EconoMatters, Rethinking Europe

Greece: The Syriza Dream is Over

With Tspirpas running out of luck, Krugman and Stiglitz have to find new political champions to promote the cause of economic self-destruction

Credit: Ververidis Vasilis Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Only 60% of those who voted Syriza in January say they are ready to do so again in September.
  • The New Democracy leader has hinted he does not want to be prime minister himself.
  • Varoufakis is getting his revenge on Tsipras by refusing to declare his support.
  • Neither Varoufakis nor his Harvard and Princeton mentors had an answer to the bankruptcy of Greece.
  • Greeks have now realized that there is no easy way out of their economic tragedy.
  • Tsipras and his Syriza demagogues have been unable to come up with workable solutions.
  • Tspiras refuses any possible government collaboration with his rival. This makes him look dogmatic.

Athens, Greece. Is the head-spinning period of nine months of making world headlines about to end for Alexis Tsipras? On September 20, Greeks vote in their fifth election in as many years.

Once again, the nation struggles to find a political leadership that keeps the nation part of the EU and the eurozone.

At the same time, it simultaneously avoids the massive lowering of its standard of living that seems to be the inevitable result of the demands by Brussels and international creditors.

Opinion polls show Syriza and its conservative rival, New Democracy, sharing the same level of support – 27% each in the latest polls.

But the worry for Syriza is that New Democracy’s vote is steadily increasing, while the support for Tsipras is lowering.

Tspiras’ ultimate downfall may be that Syriza’s youth wing – essential to get out the vote – is split and has refused to endorse their once glamorous leader.

Meimarakis on the rise

Only 60% of those who voted Syriza in January say they are ready to do so again in September. All the parties in parliament other than the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn will take part in a TV debate this week (on Tuesday).

A week later, Alexis Tsipras does a face-to-face TV duel with the leader of New Democracy, Evangelos Meimarakis. Meimarakis is a much more cuddly conservative than the abrasive Antonis Samaras, the former New Democracy leader.

The permanent gyrations and half-baked follow-up by Samaras ultimately cost him the support of the dominant conservative European Peoples Party that rules in Brussels and key EU capitals, notably Berlin.

Meimarakis has even hinted he does not want the prime minister’s job himself and Greece could find a respected technocrat, a Greek version of Mario Monti.

The economics professor and former European Commissioner managed the transition in Italy from the Berlusconi era to today’s center-left government.

Greece’s New Democracy leader even says he is happy to enter a coalition with Syriza. Meanwhile, some members of To Potami, the centrist party, have said they will support New Democracy.

Syriza’s grim future

Tsipras, for his part, seems to have lost the magic touch that first swept him into power in January 2015, then gave him a massive victory in his July referendum, and finally allowed him to ditch his loud-mouth finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

The former Greek finance minister is now pursuing his real pursuit, playing the role of a hot shot in a highly remunerated, global left gabfest circuit.

In that capacity, he is jetting around preaching his brand of the economic gospel, along with his assorted Nobel prize supporters like Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz. Varoufakis is getting his revenge on Tsipras by refusing to declare his support.

So, in the space of less than a year, the fissures and cracks in Syriza were painted over as the heterogeneous group of ex-communists, ex-Trotskysists and ex-professors united to criticize the austerity of the traditional Greek parties imposed since 2010.

But neither [Varoufakis] they nor their [his] Harvard and Princeton mentors and others from the left elites in Paris and London had any answer to the bankruptcy of Greece after the long decades of corrupt and clientelist rule.

The mess caused by Varoufakis and Co.

They failed to realize that the cancer on Greece’s economy and society was tacitly supported by banks and major firms in Germany and France which made fortunes from loans to Greece as well as infrastructure and arms deals before the crash.

Varoufakis hinted at an exit from the euro which led to the imposition of capital controls and the pitiful summer queues of Greeks waiting outside banks to get their meager €60 daily allowance.

The capital controls imposed by Varoufakis cut imports and exports and cost Greek 2-3% of economic growth this year.

It is the first time since Jeffrey Sachs and the Harvard boys went on to destroy the Russian economy in the early 1990s, that a coterie of international professors, including Varoufakis who taught at an obscure Australian university, has done so much damage to a nation’s economy in such a short time as in the case of Greece.

Greeks have now sipped the bitter hemlock of truth that there is no easy way out of their economic tragedy.

Tsipras and his Syriza demagogues who castigated every other politician who tried to sort out Greece after 2010 as wicked “austerians” have been exposed as being utterly unable to come up with workable solutions, short of turning Greece into a pre-1989 Albania.

An experiment gone wrong?

As a result, the Greeks now face disappointment for voting in Syriza in January with the hope that it would solve all problems. In contrast to New Democracy’s coalition offer, Tspiras refuses any possible government collaboration with his rival.

This makes him look dogmatic and uncaring for the national interest. His election campaign has been about denouncing the past rather than offering Greeks a future.

If New Democracy attracts other voters now disillusioned with Tsipras – and the odds are that it will — the Syrzia experiment will end.

Alexis Tsipras, like Achilles, has been sulking in his tent. Having called the snap election to maintain momentum, he has run out of runway and language to enthuse and persuade the Greeks to follow him wherever he goes.

For the EU’s dominant center-right, the ouster of Tspiras and a win for the EPP’s New Democracy in Greece will further underline their dominance in Europe.

They are also hoping for a major gain for the European People’s Party in Madrid at the end of October, when their man in Spain, the EPP prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, stands for reelection.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz will have to find new political champions they can embrace to promote the cause of economic self-destruction.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexit No Exit: Why Britain Won’t Leave Europe.” [London]. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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