In the mind of Mr. Tsipras
The dominance of Alexis Tsipras in the political scene is, at present, universally-acknowledged and undisputed…
The dominance of Alexis Tsipras in the political scene is, at present, universally-acknowledged and undisputed. After three electoral showdowns in 2015, he rules the political scene having both cleared out the front within his party, as well as his relationship with the Greek people.
Those who openly challenged the Prime Minister made their position clear, left SYRIZA, established their own party, claimed the people’s vote and ultimately failed to enter Parliament.
The Greek people cast their vote with the measures of the third bailout on the table and ultimately made their choice without many reservations. Nobody has the right to claim to have been deceived or otherwise. Everyone knew what was coming and selected Mr. Tsipras as the most suitable to implement the agreement with the partners and creditors.
Opposition caught in a vortex
Along with winning the elections, Mr. Tsipras managed to put the opposition parties in a vortex. New Democracy is seeking out a new leader and is being rocked by inter-party clashes, along with a strategy crisis, as it is trapped by its support for the bailout agreement, which it sought out and demanded at all cost. Irrespective of who is chosen as a new leader, the party must reposition itself and start from scratch, if it wants to create a surplus of trust that is capable of reinstating it as a powerful main opposition party.
The return to an anti-bailout rhetoric will expose it as completely unreliable. New Democracy is forced by the circumstances and its previous positions to pursue a European course, it must support the reforms and criticize the government when it swerves off course. Its new leadership must find a balance to win back the hearts of the people.
The smaller parties too – Mrs. Gennimata‘s PASOK, The River of Mr. Theodorakis and the newcomers Union of Centrists led by Mr. Leventis – are also facing a similar crisis, as they are either flirting or being pressured by their voters to support Mr. Tsipras’ efforts, something which is obviously seeking out himself.
From Mr. Tsipras’ stance and what emerges from private conversations, it appears that he is treating the smaller Center Left parties as potential allies in a difficult moment, should his alliance with Mr. Kammenos‘ Independent Greeks go “sour”.
The Prime Minister is clearly trying to set the greater Center Left under his control, to dominate it and become its undisputed long-term leader.
As his own people say, he has demonstrated his special abilities on the political chessboard and his political patricides are highly valued. So far he has “killed” three fathers (Alavanos, Kouvelis and Lafazanis) and one grandfather, Manolis Glezos. What is there to stop him from “swallowing up” Fofi, Stavros and Leventis, complacently ask those who drink wine in his name.
PASOK of our future
In one respect, Mr. Tsipras is building the PASOK of our future, a broad party which will dominate the Greek political scene for many years. Without a doubt, he wants to create the conditions to revive a new polarization between the Center Left and the Center Right, with him dominating the former.
He estimates, God and people willing, that he has at least 20 years of active participation in the political world and is making his preparations.
However much all the above may sound conceited, at present the country’s political world is revolving around Mr. Tsipras.
The mandate he received from the Greek people is fresh, he has received a vote of confidence in Parliament, the path is clear and he has all the time to himself at least until the summer of 2016.
The Prime Minister is essentially racing against himself, with the inefficiencies of his government and the strength, obviously, of the Greek people.
Those closely following the government activities underline that the government’s coordination and overlooking the implementation of the agreement with the partners and creditors rely on him.
Mr. Tsipras has personally committed to the Eurozone leaders and has been directly told that to enjoy the benefits of the must implement everything to which he has agreed.
The relevant statement of French President Francois Hollande, that the readjustment of the debt require the full implementation of what has been agreed, is particularly telling.
Up to now though, Mr. Tsipras is constantly providing assurances that the agreement will be implemented at all cost. He said the same in Parliament, during the debate over the government’s policy statements, as he did in the USA. However, his ministers are not distinguished for their preparation to implement what has been agreed.
There are already delays and in certain cases a lack of understanding. The new government is admittedly better than the previous one, however the administrative and other type of inefficiencies persist and ultimately threaten the government’s efficiency and cohesion.
Mr. Tsipras will soon be faced with the inefficiencies of his ministers and will have to take his measures in time, by introducing experienced people in his administration, who have demonstrated their ability and efficiency at managing emergency situations like the one we are experiencing.
Without a prompt improvement of the financial circumstances he will loose his current advantage and will be caught between the creditor demands and the reactions of the people.
In this respect, Mr. Tsipras has a major and absolutely decisive challenge ahead of him. He is aware after all that if he implements the agreement he will facilitate that bank recapitalization, ensuring him better terms for the financing of the Greek economy from the European Central Bank and will be in a better position to use the stagnant investment resources from the European funds. At the same time he will address the fears of the international markets and investors, be treated by the credit agencies and manage to lift the capital controls quicker and thus normalize the financial circumstances.
The political cost and time
In this case though, Mr. Tsipras will pay off the political cost that stems from the agreement, gain valuable time and with an improving economy he will manage to face the consequences of the recession and his government the people’s expected disappointment.
Truth be told, when the tax office starts sending out its bills, Mr. Tsipras’ government will be scrutinized and will have to face social critique and demonstrations.
Not a single government which voted for the bailouts and introduced tax measures managed to escape the wrath of the people. Mr. Tsipras and his government are no exception.
However, he has the opportunity and the time. If he stabilizes, controls and liberates the economy from the major crisis, he will have the time to mitigate the negative impressions of the third bailout.
If not though, if he comes to blows with the creditors and derails the economy again, then both his government and hegemonic plans will collapse.
Originally published in the Sunday print edition