Joint Statement by Greek Political Party Leaders

Following the result of yesterday’s referendum, where the Greek people responded with a resounding ‘NO’ to a highly ambiguous (and void) question, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for a meeting with the rest of the political leadership in the country. After making his request official yesterday night, at the President of the Democracy, Prokovios Pavlopoulos, the President called the meeting earlier today at the Maximos Building.

What follows is the joint statement released after the conclusion of the meeting, translated in English. You can find the original statement (in Greek), here. Updates (perhaps) to follow, as more info comes in.

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Judgement time for Syriza

Yesterday, after a very brief yet polarized pre-election period, the Greek people went to the polls and voted for their new government. Regardless of personal preferences or ideological inclinations, the result was an astounding victory for the Left in Greece. SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, officially won the parliamentary elections falling one seat short of outright majority. As many supporters of the party chanted until the early hours of Monday morning: “It’s SYRIZA’s time.”

Many things can been said about the party, its Leader, its programmatic pledges, and the views expressed by a number of its (former and new) MPs. Since 2010, SYRIZA has adopted a highly inflammatory populist rhetoric, and has surged at the top of the “anti-austerity” camp in Greece. It’s elected representatives have criticized excessively – often, using highly derogatory language – both the previously elected Greek governments, and the Troika of lenders responsible for overlooking the bailout packages received by Greece. They have attacked the former parties of the establishment (New Democracy and PASOK), they have pledged to overthrow the existing oligarchic power-structure in place, they have vouched to overturn all of the policies decided by the previous (democratically elected!) governments, and they have insisted over and over again that they would not honor the agreements made between Greece and its international lenders.

In crisis-ridden Greece, it is no wonder that they turned themselves from a fringe party in the margins of Greek politics to the official opposition party in the parliamentary elections of 2012, to coming first in the European Elections of 2014, and eventually forming a government after yesterday’s elections. By strategically capitalizing on the anger and desperation of the Greek people, they have managed to propel themselves at the forefront of the political scene. In order to do so, they have followed a smart tactic of excessive promise-making and pledges that are not only unfeasible (given the current financial situation of Greece), but also deeply destructive of any prospect of recovery from the country’s current state. Playing favorites with the unions, embracing a statist approach in decision-making, and proposing a host of anti-liberal and anti-reformist economic and social measures, SYRIZA does not seem to grasp the fundamental issues at the crux of the Greek downfall, and does not offer a viable progressive-reformist plan to move forward.

SYRIZA has promised many things. Most of all, however, it has promised new ‘hope’ to the people of Greece. Even its main pre-election slogan was “Hope is coming.” It has elevated tremendously the expectations of the domestic population, but it has also managed to put itself in the center of international debates about austerity and economic growth – especially within Europe.

All eyes are on Tsipras and his party now. There is no scapegoating this time around, nobody else to blame. It is them, now, that will have to take the difficult decisions about the country. It is them that will have to meet face-to-face with the Troika of lenders, with foreign Ministers of Finance, and with the person they have demonized the most in the past 3 years: Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. They will now become the new government – albeit with the help of the ultra-nationalist, anti-liberal, far-right party ANEL (Independent Greeks). In a sense, maybe this is the most appropriate of all setups: both SYRIZA and ANEL have championed an anti-austerity, anti-memorandum, and even anti-European rhetoric. They have both starkly opposed any and every attempt to reform Greece in the past few years, and have made no concessions whatsoever. Now, they are both in power, together.

I am not very optimistic about what tomorrow brings for Greece. Especially after SYRIZA reaching out to ANEL for a coalition government, rather than any of the other two center-left parties (PASOK, the old party of the establishment; and To Potami, a new party created early 2014 by a former journalist). One could say that this was to be expected, and I fully agree. But I was also hoping for a better ‘kolotoumba’ (i.e. somersault, in Greek) than this.

We will witness, of course, many ‘kolotoumbes’ in the upcoming months, especially as they pertain to the programmatic promises of SYRIZA about the economy and our existing agreements with Troika. Let’s hope that they happen soon. And once they do, let’s hope that they are enough to keep this country afloat.

GR Political Economy Digest #10

Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 24 Jan 2015)
Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 24 Jan 2015)

Only one day left before the Greek elections. With Syriza leading the polls, and New Democracy trailing far behind (Syriza is ahead with at least 4-5%, based on the most recent polls), a scenario in which Syriza can form a government without depending on any other party is all the more plausible. Regardless of the electoral result, the economic consequences of these unnecessary snap elections for Greece and its people are going to be felt for many years to come. Dire times are ahead, and only a few people seem to fully realize the upcoming repercussions.

A vast majority of Greeks expects Syriza and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, to perform an eloquent somersault (‘kolotoumba’ in Greek) in the next few days, or weeks, going back on the programmatic promises of ‘tearing to pieces the Memoranda’ and playing hard-ball with the Troika of lenders. They expect Tsipras to agree on a new MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) – even if Syriza will not actually call it like that – which they hope will be more lenient than the existing agreement with our lenders. Even if such a somersault does occur, however, and given that the Troika requests can be met somehow, Syriza offers no persuasive guarantees of continuing much needed structural reforms, of opening up a relatively closed economy prone to crony capitalism, and of fighting the existing clientelistic and oligarchic structures. On the contrary, it seems ready to implement a host of anti-liberal and statist measures on the tradition of the two former parties of the status quo, PASOK and ND (PASOK began this tradition in the 1980s, and ND quickly followed in order to ensure its electoral competitiveness).

Today, one day before the elections, things look quite gloomy and extremely volatile, to say the least. Tomorrow, we will be one step closer to ending this grandiose string of speculations. Will we also be closer to a Greek knockout? Let’s hope not.

Without further ado, here are the hottest articles on the Greek political economy in the past 24 hours:

  1. Greece goes to the polls and Europe holds its breath, by Harris Mylonas and Akis Georgakellos | The Washington Post (Monkey Cage), Jan 24 2015
  2. Greece: Austerity, Relief or Exit?, by Marcus Walker | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 23 2015
  3. After an anxiety-filled campaign, Greek voters consider a turn to the Left, by Suzanne Daley and Dimitris Bounias | The New York Times, Jan 23 2015
  4. Syriza’s rise fueled by professors-turned-politicians, by Charles Forelle | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 23 2015
  5. The last stand of Greece’s ruling elite, by Nathalie Savaricas | The Independent, Jan 23 2015
  6. Greece to need another bailout extension – euro zone official, by Robit Emmott | Reuters UK, Jan 23 2015
  7. Greece’s hope and change moment, by Yiannis Baboulias | Foreign Policy, Jan 23 2015
  8. HuffPost Exclusive: Greece pre-election poll | Huffington Post, Jan 23 2015
  9. Inside Syriza: Why young Greek are voting for the left, by Matthew Cassel | Al Jazeera America, Jan 23 2015
  10. As Greece prepares to vote, a new age of Eurozone tension begins, by Times / Fortune Editors | Fortune, Jan 23 2015
  11. Greece’s solidarity movement: ‘it’s a whole new model – and it’s working’, by Jon Henley | The Guardian, Jan 23 2015
  12. Greece’s Syriza could face schism after likely election triumph, by Damien Sharkov | Newsweek, Jan 24 2015
  13. Greek shares surge, by Alexis Barley | Wall Street Observer, Jan 24 2015
 Photo: Ilias Makris (Kathimerini)