Alexis Tsipras no longer has the best interests of the Greek people in mind, but rather the survival of his Syriza party. Fear lurks behind the scenes, writes Spiros Moskovou.
Something is rotten in the state of Greece. In early February, Greece's freshly elected populist government promised to keep the country in the eurozone, while at the same time negotiating socially acceptable repayment conditions with international investors.
It is now the end of June and the government has ordered Greek banks temporarily closed and initiated capital controls. Desperate pensioners stand in line to withdraw cash from often empty ATMs. The situation has spun totally out of control. Despite that fact, the government is organizing a referendum for this coming Sunday in hopes of legitimizing its failed tactics - the government accounting office estimates the cost of the referendum will be around 110 million euros ($124 million).
A strange understanding of democracy
At this dramatic final hour, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has articulated an understanding of the democratic process that is utterly baffling to other European democracies. On Monday evening, in a lengthy interview with ERT1, Greece's main public television channel, he proclaimed something truly absurd: If Greek citizens vote "yes" to accepting the demands of creditors, he will respect the result of the referendum, but will not implement the plan.
However, if a majority vote "no," rejecting the demands - a result for which the government has mobilized all of its rhetorical arsenal - he feels that Athens would then have a strong hand in further negotiations.
Thus, before voters have even gone to the polls, their inexperienced prime minister - who consistently refers to his popular mandate - has announced that he will not respect the will of the people in Sunday's referendum, if it isn't to his liking. On the other hand, should the Greeks vote as Tsipras hopes they will, he intends to use the referendum as a weapon against creditors in the ongoing negotiations that he himself walked out of last week.
A dilettante becomes a fateful figure
Infantile amateurs now have the say in a country that has long prided itself as being "the cradle of democracy." The otherwise so charming prime minister is not working in the best interests of the people, but simply for the political survival of his party. Just like the established parties that he railed against as a candidate - and that were so brutally punished in January's election - the ones that had been sailing towards this bankruptcy for decades.
Yes, by all estimation, Alexis Tsipras, who has become a fateful figure for Greece and possibly the entire European Union, talks pure nonsense. Yet that image is misleading. Greeks tend to swagger when they are scared and agony is spreading behind the facade of the prime minister's palace.
Behind closed doors, ministers have begun to urge a change of course, and on Monday a group of Syriza's European parliamentarians distanced themselves from the official party line. On Tuesday evening Athenians marched in demonstrations under the motto, "We want Europe!" Representing a last, homemade chance at another, better Greece.
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