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Gloomy forecasts for Greece in 2016

22 December 2015 / 22:12:26  GRReporter
2043 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The year 2015 that is ending was filled with many, dramatic events for Greece. The radical left SYRIZA party came to power in January and managed to turn into votes its longstanding opposition to the bailouts and the policy of austerity.

It formed, and quickly at that, a surprising coalition with the far right and populist party Independent Greeks and began its opposition to creditors, which lasted several months and brought Greece a step away from exiting the euro zone and even the European Union. In mid-July Alexis Tsipras signed the third bailout to the regret of the majority of Greek voters who voted "no" in the referendum convened by his government on 5 July. Meanwhile, Greek banks closed, capital controls were introduced, and Greeks spent two weeks in queues before ATMs.

The signing of the third memorandum caused a split in SYRIZA but the party hardliners refused to support it in parliament and formed a new party. Immediately afterwards Tsipras called new parliamentary elections and won them again, but with a lower rate. Three months later, his parliamentary majority fell to 153 members in the 300-seat Greek parliament. Obviously this is hampering the Greek Prime Minister who has postponed to the first months of 2016 the voting on the most painful reforms, namely of the pension system and the introduction of taxes on farmers.

In an interview with Greek writer and political analyst Sakis Moumtzis, GRReporter presents the hard balance of the past year and its forecast for the uncertain future.

Mr. Moumtzis, the past year was very dramatic and eventful. What were the positive things in it?

A positive fact is certainly the collapse of the confrontation between the supporters and opponents of memoranda (the bailouts to the Greek economy - author’s note). The signing of the third, left memorandum by SYRIZA has made clear to the majority of Greek society that the notorious "other path" does not exist. The memorandum was, and is, the only choice. All who argued that there were other options were disproved. When they tried to implement their ideas, the country faced the danger of exiting the euro zone. They signed the memorandum and this dividing line disappeared. Now we have to see how the arrangements will be implemented.

That was the only positive event of the past year. There were many negative ones.

The government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks has survived, despite the occurrence of all those things you described. Do you think it will be able to survive in the coming year too?

I do not think it will be able to do so. There are two very serious issues before it, which need to be resolved, namely the pension reform and taxation of farmers. The government cannot deal with them with its majority of 153 MPs. It will either ask for support from the pro-European opposition or announce elections.

I consider possible the first of these two options because the convening of elections would mean leaving the euro zone, as stated by EU Commissioner for Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici. I.e. Greece's creditors that are also its partners are no longer tolerating other similar solutions, which take the form of extortions.

Therefore, in order for Alexis Tsipras to secure the voting on these bills, he would be forced to seek support from the pro-European parties. What they would want in return is the subject of a major discussion.

How would you comment on what is happening in New Democracy? What do you expect 2016 to bring to it?

The course of the first round of the party elections and especially the results were very interesting. My opinion was that holding elections at this point was not the right step. Evangelos Meimarakis should have remained an interim leader and the new leader should have been elected in May, after the congress.

But in the end, the "blue" preferred to organize elections at this point for a very specific reason, namely that the lack of opposition in recent months actually provided support to the government. There was a massive participation in the elections and although the result is apparently not clear, in my opinion it is actually clear that Evangelos Meimarakis is holding the lead, due to the support from former Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis.

On the political level, this means that we will surely witness an "exposure" of New Democracy to the government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks but it is not yet clear in what form this could happen. I.e. whether it will be political support as a result of an agreement or if it will be support for some voting in parliament.

Things would have been quite different if one of the contenders for leadership of New Democracy, namely Adonis Georgiadis, had won about 20-22% of votes, which would have made clear that the dynamic party wing had a higher potential than the 11% it won. I am saying this because Meimarakis’ opponent Kyriakos Mitsotakis is a moderate politician and he is not a supporter of acute confrontation and polarization.

We must not forget the fact that the European People's Party is calling for support for Alexis Tsipras. Creditors have provided extremely large sums to Greece and they see no other solution on the horizon. Therefore, there should be support for Tsipras in order for him to deal with the situation.

Do you believe that New Democracy will split if Evangelos Meimarakis wins the second round of party elections?

Tags: PoliticsEconomicsGreeceReformsPrivatizationRefugee crisisForecast for 2016Sakis Moumtzis
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