Before the elections of 6 May, the most likely result seemed to be the formation of a government of New Democracy (conservatives) and PASOK (social democrats). However, the slogan for the “government of the Left”, which was brought in the political arena by Alexis Tsipras, led people to face SYRIZA not just as a force of protest, but as a party with a view to govern, offering a prospect of getting over the crisis. The results brought closer the realization of what seemed just as a good slogan.
Entering the final week before the elections, the mode in which the political conflict in Greece is carried out crystallizes the difference between the two main poles. On the one hand, New Democracy is the dominant power of the pro-Memorandum pole. On the other hand, SYRIZA is the strongest anti-Memorandum political force. It is quite characteristic that in last month’s elections, SYRIZA came first among private sector workers, civil servants, self-employed and unemployed, also in age groups up to 55 years old and in the largest urban centers. So, it presented a surprisingly strong acceptance from the most dynamic segments of Greek society. The presentation of the party’s positions has given even more momentum. Within the strong comparative advantages of SYRIZA is that for the citizens it represents a new political force, against the corrupted political personnel of the two (former) major parties. Currently, SYRIZA seems to be surfing on a big wave. This wave is the need of people for a Greek Renaissance, the desire to finally change something in this country, which has been governed by the same two parties since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974. The public may not know the details of SYRIZA’s program. The party, however, due to its steady anti-Memorandum position, whereby it refused to participate in a coalition government with the New Democracy and PASOK, seems to convince them that it consists the only real hope for a new political and moral progress in Greece. The hegemony that SYRIZA seems to achieve is such that the party gains people’s support, though they may not believe that it will apply all of what it says. But the hope of a rebirth is as strong as the need for it.
When sadness lays madness
New Democracy, on the other hand, proves itself completely unable to articulate a hopeful political proposal. This is both because it has accepted the political framework of the Memorandum, and that, due to the numerous changes of its leader’s stands, it has lost its credibility. Antonis Samaras talks about the need of “renegotiating” the Memorandum – in contrast to its “cancellation”, on which SYRIZA commits itself – that is to change some of its details. But what the party mainly offers is not vision, but fear. The basic – almost unique – New Democracy’s argument is that because of SYRIZA Greece will be expelled from the Eurozone. Since everyone had to admit that there is no legal possibility to drive off a country from the EMU against its will, New Democracy’s propaganda states that if a Greek government cancels the Memorandum, the country will not get any loans and will be forced to abandon EMU in order to have its own currency. So, the refusal of the Troika (EU, ECB, IMF) to accept the terms of a left government will have this effect. But when the representatives of New Democracy are asked what they would do in case the Troika will deny their own proposals for a renegotiation, they find a thousand ways to avoid answering.
New Democracy is experiencing a major impasse. So, they use any type of propaganda that can be based on fear. They circulate gray television ads which show, as a picture of the future, ten years old students to ask their teacher why Greece is out of the Eurozone (receiving allegations of unacceptable use of children) with the slogan “we do not gamble with the future of our children”. The Youth organization of the party has released an anonymous video where Alexis Tsipras is represented by an actor as a macho customer of an expensive restaurant who refuses to pay his bill and the waiters throw him out, with a clear message that if Greece fails to pay its debt, she will be kicked out of the EMU. But it is an extremely provocative and insulting advertisement, because we all know that the Greek people have been eating not at all luxurious in recent years. But this shows the absolute distance of the party’s political personnel from people’s needs. Up to panic, the leadership of New Democracy placed as head of its campaign a populist and (used to be) extremely popular politician, but who is now on trial for financial scandals.
As a result of all the fore mentioned, the leader of New Democracy uses any type of ridiculous excuses to refuse participating in a TV debate along with Alexis Tsipras, apparently realizing that this would cause the loss of all his chances for a victory in the elections. He also avoids organizing a public speech (an unprecedented situation for the political life of Greece) due to the fear that the attendance would be very small. At the same time, Alexis Tsipras gives public speeches in crowded square all over Greece, discussing the program of SYRIZA with citizens and answering their questions, sometimes for more than three hours!
So, a few days before the elections, in Greece a great struggle is being conducted between obedience and resistance, compromise and conflict, humiliation and dignity. A battle between fear and hope. Who do you think will be the winner in the end?