Coming soon. Another Greek election
By Alberto Mingardi
Greek Prime Minister Mr Tsipras has resigned, and so Greece is heading off to elections in September. As The Wall Street Journal reports,
Elections offer Mr. Tsipras the chance to expel the rebels from Syriza and return to office as head of a more cohesive party. Greek and European policy officials hope that such an outcome could improve Mr. Tsipras’s ability to pass painful retrenchment measures and keep the bailout loans flowing.
We had Greek elections in January. Back then, Mr Tsipras emerged as the new prime minister leading Syriza, a coalition of extreme left wing movements, to electoral victory. Most recently Mr Tsipras called people to the ballot box in July, for a referendum over the deal with the European Union then under discussion. Mr Tsipras eventually signed a bail-out agreement, in spite of the victory of the “no” at the referendum. In a few weeks, he had to face another referendum, this time within his own party.
All in all, it seems Mr Tsipras is far less of an extremist than he looked in January, when he won office. He is calling elections to get rid of his internal opposition and reassert his own leadership. Note that he waited for the German Budenstag to ratify the Greek bailout.
This is however a bold game. Tsipras’s Party is credited with around 32/34% of the votes, according to the last opinion polls. This is far from a bad result, given the tenure of Mr Tsipras. But keep in mind that Greece has a proportional-representation electoral system, though “reinforced” with devices that ensure that the party which wins a plurality of votes cast is awarded an extra 50 seats. Even when they won elections in January, Tsipras and his party needed a coalition partner–from the extreme right–to govern. Is Tsipras going to renew that coalition, or will he attempt to establish a new one?
Generally speaking, political instability can hardly be good in this moment for Greece. Many read Tsipras as aiming to secure a stronger, relatively more moderate and reliable coalition to govern. His coup de theatre was generally appreciated by the international press, which seems convinced that Tsipras became a “man to do business with” for the creditors.
But are we sure he is? We won’t be necessarily applauding somebody that calls on elections to smash his opposition (though it is a very understandable conduct). Why should it be commendable, in the case of Tsipras? Hasn’t the mainstream press accepted his conversion from crackpot communist to “normal” social democrat too quickly? And what about the Greeks? They voted for Tsipras and Syriza in January not to swallow the Troika medicine – should now vote for them to do it?
Also, in the fall we’ll have elections in Portugal and Spain, too. Greece will precede them. What kind of scenario can another Tsipras victory help to materialize? Can we imagine a domino effect in these countries shifting to the left? Or, on the contrary, the fragility of Syriza will make the populist left all of the sudden a less attractive option?