In spite of the general dullness of yesterday’s Greek national elections, Greece has managed to enter a new and considerably darker path. For the first time, both its projected coalition government and the totality of the democratic parliamentary opposition accept the country’s July austerity program as the only possible option for the country — leaving any discussion for alternatives to the darkest aspects of Greece’s political spectrum.
One could perhaps exclaim, «At last! Greece has chosen the path of reason and realism.» However, there’s a catch.
Greece’s new Memorandum, the new deal with the country’s creditors, isn’t simply the third in a linear sequence of technocratic obligations and reform pacts. Rather than that, it seems to be a deal with hardly any economic or political coherence and viability, a deal referred to by none other than the IMF as «non viable,» with Greece’s public debt having become «highly unsustainable» through the numerous bailout loans. As it seems, the new deal wasn’t designed to actually work, but rather to discourage countries such as Spain or Italy from nurturing high hopes concerning the EU’s future crisis policies, in light of the results of Greece’s July referendum on austerity. Moreover, seeing that German FM Wolfgang Schaeuble has been widely reported as ultimately having a Grexit plan, one could even go as far as saying that the new deal has been designed to fail. Even an honest-to-goodness enthusiast of the previous two austerity deals (interpreted as reform packages, fiscal balance guarantors and so on) would have a truly hard time defending this new, radically different deal — were honesty to be the driving force behind austerity enthusiasm.
After his humiliating capitulation in July, PM Alexis Tsipras didn’t resort to merely admitting a defeat, but turned his profound U-turn into an ideology. During his first televised Greek interview after the negotiations, astonished viewers would see Alexis Tsipras’ face, but hear an almost word by word replication of former right-wing PM Antonis Samaras’ arguments, who ensuing his own U-turn formulated a narrative of austerity patriotism and of the nonexistence of any possible and remotely positive alternative. After one long night, Tsipras had unapologetically turned into that, to which he had long claimed to be a viable and realistic alternative.
It is with said baggage that he campaigned for the September 20, 2015 elections, which he won with characteristic ease in spite of his spectacular U-turn in comparison to the January 2015 narrative. The party of his former anti-austerity dissidents, People’s Unity, didn’t even manage to top the 3 percent electoral threshold to enter parliament, while — and to the surprise of many–Syriza’s (now and forever) coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, made it to parliament in spite of having annihilated the raison d’être of its electoral base, i.e. voting against austerity programs.
The practical side of this is that everyone in the new Greek parliament except of the extremist and neo-nazi Golden Dawn party (and the Communist Party of Greece, which, however, for all practical intents and purposes has long decided to opt out of any meaningful political role by expecting a future eschatological revolution) is ready to support the implementation of an austerity deal that even the IMF has dismissed as «non viable,» while a number of economists around the globe refuse to even discuss whether it promotes further recession or growth. Of Greek parliamentary parties, SYRIZA, New Democracy, PASOK, To Potami (The River), Independent Greeks and the Centrists Union may not be willing to form a six-party coalition government, but they will nevertheless support and vote for a program that cannot but eventually crash and burn. Leaving, thus, the more-extremist-than-you-can-imagine Golden Dawn party, whose leader recently accepted the political responsibility for the murder of a citizen, as virtually the only parliamentary opposition to the austerity programs (again, not counting the willfully isolated Communist Party of Greece).
As far as there is a consensus concerning the implementation of the new deal, the question of who is in power matters only up to a certain and limited extent, as the new deal leaves a rather narrow margin for free political will. In this context, any discussions about «left-wing» or «right-wing» parties and policies seem to be poignantly superfluous. On top of that, the Guardian reports that the one actually «running the country» will be Maarten Verwey, «a besuited Dutch economist in Brussels with the imposing title of director-general in the secretariat-general of the European commission in charge of the Structural Reform Support Service. […] His powers are unprecedented. And if few voters on the streets of Athens have heard his name, many understand that how they cast their ballot in the elections will make little difference to what happens next.»
This situation can be described as the true embodiment of a hermetically sealed TINA — the famed «There is no alternative» doctrine used by Margaret Thatcher. However, Thatcher is also known for her «no, no, no» speech against the increasing power of supranational non-elected bodies at the expense of national and democratically elected bodies and, ultimately, against the single European currency. In comparison to this, Greece’s political parties are rather heard booming a resounding «yes, yes, yes.»
In these Greek national elections, nothing has changed. As it seems, the country will still have a SYRIZA/Independent Greeks coalition as before, with the center-right New Democracy as the main opposition party — as before.
In these Greek national elections, everything has changed. For the first time, TINA reigns in an unprecedented manner, imposing the universal implementation of a hardly implementable program through an apparition of democracy — while hardcore political extremism enjoys posing as the only alternative left, and takes its time until the country is ripe for the taking.
Sotiris Mitralexis is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the City University of Istanbul.