Europe grapples with its difficult Greek reality

After months of pondering about who Syriza really is or could be, the next instant question that arose once the predictable result was announced was why did the Greeks actually vote the way they did.

Elated - Alexis Tsirpas celebrating his victory at the polls
Elated - Alexis Tsirpas celebrating his victory at the polls

There is no better occasion when to try and assess
the impact of such a game changing result as that in the recent Greek elections than to try and
do so only hours after it became official and publicly known.

Writing at a later stage with the benefit of hindsight one will be merely drawing on conclusions already reached as well as reactions carried through beyond the initial response stage.

After months of pondering about who Syriza really is or could be, the next instant question that arose once the predictable result was announced was why did the Greeks actually vote the way they did.

There is no doubt that it was nothing but a gut reaction. A long brewing decision of people who might have been inclined to argue that whatever the economic rules of the game, they could have felt that they had nothing to lose.

The status quo was evidently not an option any more for the population at large.

On one hand we had reports filtering in that the Greeks never really tried that hard to adjust to the necessary measures, while
on the other hand it became incrementally and increasingly evident that austerity was taking its toll severely on people’s quality of life.

Some have called the recent times tough. Others depressing. While others even used the word brutal.

It was no doubt a vote against austerity as much as it was against the system.

Others started either dreaming or fearing instantly about the spill over that this could have on the electorates in other countries. Especially amongst those who might have until now lacked the courage to go that extra mile.

Whether the hope that triggered the electorate to vote the way that it did will materialise into a realised dream is something that only time will tell.

The responsibility on the new government’s shoulders will be considerable in the sense that people will be very watchful to
see whether it will lead to real change and if so whether it will
be a sustainable change, given the country’s debt commitments on one hand, and the actual state of the economy which is near collapse.

As I had written two weeks ago when the result was yet unknown it was sadly ironic that in the year of sustainable development when the MDGs had to translate themselves into SDGs poverty had reached such proportions so close to our shores.

The feeling even amongst formerly conservative voters
was that this could prove to be
a government that cares. As to whether it will deliver my guess is as good as yours.

The old adage of better the devil you know was not expected to work and in fact it did not.

In the final run up days of
the campaign the issue was not whether Syriza would win but whether or not it would win an absolute majority in the Parliament, without the need for any coalition partners.

The moment the result was out, while some started trying to predict the extent of the radical changes that are likely to come about,
others were trying to anticipate the compromises that in their opinion will likely have to be made.

The vote was not against the left or the right wing of the establishment but rather against the political elite that ran the country for years.

A blogger’s comment struck me in the sense that it argued that gross domestic happiness is as important as gross domestic product.

It all sounded like a Joseph Stiglitz academic exercise becoming a reality.

On the other hand some feel that while understanding the frustrations of many Greeks this move could have just made a bad situation worse.

While in far bigger countries we have seen world leaders finding it easier to campaign than to actually govern, only time will tell whether rebelling for Syriza will prove to be easier than running the country.

What cannot be forgotten and
or ignored is the stand taken
by governments such as ours,
that while one might consider more flexible repayment terms
the debts and obligations due
to the international community are there to be paid by the
Greeks. Something no change of government can ever absolve them of.

The mixed public opinion about the Greek election outcome was even reflected in some of the comments that came up as a result of the question I posed on Facebook to my facebook friends on the election day proper: as to whether this is a new era for Greece or not?

I believe that the same way that the middle class support for the Maltese government explains why the Prime Minister continues to enjoy the same comfortable lead ahead of the Opposition Leader, and the same way that the US elections are likely to be decided upon in 2016 by the American middle class vote, the sometimes silent and occasionally vocal middle class in Greece was the tipping point that decided to push the country in the direction of an anti

austerity administration.
What impressed me most was

not the result itself but that Syriza managed to secure such an impressive victory after having been a genuinely new electoral force for such a previously short time.

Some have for ages been blaming the EU itself for allowing Greek membership of the eurozone, an argument I have even heard Greek diplomats talk of in the not too distant past.

Everything will hinge on whether a deal will be done between the new government and its restless creditors.

I am convinced that deep down, in spite of all the woes, the Greeks want to continue forming part of the European Union.

The litmus test will be the EU’s response and that of Germany as to whether the fiscal rectitude that is perceived to have brought about this stunning result should or must continue.

Europe will no doubt be wary
and watchful as to whether other European political structures could be similarly hit.

Now that the Greek government is in place attention will refocus on the eurozone itself.

We shall be following with interest how the EU will not
only react towards the Greek government but also towards the banks themselves. Will they risk going under unless they sign up to existing austerity measures?

The biggest concern amongst most European governments will go beyond whether Greece will stick to its previous commitments or not, but rather as to whether the Syriza victory will signal the beginning of a populist revolt across Europe.

I have no doubt that the far right

in France must have surely felt elated with the result in Greece. Others have chosen to react by

not reacting at all out of fear that any congratulations or doom laden comments could fuel economic uncertainty across Europe more.

While Europe seems to be united – Malta included – in justifiably claiming that Greece must keep
its promises on debt repayments, with the IMF immediately pledging its continued financial support

for Greece, the point at issue is whether the result or rather the new Greek premier will prove
to become a rallying figure for opposition to the economic reforms in certain EU member states.

In the coming days all eyes will
be on Greece itself, as well as on how the immediate implications
on the financial markets and euro exchange rate will shift to the actual euro area policy makers. The Greek vote was undoubtedly a vote against economic failure.

There is no doubt that European society at large wants economic growth but one that is at the same time sustainable and based on a fairer society too.

While the credit rating agencies will ponder possible downgrades,
it will be a mistake were European countries to down grade their political contacts with the new Greek government. Regardless of its political leanings and orientation.

A working class friend of mine without any economic or academic background posed another vital question – as to how long would the coalition last.

Such speculation is best swept aside at the moment as Europe grapples with the new reality.