Having won a second election in eight months, now comes the hard part for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: convincing Greeks to swallow more austerity, world press reports say.
A Third try for Greece
Wall Street Journal
By the recent standards of Greek democracy, the recent parliamentary election lacked the usual drama. Membership in the eurozone was not at issue, as it seemed to be in July’s bailout referendum, and none of the leading parties were promoting Argentina-style economic cures, as the governing Syriza party was when it took office in January.
Official projections showed Syriza came first in a low-turnout election, and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, is on track to stay in office. But he is a chastened prime minister whose party lost some parliamentary seats while abandoning its fiery economic rhetoric.
Meanwhile, nearly 75 percent of voters cast their ballots for parties that promised to implement the bailout package that Tsipras struck with creditors in August.
If Greeks had been given a choice between the economic agendas of Germany’s Angela Merkel or Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the German chancellor who in the past was a foil for Syriza would have won in a rout.
Still, this status quo result is not the political transformation Greece needs. Voters re-elected the party least disposed to implement the privatizations, product-market liberalizations and other supply-side reforms demanded by the August bailout.
This will exacerbate the main flaw in the deal, which is that it imposed high taxes on the private economy while leaving reform commitments largely unenforceable.
A breakthrough will come when voters demand bolder pro-growth measures that go beyond the liberalization and privatization targets called for by the bailout agreement.
The right-of-center New Democracy party, which came in second with about 28 percent of the vote, made some tentative nods in that direction under its caretaker leader, Evangelos Meimarakis. But its conversion to market liberalism from patronage politics remains in an early stage.
Meantime, the risk remains that grudging and partial implementation of a flawed deal will consign Greece to another period of politically toxic low growth. That’s a recipe for another Greek drama, a tragic one, unless Greek voters can raise their sights higher than their leaders.
SYRIZA’s Pyrrhic Victory, Future of the Left in Greece
Centre for Research on Globalization/Richard Fidler
In the wake of the September 20 Greek election SYRIZA has once again formed a coalition government with a small right-wing party, ANEL.
Both parties lost votes and seats but their standing, like those of most other parties, was not very dissimilar to the results in January, when SYRIZA was first elected.
SYRIZA’s 35.46% and ANEL’s 3.69%, combined, were sufficient to give them a majority of 155 seats in the 300-seat parliament under Greece’s electoral law, which gives 50 additional seats to the party with a plurality, in this case (as before) SYRIZA.
However, voter turnout was at an all-time low, 44% of the electorate abstaining although voting is mandatory in Greece. This means that SYRIZA was supported by only 20% of eligible voters.
And this is a very different party, and government, than the one elected in January.
SYRIZA received the highest vote of any party in January on the basis of its promise to end the brutal austerity Greece has suffered in recent years at the hands of its creditors – the other countries that use the euro, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), referred to collectively as the “Troika.” But this time neither SYRIZA nor ANEL could credibly promise opposition to austerity …
Moreover, SYRIZA will now govern without its left wing, which opposed submission to the new memorandum
Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister in the previous SYRIZA government,accurately described the election result:
“The greatest winner is the troika itself. During the past five years, troika-authored bills made it through parliament on ultra-slim majorities, giving their authors sleepless nights.
Now, the bills necessary to prop up the third bailout will pass with comfortable majorities, as SYRIZA is committed to them. Almost every opposition MP (with the exception of the communists of KKE and the Nazis of Golden Dawn) is also on board.
The Greek Tragedy’s Next Act Unfolds
Newsweek/Charles P. Ries
For the second time in nine months, Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party came out on top in a Greek general election. Elected on an anti-austerity platform in January, Tsipras and Syriza won again, this time committed to implementing more harsh austerity measures, including raising taxes, cutting pensions and difficult structural reforms.
The election could very well demonstrate that the Greek people—like Tsipras himself—have come to realize that there is no magic solution that can extract Greece from the financial mire it sank into some five years ago.
Tsipras seems to have convinced the non-apathetic part of the population that he is the person to lead the nation going forward, and that he is at the leading edge of generational change in Greek politics.
Tsipras should expect little, if any, honeymoon from the Greek electorate, as he faces not just the implementation of austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the EU: He must also cope with Greece’s part of a European migration crisis of historic proportions.
What the country needs now, more than anything, is a period of stability to improve economic and business conditions and get growth going.
With his mandate renewed by an unexpectedly large win at the polls and the hard left wing of his party gone, Tsipras should now have the political capital to enact the changes needed.
Tsipras said debt relief will be atop his agenda, but EU partners insist on seeing further cuts to expenditures and new revenues first.
An immediate priority will be to pass required legislation, and reorganize and recapitalize Greece’s crucial commercial banking sector.
While the path ahead is hardly clear, it’s easy to see how Greece got into its current depressed state and draw lessons from this modern day Greek tragedy.