Today, Greece’s new government was officially formed after the Greek president Karolos Papoulias handed a mandate to Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza and winner of the elections.
“Hope is what wrote history today. Citizens gave me a powerful andstrong command. Greece leaves behind the strategy of austerity and destruction. Greece and Greeks must find their lost dignity. The country will move with dignity into a new era. A new era for the whole Europe,” Tsipras mentioned during his first speech after winning the elections yesterday.
Syriza, an anti-austerity left-wing political party, managed to receive 36.34% of the total vote which equals to 149 seats out of 300 in the Greek parliament; however an absolute majority was only 2 seats away for Syriza. This result forced Syriza to form a coalition government which consists of Syriza and Independent Greeks (Anel), which received 4.75% of the total vote and 13 seats in the parliament.
“I want to say, simply, that from this moment, there is a government,” Panos Kammenos, leader of Anel, told reporters gathered outside Syriza’s headquarters, which he visited this morning in order to discuss with Tsipras the possibility of joining the new government.
For Greece it is one of the most vital and historical moments after the political changeover, as none of the two traditionally leading political parties, New Democracy (2nd) or Pasok (7th), managed to win the elections this time, after decades of governing.
“Finally, Greeks voted for something different. I would like to congratulate every Greek citizen that voted for an unconventional political party. Electing a left-wing party is something unprecedented for Greece. New Democracy’s percentage in the elections was still pretty high and it is stupid to complain for the country’s situation since we vote for the same people again and again,” John Harhas, an 18 year old Greek voter said.
But the Greek future is still uncertain as the new government will consist of two anti-memorandum political parties that have, besides their consensus upon the memorandum, major ideological differences.
The new prime minister already promised during his political campaign that the first thing he will do is to end “the five years of austerity, humiliation and pain” and that he will re-negotiate the Greek bailout with Europe. It is not clear though if the other European leaders and the International Monetary Fund will be willing to negotiate about the Greek debt and how they will face the new government.
“We all want a Greece that stays on its feet, creating jobs and growth, reducing inequality, and a Greece that repays its debt,” Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economics and finance, told reporters during today’s visit in Brussels for a meeting of euro group finance ministers.
The old scenario of a GREXIT, the possibility for Greece to leave the Euro zone, is being discussed again. Experts from all over the world rush to give their opinions about this possibility. For Greeks, GREXIT is a well-used scenario by previous governments in order to control and blackmail people every time new austerity measures were about to be taken and present themselves as saviors one more time.
“An exit by Greece or any other country in crisis would be a disaster for Europe. This is something that deep down everyone knows,” Tsipras told an audience of officials and academics during a conference at the University of Texas in 2013. Today he remains faithful to his statement.
Despite Mr. Tsipras’ statements, since the former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ announced the Greek elections in December, the euro has been continuously falling against the US dollar which means that the political uncertainty of Greece is affecting Europe’s economy. And the question is still unanswered. Will the new anti-austerity Greek government lead to a political and economic tsunami for the whole Euro zone or will it lead to Europe’s new era as Tsipras calls it?
The whole political campaign of Syriza was based on setting a new era for Greeks by fighting unemployment and austerity. However, the measures that the new government will take in order to move to that new era and fulfill its promises are still unknown, as during its political campaign Syriza focused on opposing New Democracy’s statements that Syriza will lead the country to bankruptcy, instead of explaining its strategy and solutions regarding the economic crisis.
Despite Syriza’s promises about a better future, there are numerous Greek citizens that fear the future, as the country is still waiting for the next bailout of 7 billion euros, which it needs in order to keep running, pay its debts and avoid a possible bankruptcy. That means that the new government has little time to negotiate.
“The crisis will not end soon. Since, most of the young people have moved abroad and Greece is now a country dominated by pensioners I don’t know if we can get out of the crisis soon. It is difficult. And I am not afraid about myself, because I know how to fight. I am and I will be concerned though about my children’s future,” Tzeni Zaxou, a 50 year old voter from Greece, said.
“I believe that we can’t talk about anti-austerity in a country with such big debts. The new government has to prove with actions what it promised before the elections. We have tried other governments and failed. Let’s wait to see what the new one will do. However, the next day is still uncertain and fear and liquidity prevails among Greeks. I hope for the best for the country and its citizens,” Konstantinos Mpalntidis, a 24 year old voter from Greece, said.
In addition, the results of the last elections brought the Golden Dawn, a far-right political party, up to third place again, despite the fact that many of its members are imprisoned since 2013. As the Golden Dawn received almost the same percentage as in 2012’s elections, it seems that the party has strong and passionate followers. It received 6.82% of the total vote and 17 seats which increases more fears about Greece’s future, as the rise of right-wing extremists is a phenomenon that surfaced during the economic crisis in Greece and also concerns many European countries today.
“There are people in this country who know what war and occupation means, but the young people don’t seem to know,” Greek journalist Alexis Papahelas said about Golden Dawn’s percentage.
“History has shown how far can fascists go and how harmful they are,” Harhas said.
“The Golden Dawn in the third position, only sadness can cause in a country that established democracy,” Mpalntidis said.
After all, it is becoming more and more visible that we are not talking only about an economic crisis in Greece but a crisis of democratic values. The country that gave birth to democracy should take a step back and re-think what democracy means for it. Maybe this is the only way for Greece to solve its problems and look forward to the next anti-austerity day.
By Valia Papadopoulou