“Victory has many fathers, but defeat is an orphan,” as the saying goes. In the case of the national tragedy in Mati, the cause of defeat can be found among the members of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government. The fallout of the defeat is directly harming Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is experiencing the most difficult hours of his political career.
It is unclear whether the political climate can change with a series of government actions. These include the resignation of public order minister NikosToskas, the restructuring of the Civil Protection mechanism, and the impending, radical cabinet reshuffle, planned for after 15 August. Already, main opposition New Democracy has said that Toskas’ resignation will not suffice, and is too little too late.
The situation has been explosive over the past few days. Nothing was going well for the government, as Tsipras’ associates saw a void in the communications strategy, which has been a top priority of the government since it was first elected.
The tragedy destroyed the PM’s communications plans. Nothing went well from the first moment. Experts on crisis management noted that the communications and political management of the crisis was wrong.
That, as well as serious operational mistakes in confronting the crisis, shattered Tsipras’ leadership profile. The blow was so strong for the 44-year-old PM that it panicked him and his closest associates, as the game had already been lost in the very first hours of the crisis.
A series of mistakes in handling the crisis from the first moments created internal tumult in the government. The climate has still not changed, despite the efforts of the communications team and the assistance of external crisis management experts in trying to protect Tsipras and extricate the government from an extremely tough position.
Even Tsipras’ critics within SYRIZA say that the PM in this crisis revealed many weaknesses, with some even mulling scenarios of disputing his authority on the day after. The basic rules of crisis management were not followed, and one MP with broad foreign experience said that contemporary leaders must react much more swiftly, as the pressure is more rapid. That was not done in Mati, and Tsipras found himself cornered.
These observations are shared by many MPs. One long-time leftist cadre said that the PM “remained alone and abandoned in his office by his comrades”. That is unpardonable for Tsipras’ closest associates, who believe the time is not yet right to react to that abandonment.
Tensions in the PM’s office
Not since the July, 2015 referendum has there been such great tension, vitriolic leaks, and backstabbing. The events of the last two weeks showed that the term comradeship did not have a central position in SYRIZA’s vocabulary. The trend was that everyone was out for himself. After the initial shock, the focus remains on offering support to the PM, both politically and in terms of communications.
Inside sources told To Vima that at many meetings held in the PM’s office, the climate was heavy, and not without verbal disputes. Those were to be expected due to the pressure of the great crisis, tensions, and panic.
With Tsipras in the central role, there followed an operation to defuse tensions and to reorganise.