now having second thoughts on the true intentions of the government and the capacity of SYRIZA to bring about such a heavy, complex and financially-exhausting bailout program. At the same, it is very difficult for New Democracy to increase its electoral appeal, as the big defeat in last elections and the fact that the party has no alternative option other than what the Greek government has accepted, raise expectations to unreachable levels. So the party is trying for the moment to invest in the wrongdoings and setbacks of the government in order to gain time and get better prepared for the snap elections in October.
The River and PASOK parties are on the same page with New Democracy. Both remaining spectators in the last economic developments in the country, with the Socialist Movement to have been completely distorted, exhausted, and hugely damaged after implementing austerity politics during the last five years. On the other hand, The River vies for substituting ANEL as the coalition party in the government, preparing the field increasing its electoral appeal through presenting itself as the most pro-European and anti-corruption political movement. His leader Stavros Theorodakis tries to bring some fresh air in Greek politics, but truth is that he has nothing new to offer in policy-making.
Golden Dawn and the Communist Party are two interesting cases. The first is building its appeal on the softening of wording and the imminent need to endorse the national production away from oligarchies and clientelism, while being delicate in statements over return to national currency. On the other hand, the Communist Party (KKE) is distancing itself from the SYRIZA part that calls for return to drachma, underlining the need to nationalize the economy and the banking system first, bringing the unions into power, unilaterally erase sovereign debt, and then proceed to drachma. Both parties want to increase their public support, while keeping distances from each other – i.e. and certainly from SYRIZA rebels.
Meanwhile in the debt field
SYRIZA government is not stopping pointing out that discussions on debt relief should start by this autumn. This argument comes over and over in the table, but fact is that these discussions will not take place before early 2016. Why? Because Germany and the European Commission have no intention to deal with debt issue before assessing how the new deal functions, and certainly before things are clear with elections in Spain, Portugal and Ireland this coming autumn. These three member-states have conservative governments, while all facing huge debt crisis. Podemos, Bloco de Ezquerda, and Sinn Fein are left-wing parties and close to SYRIZA (i.e. though I doubt how close they feel after SYRIZA’s capitulation in negotiations), meaning that if we have a kickstart on debt talks over Greece before elections in these three countries, there might be a big blow against the ruling right-wing parties that have not discussed this issue so far. Therefore, even this argument cannot be bought out in Greek domestic politics. As soon as people realize that, there is a big chance that SYRIZA appeal will start decreasing.
I definitely believe that a SYRIZA congress is more than necessary (and inevitable) under such extraordinary circumstances. It is necessary for the ideological framing of the party, the vision that the Left has to offer in domestic and European politics, the internal rupture that has to be addressed collectively, and certainly for the re-affirmation of what the government is capable of doing in the next months under strict rules of supervision and a growing social feeling of disappointment and resignation.
To contact the author Dimitris Rapidis:
Twitter: @rapidisDimitris Rapidis