The latest elections are the last chance for Greece’s established political parties, says former Greek Foreign Minister, Dimitrios Droutsas, in a DW-interview. He calls for a reconstruction of the state apparatus.
DW: Mr Droutsas, what's your dominant feeling? Are you relieved that the radical left (Syriza) has not won a majority, or are you concerned that it will be difficult to form a stable government because of the narrow majority held by Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy)?
Dimitrios Droutsas: It was a narrow result, as expected. But I think it was nonetheless a clear message by the Greek people that they want to stay in the eurozone. And it's a clear mandate for the new government to do everything that's necessary. It's not going to be easy for the new government because the Coaltion of the Radical Left (Syriza) has already announced that they are going to stay in opposition. There are concerns that Syriza will continue with their aggressive opposition politics. That's not going to make life easier for the new government.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras belongs to the political elite that has been blamed for decades of mismanagement. This elite has lost the trust of the Greek population. And still, the conservatives and Samaras came out with a narrow victory. What's your assessment of that?
The established political elite is responsible for the misery the country is in. That's especially true for the political mentality they've created over the past three and a half decades. Voters showed the established parties their resentment both on Sunday and at the elections six weeks ago. The country is truly in a deep crisis. Somebody has to get the necessary reform measures underway. Greek voters have now given their trust to the conservative party New Democracy - albeit with a heavy heart. I believe that most Greeks didn't vote for them with deep conviction, but many people believe it's the last chance for their country - and incidentally also the last chance for the established political parties.
In your opinion, what does Samaras have to do first to get Greece back on track?
There is a real need for reform. First of all the state apparatus has to be completely reconstructed. You can't implement structural reforms without a functioning and efficient state apparatus. I have my very own bitter tale to tell from my two-and-a-half years in the government of former Prime Minister George Papandreou. Papandreou was somebody who started off with an absolute will to introduce deep structural reforms. But we couldn't get them to work because the opposition was against it, and also because our own state apparatus was not in a position to implement such reforms swiftly and efficiently.
Antonis Samaras belongs to the old political elite, and his party, the conservative New Democracy, is definitely at least partly responsible for the current misery. But Samaras is now forced to take an active part in building up a new political system. Should this attempt fail, then I believe this new government would not be in office for long, and then the Greek population would feel even more resentment.
Samaras will want to renegotiate the bailout package. If Greece shows a willingness to implement reforms, then it looks like the EU may even consider concessions. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, said Greece should get more time to pay back the loans. Is that the right approach in your opinion?
Europe has to accept that the program for Greece was wrong. It was too much to ask of Greece and the country was given too little time. And so the program had too much of a punishment character for the Greek people. Nobody questions the need for measures, but we need to find a different balance. Above all, Greece needs more time so that the measures can actually be implemented and can produce results. The social pressure on the people in Greece, who are suffering, has to be lifted a little.
Just a few percentage points, and the head of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, would have been given the mandate to form a government. Nobody knows whether he is a man who could keep Greece in the eurozone. Is the result of the elections really a victory for Europe, like the winner Samaras proclaimed?
Mr Tsipras is a big question mark. What would he and his party have done if the Radical Left had won the elections? I believe that things are never as bad as they seem. As far as domestic politics is concerned we have always heard very extreme rhetoric from him and his party colleagues. But we have also heard mild tones from him when he was sitting down with international partners. So I can only guess what Tsipras would have done if he'd have been elected. I have the feeling he wouldn't have acted as extremely as he made it look before the elections. You mustn't forget this: More than 80 percent of the Greek population have publicly stated again and again that they want to stay in the eurozone and that they're willing to do everything it takes. And that's something Mr Tsipras would have had to take into consideration.
Dimitrios Droutsas is a member of the European Parliament and of Greece's Socialist Pasok party. The 56-year-old was Greece's Foreign Minister between September 2010 and June 2011.
Interview: Ralf Bosen / nh
Editor: Joanna Impey