Back on January 25th, Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, also known as Syriza, won a plurality of the vote in the country’s elections, and joined with a smaller party, they became the country’s governing party. The most important part of Syriza’s platform was that they were radically anti-austerity. In his victory speech, leader and now Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the following, per the BBC:
“You are an example of history which is changing… Your mandate is undoubtedly cancelling the bailouts of austerity and destruction.
“The troika for Greece is the thing of the past,” he added, referring to the country’s biggest international lenders – the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).
He also promised to negotiate a fair and mutually beneficial financial solution.
Mr Tsipras earlier vowed to reverse many of the austerity measures adopted by Greece since a series of bailouts began in 2010.
He was also quoted as saying, “We are regaining our lost dignity … Now that we are heard by all of Europe, we will fight with the same passion, the same confidence.”
With this election result, Greece showed an epic lack of self-awareness, and it apparently completely misunderstands what the word dignity means. Observers and pundits across Europe spent a lot of time in the aftermath talking about just how much of a headache Syriza’s success could potentially be for Angela Merkel and the European Union.
Thus far, it looks like such speculation has fallen far short of reality. As is common with many politicians, Tsipras and his party have essentially given up on their promise to renegotiate Greece’s debt and austerity deals with the EU. As The Economist reports:
Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, was elected on a pledge to tear up Greece’s bail-outs and leave austerity behind. Mr Varoufakis has spent the last few weeks seeking a “bridging arrangement” as an explicit alternative to a bail-out extension. It is difficult to square these promises with last night’s agreement. Greece has secured no change to the terms of its epic debt, which stands at over 175% of GDP. Its behaviour will continue to be supervised by the institutions formerly known as the troika. It is obliged to refrain from passing any measures that could undermine its fiscal targets; that appears to torpedo vast swathes of its election manifesto, which included all manner of spending pledges.
Hardline members of Mr Tsipras’s Syriza party will find all of this hard to swallow, as will Greeks who thought they had voted for rupture. “The Greeks certainly will have a difficult time explaining the deal to their voters,” was the ungracious verdict of Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister and Greece’s fiercest adversary in the talks of the last few weeks. Expect Mr Tsipras to make much of the few prizes Greece has been able to secure, including permission to run a slightly looser fiscal policy and, with luck, a decision from the European Central Bank to allow the use of Greek government debt as collateral.
This is an almost complete sellout on the part of Syriza. There are a couple of small concessions, as the article notes, but Tsipras and his men have basically thrown the entire reason they were elected out the window. The hardliners of the party seem to be balking at the deal, but according to MarketWatch, the Greeks, who are fairly used to this by now, seem to be shrugging it off:
But many Greeks already saw that coming. Since Greece’s January elections, the government has subtly shifted its message to voters, while still maintaining its thundering line abroad. In a campaign of leaks, declarations and speeches, the government has made clear it was ready to climb down on its demands for a debt restructuring, implement its promises over years rather than months, and increase wages only gradually.
“The policy retreats have already been prepared; the ground has already been prepared,” said Ilias Nikolakopoulos, a political scientist at Athens University. “A flip-flop on the loan deal will generate some disappointment, but not enough to endanger the overall popular standing of the government.”
So, why am I covering this on RedState? Aside from the fact that I think it is useful for the American conservative movement to be aware of international affairs, I must admit it is gratifying to see a Socialist agenda being thwarted, even if I am no fan of the EU. This is a real world example of a group of Leftwing radicals, living in a bubble world, getting installed in a position of power and finding out that the people who really matter don’t give a crap about all of their wild ideals and promises. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that many of Syriza’s most prominent supporters are former academics. After all, as we here in the United States well know, socialism only really works in Ivory Tower illusions.