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Greeks Bearing Debts
Syriza’s Democracy Deficit?

In the face of rising opposition, the Greek Prime Minister is considering foregoing niceties such as democratic consent for the new extension of the Eurogroup bailout package. According to Open Europe:

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will decide in the next 48 hours whether to allow the Greek parliament to vote on the extension of the country’s financial assistance programme, following concerns about dissent in his own party. In a vote held behind closed doors, up to 30 Syriza MPs voted against the extension, though a rebellion in an actual vote would unlikely be as large, according to Kathimerini.

But dissent isn’t confined just to the polite corridors of Parliament. As The Financial Times reports:

In the Greek capital on Thursday night several hundred hardline leftists marched to parliament to demonstrate against the Syriza government’s new agreement with international lenders. […]

The protest, organised by the far-left Antarsyia party, turned violent when groups of demonstrators began throwing petrol bombs and attacked stores in a luxury shopping street.

It was the first anti-government protest since Syriza took office after a snap general election last month.

Syriza’s solutions have not always been the most realistic, to put it politely. But until it caved to Brussels last week, the party’s critique of why extending the bailouts would be a bad idea—in large part because such a decision had almost no support among the Greek people, and so would endanger democracy—was mostly sound.

Syriza was elected because the main Greek parties had exhausted the confidence of the people. If Syriza (which until recently had 70+ percent approval ratings—an indicator of their success, yes, but also everyone else’s failure) leaves the Greeks feeling excluded from vital decisions about their future as well, then the only parties for them to turn may be the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn or true leftist radicals. Tsipras and his party, having stared into the fiscal abyss, might feel they have good reasons to have taken the course they did. But if so, they urgently need to share them with—and gain the consent of—the Greek people and their representatives.

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  • gabrielsyme

    It’s very unclear what exactly Syriza thought they were attempting to do: truly negotiate an anti-austerity bailout package, or find the time and context to do what they really want – exit the Euro, nationalise the banking system and otherwise advance the socialist cause. I wouldn’t be surprised if the leadership had already kept half the party onside by intimating they were intending to take the second option already, and with the failure of the first option, a radical break may be the only viable political option left for Syriza.

    Syriza doesn’t have a massive Parliamentary majority, and would not be able to survive the loss of their left wing, which will inevitably occur if they become just another manager of austerity. Another shoe is about to drop.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Perhaps Syriza merely failed in their attempt to bluff the Germans?

      • gabrielsyme

        Even if this was the case, the failure of this gambit puts Syriza in an untenable position. It cannot survive as a more complaining version of the PASOK & ND austerity-manager governments it succeeded. The logic of its political situation (and Greece’s economic position) will press it to a radical solution – which is undoubtedly what a large faction of its caucus has always wanted.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Not necessarily.
          First, the bluff may have been nothing more than a tactical error (never assume conspiracy, when stupidity will suffice), with Syriza’s leadership simply assuming that the Germans would fold. A slightly more clever explanation might be that the bluff was an gesture to the more centrist wing of the coalition, with the understanding that they would eventually have to go to the mattresses anyway. If this is the case, they are hardly in an untenable position, and in fact might be exactly where they want to be in the first place.

  • Kevin

    (Meant to reply to gabrielsyme below)
    True, unless they could get their center-right opposition to back the deal as the best Greece is likely to get (and a feeling they would not do better if new elections were called). In extremis the center-left part of Syriza (as opposed to the radical left) might even have to propose some sort of unity government to get a somewhat more stable majority – this might be even more appealing if the alternative seems to be anarchy on the streets.

    • gabrielsyme

      While these are perhaps conceivable outcomes, they strike me as being very low-probability. Even if Tsiparas and Varoufakis are simply muddling along, the prospect of losing their majority as radicals split off will likely force them to a radical break (assuredly including debt repudiation, capital controls, and possibly including withdrawal from the Eurozone and some kind of nationalisation of the banking system).

      Simply on a policy level, such a course has much to recommend it (let us not forget: Greece has lost 25% of its GDP since the crisis began, still has a massive debt burden, has a 25% unemployment rate and labours under a currency that is still too strong for the national economy). Rarely do the radical left have a chance at actually improving things while implementing some of their principles, but Greece is one such example.

  • Corlyss

    The Greeks want out if they can’t run the country the way they always have (a banana republic where the entire social structure would collapse if not for the hard wired corruption). They will go, one way or th other. The sooner they put an end to the misbegotten farce know as the EU and its jumped up faux currency, the better off we’ll all be!

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