Opinion: Greek government change amid beach holiday | Opinion | DW | 08.07.2019
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Opinion

Opinion: Greek government change amid beach holiday

For the time being, the conservative victory in Greece's snap elections spells the end for Alexis Tsipras' "leftist revolution." The voters are disenchanted, argues DW's Spiros Moskovou.

"You don't want to ruin the people's beach holiday," Andreas Papandreou, a former socialist Greek prime minister, once warned in the 1980s when his advisers tried to persuade him to hold early elections in the middle of summer. Alexis Tsipras, the left-wing prime minister, ignored that political wisdom and called new elections during the main holiday season.

More than 40% of voters spurned the ballot boxes — and Tsipras and his Syriza governing party were voted out of office. With the greater number of votes by far, the conservative Nea Dimokratia's candidate, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, won a parliamentary majority.

The change of government in Greece, however, is not only due to the high summer temperatures. Well aware that a return to the pre-crisis era is impossible, voters in the crisis-ridden country are simply disillusioned. Tsipras was elected by a majority of Greeks in 2015 because he said he would "tear up" the austerity programs earmarked for the bankrupt country and dictate his wishes to the financial markets. Instead, after three elections within the span of a year, he agreed to a third rescue package with the country's international donors and continued his predecessors' austerity policies. The Left Revolution dwindled to handling the crisis in a Social Democratic manner.

Economic recovery was too slow 

The Tsipras government turned out to be the longest-lasting since 2010, when Greece asked its EU partners for support because it could no longer refinance itself in the markets. During Syriza's rule, Greece reverted to weak growth and, as expected, the third and final bailout program was completed in summer 2018. Athens can once again refinance itself, has saved up a small financial cushion and benefits from the revenues of a booming tourism sector.

In other words, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a rather moderate politician, is not taking over a country on the brink of the abyss.

All the same, people expect a lot from this representative of an old political dynasty. Greece is still being closely monitored by its donors and over the next few years, it will need stronger growth to achieve the agreed surplus. Unemployment has fallen from 26% to 18%, but is still the highest in the EU. The country urgently needs the investments that the left-wing Syriza party was unable to push forward because of its original aversion to the private sector. Nea Dimokratia — one of the parties that bear the main responsibility for the Greek crisis — must now prove to be a responsible force.

The party is not likely to touch Tsipras' greatest achievement: the agreement with North Macedonia to settle the decades-long anachronistic dispute over the neighboring country's name. While Mitsotakis has repeatedly criticized the agreement, saying he planned to renegotiate some parts, he is actually unlikely to do so, because even if he can lure the more "ethnically minded" voters with just that bit more patriotism than necessary, he would alienate the international community.

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