I know it is terrible of me, but I tend to root for anarchy. Let’s face it. Anarchy is great to watch on TV. Specifically, other people’s anarchy is fun to watch on TV. The Ferguson riots were entertaining, in part, because I don’t live anywhere near Missouri. Similarly, seeing Greece once again descend into anarchy promises to deliver some good entertainment.
Within minutes of the Athens parliament failing to elect a president, Alexis Tsipras, the man most likely to become Greece’s next prime minister, said the country had experienced “a historic day”.
For the first time since the foundation of the modern Greek state nearly 200 years ago, radical leftists – marginalised, tortured and tormented for the best part of the 20th century – were on course to assume power. “Greeks,” he said, “should rejoice.” The government that had put the country through an assault course of austerity would soon be over.
The onerous terms of the deeply unpopular “memoranda”, agreed with foreign lenders to keep insolvent Greece afloat, would be overturned.
“The future has already begun,” he told reporters as the nation braced for early elections, a constitutional diktat when presidential polls fail. “You should be optimistic and happy.”
I love how the lunatics at the Guardian always carry on like their ideas have never been tried. You see the same stuff in US papers. Greece may not have allowed hair-on-fire crazies like Tsipras to run the government, but Greece has been a social-democracy since World War 2. That’s why they have been a basket case economically for fifty years. That and they are full of Greeks.
But the prospect of renewed political turmoil in the country where the eurozone crisis began will bring anything but a smile to the faces of decision makers in Brussels and Berlin. Greece, ineluctably, is being drawn into a new dance of uncertainty, a rollercoaster ride of high-pressure politics.
After six years of recession, the nation is only now beginning to show the first signs of recovery, posting a primary surplus – before interest payments on its mountain of debt – and returning to the capital markets that cut off funding at the start of the crisis.
But the country cannot survive alone. And market reaction to Monday’s news was instantly pessimistic, with the Athens Stock exchange plummeting by more than 10 percent.With bailout funds guaranteed to the end of February but far from assured after that, the spectre of Greece defaulting on its loans, and possibly crashing out of the eurozone, have been revived.
The reason Tsipras will be the next PM is the people have figured out that they can do just fine alone. If Greece leaves the Euro, the country will not sink into the ocean. They can default, print their own money and start over. They will have a year of turmoil, but then things will settle down and get back to normal. Greek bankers will be screwed, but they deserve it. Therefore, the threats from Germany about expulsion carry no force. The Greeks have nothing to fear from the Eurocrats.
On the other hand, the Euro lives on the belief that walking away from it is the end of the world. If Greece leaves the Euro and survives, the stronger nations like Spain, Italy and Portugal will get crazy ideas in their heads. If Greece thrives, then Europe is doomed, at least as currently constructed. The fact the Russia will be right there to help the Greeks should not be missed either.
Athens faces debt repayments of up to €20bn (£15.6bn) in 2015. On Monday the Greek finance minister, Gikas Hardouvelis, said local banks had enough funds to survive until March but unless further financial assistance was agreed they would enter into the uncharted waters of non-liquidity after that. This makes an effectively rudderless Athens in the run-up to elections on 25 January more daunting for the “troika” of creditors at the EU, ECB and IMF.
“What we are looking at is a Greece in crisis,” said Dimitris Keridis, professor of political science at Panteion University. “The first party will be Syriza but the elections may well be inconclusive. And then, once a government is formed, it will have a few weeks to elect a new president and negotiate with the troika.”
The radical leftists wasted no time, announcing that Tsipras would hold his first pre-election speech in central Athens on Monday night. The result of the presidential poll indicated the thirst, at least on a political level, for new beginnings. Opinion polls at the weekend confirmed Syriza’s popularity among a population exhausted by austerity.
An Alco poll published in Proto Thema on Sunday showed the neo-Marxists leading by 3.3%.
Many supporters are neither leftist, nor admirers of Syriza’s anti-capitalist rhetoric, but Greeks appalled by the catastrophic effects of policies that have left 1.5 million unemployed, 3 million facing poverty and the vast majority unable to pay their bills.
The party has pledged to fight such ills – referred to as Greece’s silent humanitarian crisis – by renegotiating the bailout accords that have propped up the economy to the tune of €240bn.
“Solution to Greece’s problems lies within the European context but the first thing we will say is that the programme has failed because it was badly planned and didn’t see the pitfalls that were coming,” said Euclid Tsakalotos, Syriza’s shadow finance minister. “Then we will address the priorities of austerity and debt.”
It will be interesting to watch this unfold. The Russians have already made friends with Tsipras and his people. They would love to use Greece to make trouble for Europe. Tsipras may be a lunatic, but he appears to be a clever lunatic. He will surely try to play the Germans and Russians against one another. That’s the oldest trick in the book. Tsakalotos is clearly signalling their intention to end the existing deal and arrangements first and talk about new agreements. That will make for some good times in 2015.