Anna Christofides (above) and barrier-free Greek Parliament last night
How’s that going?
Athens-based, Galway-born political scientist Anna Christofides writes:
Despite threats and scaremongering from the EU, Greek voters have spoken; “no more austerity” and “no more EU imposed governments”. The message is loud and clear, the task is less so.
It is early days for Syriza and the new Greek government and Greeks are nervous. Many believe that change will not come fast enough or be radical enough. However, the streets of Athens are already showing signs of change. The gradual militarisation which had taken hold of Athens’ city centre has been rolled back since the new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, took office on Monday.
The barriers in front of the parliament have been removed and the buses of riot polices have disappeared from the streets. Just as a palpable feeling of depression and desperation descended on the city following the Troika bailout deals in 2010, now there is a tangible feeling of hope and cautious optimism.
Nonetheless, Syriza must tread carefully. Though they have been elected with a political mandate for change and to put an end to austerity, the reality is, their first battle may lie closer to home than with their European aggravators. The fact remains that the country is deeply divided. Though Syriza won the elections by a clear majority, 6% of the population continue to support the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and 34% continue to support the parties that signed the memorandums and implemented devastating austerity measures which have left more than half of the country’s youth unemployed. Representing and satisfying such a conflicted and confused society is no mean feat.
Moreover, the country’s state institutions have traditionally supported and implemented the policies of Right and far Right governments. In turn, they themselves are supported by the country’s oligarchy, who, up until now, have proved untouchable. Syriza is well aware of this. It is no coincidence that they contacted the leaders of the Army and Police within one hour of the release of the first exit polls on Sunday evening, to confirm their trust for both of these institutions. Despite this, election statistics indicate that, once again, police were amongst the staunchest supporters of Golden Dawn.
In addition to the immediate domestic challenges there is extreme pressure from the European Left. The political investment in Syriza is collossal, the future of the entire European radical Left relies on their ability to demonstrate that a valid, political, alternative to the current neo-liberal status quo exists. With so much pressure there is no margin of error for Syrzia.
For those of us that long for a radical redistribution of power and wealth and fairer society for all, let us hope that they get it right.
Thanks Bewildered Student
Nobel cat-loving Economist Paul Krugman
…So now that [Alex] Tsipras [leader of Syriza] has won, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their programme. The fact is they have no credibility; the programme they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.
If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. But it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.
Still, in calling for a major change, Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.
Paul Krugman: Syriza should ignore calls to be responsible (Irish Times)