Greece’s coalition Government is in danger of coming apart. The general numbness, which followed the summer national elections, is giving way to renewed anger and despair. Faced with SYRIZA, the left-wing coalition that is again on the rise, the Government is certain to play the hand it knows best: Its Far-Right column will again take the lead, Augustine Zenakos says, and shift the focus to issues of “law and order”, “legality”, the “protection of democracy from extremists on all sides”, even “terrorism”.
New Democracy, the leading political party in Greece’s coalition Government, has taken on a form that would have appeared strange a few years ago. On the one hand, it is supported by the “modernizers” of the 1990s. These are the architects of Greece’s “European perspective”, traditionally identified with the left-of-center-come-neoliberal PASOK party, that has seen its strength crumbling ever since Giorgos Papandreou called in the IMF. Having come to political prominence in the era of Costas Simitis’s governments, who still exerts a strong personal influence, these people have been instrumental in holding up the web which interweaves the interests of major oligopolies in all financial sectors with the legislature, the judiciary and the Media. It is not that they are the only corrupt ones around, far from it. But they are the ones that through the 1990s consolidated corruption and upgraded it from a sort of provincial clientelism to a rationalized system of economy and government. These politicians are still in Berlin’s sphere of influence, and in that respect the current government headed by New Democracy can be seen in the same geopolitical light as the Simitis governments.
On the other hand, New Democracy is still a home to the populist, nationalistic Right, where in fact Prime Minister Antonis Samaras belongs, and retains its bonds with the Far-Right and fascist organizations. (Prominent New Democracy MPs come from the Ultra-Right party LAOS, which disintegrated after lending support to austerity policies, including the Parliamentary Spokesman Makis Voridis who at one time served as Youth Secretary of EPEN, a fascist party, succeeding in fact Nikos Michaloliakos, founder and General Secretary of neonazi Golden Dawn.)
This cohabitation of “modernizers”, who descend from Center-Left PASOK, and nationalist Rightists with strong bonds to the Far-Right and fascism, was forged by the crisis and is plainly a desperate attempt by a political system that has been running things for decades to hold on to its power.
The thing is, they are not doing a very good job. The coalition government is in danger of coming apart, and this danger is growing by the day. The general numbness which followed the summer national elections and the show of support by Berlin and the troika is progressively giving way to renewed anger and despair among people who see their living standards painfully decreasing for the foreseeable future. And the government is running out of cards to play, as talk of “development” seems to increasing numbers of people to be nothing more than a thin veil masking an outright sell-out of the country’s resources, enforced through unrelenting Media misinformation and brutal police suppression of dissent. (The news from Cyprus doesn’t help, as the whole rationale sounds like a bad replay of George Papandreou’s arguments four years ago.)
Faced with the possibility of a sudden withdrawal of support, New Democracy is certain to play the hand it knows best: Its Far-Right column will again take the lead, most probably in the next few days, and will try to shift the focus to issues of “law and order”, staging a discussion about “legality”, the “protection of democracy from extremists on all sides”, even “terrorism”. In this they will once again use the judiciary –the Police goes without saying–, but the goal will be a highly visible shouting match, aimed at stigmatizing anyone who opposes their policies as a “threat to democracy”. At the same time, SYRIZA, the Main Opposition party, which had seen a slump in the polls after the brief honeymoon between the Greek Government and the troika, is now rising again. This is not only evident in the polls, but also in a shift in the mainstream Media: following a meeting with SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras, Media mogul Stavros Psycharis published an article in his flagship newspaper To Vima, titled: “Tsipras’s Plan for New Change”. (“Change” was the slogan associated with Andreas Papandreou, PASOK’s founder and leader in the 1980s, greatly supported by the same newspaper.) This might be a limited indication, but an indication it certainly is: there are many in Greece’s financial establishment, as well as overseas –for example, in liberal US circles, who are not that enthusiastic about the Berlin-Moscow raid on resources, particularly with regard to natural gas–, who now view SYRIZA as a better bet, with a greater chance of restoring stability not just in the economy but in society as a whole.