As the world watches Greece go to elections in a crucial race that will determine the fate of the country, Greeks are faced with a stark dilemma. Who should they vote for? In fact, who would I vote for if I were in the country?
You may remember that I made my stance on the second bailout clear in my blog post “My view of the Greek Debt Crisis”. This post is my attempt to make sense of the three unpalatable options that Greeks are faced with when casting their votes:
ND (conservatives) and Pasok (socialists)
Once arch enemies and for decades perpetually driving Greece further down the road of bankruptcy, in the 6th of May elections, Greeks (and quite rightly so) humiliated these parties by clearly pulling support.
Currently both parties seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Both, pro-bailout and pro-Europe, they ram their fear-inducing manifestos down Greeks throat like chemotherapy given to a cancer-stricken patient with hours to live.
They promise to renegotiate the bailout that they negotiated and guaranteed with letters to the Troika in the first place. There is no shame in their pre-election campaigns, nor is there any acknowledgement of the part they played in the current dreadful state of the Greek economy.
Do leopards change their spots?
The personal profile of their two leaders, Samaras (ND), and Venizelos (Pasok) is questionable.
In a controversial move in the 1990’s, Samaras opened the borders to thousands of Albanians to enter Greece, without a policy or plan on how these people would be fed, clothed, and sheltered. As a result, in my humble opinion, Greece has never been the same relatively crime-free country after that.
In 1993, he let his political ambitions rise above his duty to his country by pulling his support from the then government and sending the country to early elections.
Samaras is a typical politician that changes his mind (and his policies) quicker than you can blink. When the crisis begun, and as the leader of the opposition, Samaras vehemently stood against the bailout. He even sacked-off several of his MP’s for voting for the bailout. Then, in a surprise u-turn, he not only supported the bailout, but backed the unity government led by technocrat Papademos, on the condition that Papandreou would step down as prime minister. Hmmm… Now, he claims he is going to renegotiate that same agreement that he helped to forge. I am far from convinced. Samaras would not get my vote.
The same applies to Venizelos, head of the Pasok party. Venizelos is the man responsible for the mushrooming of the Olympic Games budget in 2004. He was also Finance Minister and the key negotiator of the second bailout.
His plans involve going back to the Troika to ask for more lenient terms on the agreement that he insisted for months was the only way. Thankfully, it seems Pasok is finished. Relegated down to third place in the elections, it deserves to stay there or slide down even more.
Syriza vs ND
Polls show that the election result is a decision between Syriza, the radical left and ND, the conservative party. I agree.
In the 6th May elections, Syriza led by the young and largely inexperienced Alexis Tsipras, came a very close second. I have lots of respect for his hard-line tactics and confidence. I applaud his bravado. I admire his ability to stand up to Germany and the propaganda-stirring European partners. I also admit to being a little amused by his ability to call Europe’s bluff.
Tsipras has a history of breaking with tradition in a society that is steeped in it. He’s openly defied the tradition of marriage. He refuses to wear a tie. He makes a refreshing change from the average middle-aged, stuffy Greek politician.
He sounds like the type of man Greece needs at the helm. So what if he is inexperienced. Greeks have had “experienced” politicians that have destroyed the country.
Tsipras has promised to end austerity, to stop privatisations and the sacking of civil servants, to freeze pension and salary cuts and to create jobs.
His Achilles heel is his inability to explain how he will fund these promises. How will he keep thousands of civil servants in their cushy jobs and find an extra 100,000 positions to decrease the debilitating unemployment? Greece desperately needs a complete pubic sector restructure, and this is where Tsipras would potentially lose my vote.
Will he surprise us once more with a clear win in the elections this Sunday? It will be a close call. The probability is that whether Tsipras or Samaras come to power, neither will be able to hold government for long.
In the 6th May elections, Greeks voted with their heart immersed in anger and despair. This time, the media report that Greeks will vote with the fear of a return to the drachma.
I hope that they don’t. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, Greeks are in for a rough ride over the next few years. They might as well stay true to their conscience and vote for the person that can bring change, however temporary.
Who would you vote for and why?