Call me a naïve American, but there’s an important issue that everyone seems to be glossing over regarding Greece’s elections last week. Is it that Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA party are setting records of all sorts – based on his relative youth (40) and the party’s shattering of the status quo to rise to the number on spot? No, that’s not it.
Is it that Tsipras defiantly took the oath of office without wearing a tie (talk about severing ties with the status quo!) and without placing his hand on the Bible? Nope, that’s not it, either – but you’re getting warmer!
It is about the oath: not how he took it, but when he took it. On Monday, Jan. 26, the day after the elections.
So, let me get this straight: Tsipras, hypothetically, could have sat in a kafeneio with his buddies last Sunday afternoon, sipping frappe and playing a few games of backgammon as he watched the election returns roll in, and then just like that – a few hours later on Monday morning – he’s running the country. What?!
Is there no process for the transfer of power? No matters about which the exiting prime minister needs to inform his successor – for the good of the country? No debriefing about Turkish jets and ships in the Aegean, or a rogue terrorist cell on the government’s radar screen? No discussions about what to do if another riot breaks out in the streets – which is not exactly a rare occurrence, like Halley’s Comet or a Mets World Series championship.
How on earth can the new prime minister take over so quickly? Even cashiers at Walmart have to communicate with one another, don’t they? “We have no fifties and we’re low on twenties, but we’ve got plenty of singles.”
It is only the greeters at Walmart that can come and go as they please. One works from 9 to 2, and the other one comes in 2 to 7. Why, there might even be a brief respite with no greeter at all!
Apparently, that’s what the Greeks must think of the head of their government. That he is no more important than a Walmart greeter (apologies for any offense to Walmart greeters taken; it is not intended that way). Come to think of it, maybe that’s why Greece’s government – it’s entire organizational mindset, in fact – is so utterly dysfunctional.
Note: in the United States, the country votes for the electors for president in early November (the electors then formally cast their votes a few weeks later, without fanfare or surprises), and the new president is sworn in on January 20. And guess what – the exiting president is there to congratulate him! Pay attention, Greece, that’s how the grown-ups do it.