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SYRIZA’s self-dissolution is a matter of weeks, the problem is what will happen afterwards

15 February 2016 / 19:02:16  GRReporter
11563 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Less than a year after the third memorandum for financial assistance was signed Greece is again risking to end up without funding since the first monitoring on the progress of implementation of its commitments is ongoing. Creditors have expressed the hope that it could be completed by the days around Easter but the majority of Greek observers are not so optimistic.

Not only has the government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks not passed the majority of the measures envisaged in the memorandum, but is also facing massive social protests. The representatives of various professional groups are protesting against the pension reform, which provides for an increase in the social insurance contributions and for no reduction of the pensions that have been granted so far. The rumours have become more frequent that the minimum parliamentary majority could split during the vote on this bill.

The refugee crisis has become one of the main problems as the government's inability to master it may cost Greece the closure of its borders and mainly hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants staying in the country.

The economic downturn over the past year was officially confirmed a few days ago, although the business and society are feeling firsthand the level of the recession. In addition, there have been frequent attempts by the government to control the information flow and to silence the media that it considers unfriendly.

These and other issues GRReporter discussed with the Greek writer and publisher Petros Papasarantopoulos.

Mr. Papasarantopoulos, about a week ago it was announced that passersby on the street outside the government residence Maximou in Athens would be searched. Do you consider this a sign of a primary form of authoritarian rule?

I think that there are clear signs of a tendency towards authoritarianism on the part of the current Greek government. They are not only the search of passersby outside  the residence but also a series of other actions, such as the attempt to cancel the powers of the independent administrative authorities, the attempt to impose a state control over the media, the attempt to appoint heads of the judiciary persons who are close to the government.

All of these are signs of a tendency to authoritarianism. They are combined with the appointment of friends, acquaintances, relatives and party members to key positions in the state apparatus in the absence of any expertise.

It is claimed that the first signs appeared even during the term of the first SYRIZA government last year, for example, with the formation of a truth committee on the Greek public debt by former parliament speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou. How would you comment on this?

I have the feeling that the coalition cabinet of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks wanted to monopolize power from the outset. I recall statements by leading figures and the Prime Minister himself, indicating that "we have the government but not the power." This is a classic Leninist position.

Thus, they began trying to seize the state as early as last year, to say it figuratively. These attempts have recently intensified, the culmination being the attempt to silence the unfriendly media to the government.

The amendment to the law on granting licences to private televisions was voted on last Thursday, transferring the power to issue them entirely into the hands of the Minister of State. How would you comment on this as well as on the claim that the amendment was not adopted to be applied but to impose pressure on the media?

From technical standpoint, my opinion is that this law is not relevant in terms of its compliance with the Constitution and it will soon be cancelled.

Furthermore, it is clear that it is an attempt for patronage over the unfriendly media to the government, for granting licences to persons who are close to the government because they will be much more susceptible to the government line.

I would also like to note that the systemic television and radio stations may have opposed SYRIZA as a political expression, but they are largely responsible for the dissemination of the party agenda among Greek society. This is because they have adopted populism and created an environment that has allowed SYRIZA to have popular beliefs and convictions.

Therefore, the media are anything but innocent. However, this does not mean that they should be silent regarding the manner in which the government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks wants this to happen.

Obviously, the government is unable to cope with the refugee crisis. How would you comment on the current situation, especially considering the fact that several ministers are openly speaking of the probability of Greece being excluded from the Schengen area?

The refugee crisis is a very complex issue. But let us consider what is fundamental in it, starting with two figures. In 2014, Greece had 45,000 registered refugees whereas in 2015 they were 850,000, i.e. about 20 times more.

Each policy is evaluated based on its results. Both figures show that the SYRIZA government not only has failed to tackle this complex problem but it has also deteriorated it in order to use it as a means of pressure against our European partners. This policy of blackmailing, namely to receive all refugees, to invite them to come to Greece and send them to the west has apparently provoked reactions on the part of the European partners. As a result, now there is an apparent probability of hundreds of thousands of refugees being blocked in Greece for an unknown period of time. I.e. an irresponsible policy is added to the existing humanitarian tragedy, which was summarized in the statement of former Deputy Minister for Migration Tasia Christodoulopoulou that refugees were sunbathing in Omonia Square and then disappeared. This irresponsible policy on the part of SYRIZA is the reason for the dozens of victims in the Aegean Sea. This is something that history will judge very strictly.

Currently, wanting to break the wave of refugees without having to co-ordinate the steps with the Greek side, Europe is moving its borders to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria. As a result, Greece is actually one foot outside the Schengen area. I would not be surprised if we officially find ourselves outside it, which would mean that we would be on the verge of leaving the Euro zone (Grexit) in my opinion.

The government is defined as extremely inconsistent in terms of economic policy. From the support for the "I do not pay" movement while in opposition, it has turned to over-taxation. Is this the policy that should be expected from a left government as it defines itself?

I think it is ridiculous to talk about a left government when it comes to a national-populist formation with a red-brown face. I am saying this because SYRIZA and Independent Greeks are now very much alike.

Apparently, this government is unable to govern because whatever measure it takes the memories in connection with its election promises immediately come to the surface. And they were in the opposite direction. As a result, the government is based on a mix of inconsistencies and lies, which however cannot produce policies.

This government fires at its feet every day. For precisely this reason, I would forecast that its collapse is a matter of a few weeks. Of course, the problem is what will happen from this point onwards.

Under these circumstances, it is meaningless to assess the economic policy of the government because it does not exist. The logic of the government is to launch a tax offensive on the economically active population not to reduce pensions. This leads to a deadlock because it is caused by the underlying mistake that when the economy of a country is collapsing, it is not possible for pensions to remain unchanged.

Recently, protests by different social groups have become more frequent. Are their demands fair however?

I do not know whether the farmers' demands are fair or not because the issue requires specialized knowledge in connection with the agricultural policy and I am not aware of it.

What I do know is that the logic of imposing one's own will and violence, which SYRIZA cultivated in the past and is now enduring, cannot be tolerated in a constitutional state. Even if farmers are within their right, the way they have preferred to fight for it, namely by roadblocks and scenes of destruction outside the buildings of ministries, is depriving them of it.

Unfortunately, we are facing the following strange and sad phenomenon: while the political violence that I systematically explore was the privilege of political extremes (extreme right and extreme left) until recently, it has now socialized. Led by farmers, the broad social strata perceive as their legal right to invade SYRIZ’s offices, block up their doors with bricks, set fire to the party flags and posters. I am categorically and unconditionally against these practices.

Those who are not opposing them, chewing over various hints, are the affected SYRIZA representatives themselves. For example, on occasion of the attack with Molotov bombs against the house of State Minister Alekos Flambouraris a few ago, the communication of SYRIZA stated the following: "We condemn the attack and continue the fight against the vicious ties and interests." Did the vicious ties and anonymous interests throw the bombs? The attackers were the far left storming groups that SYRIZA is hesitant to convict even today, when it is a victim of their violence.

What are your impressions of the 1st month of Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the head of New Democracy? Is this opening a new page in the development of the centre-right political space? Are the hopes of wider circles of Greek society associated with him justified?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis unexpectedly was elected leader. Nobody believed that he had a serious chance of being elected. He began his campaign as an outsider, mostly because his reformist rhetoric was not particularly typical of the supporters and followers of New Democracy.

Unexpectedly, this identity of his aroused hopes in a much wider space, driving citizens who do not belong ideologically to New Democracy to vote for him and ultimately to nominate him a leader. That has been the only positive event in our country in recent months, because it is raising hopes for the existence of a serious alternative to the national populism of SYRIZA.

How do you assess the situation in the centre-left space?

Now it is torn apart, debased and hopeless. Its social base proved inferior to the circumstances. It was weighed, measured and found to be insufficient.

From 44% in the elections in October 2009, PASOK has collapsed to 4-5%. The vast majority of the social strata that supported the centre-left space passed over to SYRIZA because it believed the populist sirens.

This shows that the political reconstruction of the space is an extremely difficult task. On the one hand, because of the lack of large social groups to support it and on the other, because the leaders of the existing formations PASOK and Potami seem trapped in their own traps and in the logic of their own survival during elections.

In theory, the centre-left space can be easily reorganized by making everything from scratch, namely through a founding congress on the example of the French Socialist Party and electing a leader and the managing body by its members and supporters. As I said, everything from scratch, so that this space can become a reliable partner of the pro-European conservative New Democracy party and a serious alternative to the government of the country in the future.

Do you share the concerns of some analysts that if what you have described does not happen, there is a great probability of SYRIZA occupying the centre-left political space for years?

SYRIZA will collapse. This party does not have the anthropogeography that would enable it to make a social-democratic proposal. Just that part of citizens who feel closer to social democracy will spread to the other political spaces. If the Greek social democracy does not organize itself in a short time, it will disappear from the political map as a major political factor for several decades.

Previously you forecast that the government would fall within weeks and expressed concern over what might follow. What do you see happening in the coming months?

Things are so complex that it is very difficult to make a clear forecast. I still believe that the most likely scenario is for SYRIZA to collapse over the next few weeks. If this happens, I do not see how this composition of the parliament could form a credible government. Therefore, the most likely scenario is for SYRIZA’s self-dissolution to be followed by new parliamentary elections, which however will be accompanied by all the dangers for the country brought by this option.

Tags: PoliticsSYRIZAIndependent GreeksGovernment authoritarianismSilencing the mediaSocial protestsPetros Papasarandopoulos
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