The euroskeptics may not have finished first in Greece’s parliamentary elections. But international donors mustn’t underestimate them and their new-found strength, says Spiros Moskovou.
For the first time in a very long period, there is a sense of relief in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. After Sunday's parliamentary elections, the majority of seats in the parliament in Athens are now held by those parties which want Greece to stay in the eurozone and which want to continue the course of austerity measures and structural reforms. Conservative party Nea Dimokratia (ND), led by Antonis Samaras, came in first. ND are likely to form a coalition with Socialist party Pasok, led by Evangelos Venizelos. Many blame the two formerly catch-all parties for driving the country into ruin with decades of irresponsible policy-making. Now they have the task of reviving Greece.
It's by no means an easy task. Greece is currently dependent on financial help from its international donors, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. Both ND and Pasok have promised to renegotiate the conditions that are attached to the bailout. But there's little room for movement. Not because the donors are so tough - what many Greeks tend to believe - but because Greece's partners are skeptical of the politicians in Athens. Over the last three years, Greek politicians of all hues have introduced massive cuts in pay for employees and for pensioners, but they have done little to implement the necessary structural reforms or to curb tax evasion. Now ND and Pasok want to change that.
Between donors and own people
The new Greek government has to do a difficult balancing act. After all the delay and stagnation of recent years it now has to prove its determination to reconstruct the country quickly. At the same time, the politicians are faced with a highly insecure Greek population who are simply not prepared for the massive rebuilding of Greece's common weal. They will not give their support to fresh measures unless they see some sign of hope that the situation will improve sometime soon. Against this background it's of course positive to note that not just the government in Paris, but also the government in Berlin have lately come to understand that a policy of austerity measures in the southern eurozone stands no chance if it is not accompanied by a program to stimulate growth.
Many Greeks voiced their feelings of resentment by giving their vote to Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, which came second in Sunday's elections. There are doubts that its leader, the new star of Greek politics, Alexis Tsipras, will manage to lead a constructive opposition in parliament. Until three years ago, his party was small, now it has received 27 percent of the votes. Tsipras wanted to stop all bailout contracts, halting also the politics of austerity. Europeans are relieved that Syriza did not come out as the strongest party. But in its role as a new power, Syriza will not hesitate to demonstrate its new-found strength, both against the new government and on the streets. The new Greek government is not in an enviable position. On the contrary: it's faced with a truly Herculean task.
Author: Spiros Moskovou / nh
Editor: Joanna Impey