Syriza And Tsipras Win Again
NEW DELHI: Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has won a “clear mandate” in a second general election in less than nine months, securing more than 35 percent of the vote. Although short of a majority, the vote secures Syriza a coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks. Conservative New Democracy which won 28 percent of the vote. The far-right Golden Dawn was the third largest party with 7 percent.
The turnout for the elections was 55 percent, down from 63 percent in January and low by Greek standards. Nonetheless, the victory is significant, given the course of the Greek bailout deal and the fact that Tsipras had been abandoned by many members of the party over the course of negotiations as he caved into demands of austerity.
"Today in Europe, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity. This struggle will be continued together for a full four years," Tsipras told cheering crowds in Athens. "We have difficulties ahead of us but we also have a solid ground, we know where we can step, we have a prospect. Recovery from the crisis can't come magically, but it can come through tough work," he said.
The elections were called after Tsipras submitted his resignation in August, in a move to crush the opposition within Syriza and be elected with a new mandate. Nonetheless, the move was a gamble, and an indication that although a bailout deal had been reached on securing 86 billion-euros ($96 billion), the crisis was far from over.
The bailout deal was arrived at a month earlier in July, prompted by Germany taking a tough stand and offering Greece -- which had till then been trying to bargain and not budge on certain austerity demands, such as further pension cuts -- an ultimatum. Germany said that Greece could take a “time-out" from the eurozone if it failed to meet the conditions -- an offer that many said resembled a forced ejection.
The harsh demands that Greece finally agreed to included sequestration of Greek state assets to be sold off to pay down debt. Greek state assets worth up to 50 billion euros will be placed in a trust fund beyond the Greek government’s reach -- to be sold off with proceeds going directly to pay down debt. Greece also had to drop resistance to a full role for the International Monetary Fund in a proposed 86 billion euro ($95.78 billion) bailout, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared essential to win parliamentary backing in Berlin.
If a deal had not been reached, Greece would have been faced with shuttered banks on the brink of collapse and the prospect of having to print a parallel currency, with an eventual exit from the European Monetary Union.
With this, ironically, Greece -- which had rejected harsh austerity measures that would secure the $1.8bn in funds that it needed for a payment to the International Monetary Fund -- was subjected to even harsher terms.
Tsipras had put the matter to a historic vote, with over 60 percent of Greeks voting “Oxi” or no to the terms of an international bailout. Greece's governing Syriza party had campaigned for a "No", saying that the vote would give the country more leverage on the bargaining table.
Instead, Greece agreed in the form of “Yes” -- or rather, was forced to give in, with the new demands seemingly punishing the country for failing to accept the earlier terms. As nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, “ it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies… Many European leaders want to see the end of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate.”
What happened instead wasn’t the fall of Alexis Tsipras, but rather the re-election of Tsipras in a light more amenable to European leaders and their demands.
The Greek leader’s first task after forming a government will be to persuade Greece’s lenders that the country has taken enough steps to secure the next round of funds. The bailout programme is due for a review next month.