Last night (6/4/12) the political system of Greece since the restoration of democracy in 1974 collapsed. The two dominant political parties, centre-right New Democracy and centre-Left Pasok, were thrashed by the electorate. The liberals, split in two tiny parties, did not manage to enter Parliament. The big victors were the Left and the Nazis. In the face of the worst economic crisis that Greece has been since the end of WW2, this election result seems to be the worst possible case. Greece may be ungovernable, the country’s creditors may retract their support, and the country may have to return to the drachma and face economic disaster of unpredictable dimensions.
And yet, as every real crisis, it holds the seeds of an opportunity for positive change. Firstly, the humiliating defeat of PASOK – the party which ruled Greece for most of the time since 1981 – is a welcome sign that the electorate sees no future in continuing with the political model of government that the Greek socialists established: a model of crony capitalism that spurned corruption and a huge national debt that is now strangulating the country and the nation. New Democracy, which tried to emulate PASOK, has been punished too for not offering an alternative.
The Greek Left has traditionally been an opportunistic coalition of protesting Marxists without any sense of political responsibility. Its spectacular rise ushers in is a new era for them where romantic ideology must face the ugly facts of government. The Left has now the unique opportunity to leave political puberty and enter political adulthood. Steering clear of maximalist rhetoric and focusing on resisting ineffective austerity it may indeed exploit the rising awareness across Europe that German hard-headedness is leading the continent and its economy to disaster. The victory of Holland’s socialists in France, the realization in Spain that more austerity will simply finish off the country, rising unemployment across the EU, are signs that Europe needs a new plan of action. The Greek Left may be just the right partner at this hour of continental crisis to help put together this new plan, this New European Deal.
The rise of the Greek Nazi party (Xrisi Avgi) was made possible by two main reasons. First and foremost has been the total lack of immigration policy that, combined with an ineffective system of policing Greece’s sea and land borders, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of destitute immigrants becoming trapped inside Greece. These immigrants have found their way in the centre of the big cities, especially Athens, turning them into ghettos. The Nazis exploited the absence of effective policing, and took the law unto their hands. They became street vigilantes. Angry and scared, the citizens of large swathes in immigrant-occupied cities rewarded them with their vote. But this vote would probably never have reached the almost 7% that the Nazis got if it wasn’t for the help they received by the Greek media. By banishing them, the Greek media garnished the Nazis with the attractive aura of the “real revolutionaries” – an image that proved irresistible to large numbers of young people. Given the fact that the Greek media have identified themselves with the corrupt establishment, the young voted for Xrysi Avgi to punish the system. They did. Unfortunately, they have also punished themselves and their country.
Nevertheless, the rise of the Nazis may prove to be a wake-up call to political parties across the spectrum. They may serve as the terrible nemesis that comes after the political hubris of thirty years of crony capitalism and corruption at every level, political, economic and social. The Greek Nazis are a bunch of criminal thugs. The fact that they will now enjoy exposure in the media as a parliamentary party will be their ultimate demise. Till then, they will taunt and ridicule the political system which allowed them to exist and thrive.
As for the liberal centre, which was completely annihilated, it is time they realized that speaking to a small intellectual elite does not win elections, no matter how powerful or clever the arguments. If liberals wish to have a role in the future of our country they must start speaking with a voice that will make sense to the people.
The following days will be crucial for the future of Greece. Not all is lost. Politicians from Left and Right must exhibit the necessary patriotism, dexterity and political maturity in order to rise above ideology and steer the country safely away from its impeding catastrophe.