Elections in Greece: Tsipras, more Obama than Lenin

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“Hope is coming, Greece is advancing, Europe is changing”, say the Syriza electoral posters, the party of the neo-Marxist left, as some call it, hanging next to the graffiti in the center of Athens.

It is not exactly a call to take the Máximus palace (prime minister’s office) and hoist the red flag instead of the blue and white of Greece. Even the most attractive face, by far, of the multiple candidates in these elections, that of Alexis Tsipras, student exactivist, tanned in the Greek Eurocommunism of Sinapsismos, which, according to the latest polls, will be the next first Minister. “They go low profile, quiet, so as not to scare people,” said Mikel Grigoriadis, who was attending a Syriza rally in the Vrilisia neighborhood in northern Athens.

When elections were called at the end of December, many foresaw a campaign of aggressive antitroika rhetoric on the one hand and horror movie stories about the red danger on the other. But Tsipras has opted for a campaign more Obama-style than Leninist while the current conservative Prime Minister, Andonis Samarás, has moderated the discourse of fear.

Even the Greek media – owned by big magnates, shipping companies, builders and bankers, directly threatened by Syriza – have lowered their tone. “A few weeks ago the media said that a victory for Syriza would be the end of the world, that bank accounts would be confiscated, that there would be dinosaurs hanging around the ruins of Athens,” says Stelios Kouloglou, director of Internet TVXS. It has worked, Syriza will win. ” The influential daily To Vima and Ta Nea have even come to support Tsipras after qualifying him two weeks ago as a “Russian bear”.

More technical warnings about danger

Image result for warningsThe ruling party, New Democracy, has not thrown in the towel. He will choose to issue more technical warnings about the danger of a capital flight if Syriza wins. Gikas Hardouvelis, the finance minister, criticized Syriza for underestimating the risk of a depletion of funds in March if there is no agreement with the troika, in statements to the Financial Times. Two Greek banks have requested funding from the European Central Bank (ECB) to shield themselves in the event of a “bank flight”. A Syriza MEP specialized in finance described these alleged contingency measures as “politically motivated acts”.

Syriza has learned a lot since 2012 when a fear campaign (with the help of Wolfgang Schauble and other European leaders) erased the advantage of Syriza and opened the way to the New Democracy-Pasok coalition government that has just fallen.

Then Tsipras chose a rather visceral antitroika speech to channel the anger of the Greek people against Germany, the ECB and the IMF after a program of shock therapy that has placed half of the population on the verge of poverty, according to new data. But the fear of grexit (exit from the euro) and a flight of capital from the Greek bank defeated Syriza.

This time Tsipras has opted for a more positive campaign. A year ago, he announced that he would tear up the troika’s third memorandum-more adjustments, more tax increases-in the courtyard of Parliament. Now he says that the end of austerity will be negotiated amicably with the European powers and that the restructuring of the bulky debt would never be unilateral but negotiated with the troika.

It is a change of tone rather than content. Syriza continues to oppose the program of adjustments agreed in exchange for the granting of loans for 270,000 million. He also remains committed to negotiating a moratorium on 50% of this debt. “The troika has already recognized that the Greek debt must be restructured, we just want to advance it,” said Yorgos Stathakis, the economic adviser closest to Tsipras, in an interview with La Vanguardia.

The economic plan of Syriza announced to date includes spending 2 billion euros of humanitarian aid to reconnect thousands of families without electricity and provide food aid, economic reactivation measures and job creation through public investment and State reforms.

It is not known how this program will be financed, but Tsipras knows that in a country where one out of every three families receives less than 10,000 euros a year and 55% is in danger of sinking below the poverty line, the Government of Samarás will fall by its own weight.

Tsipras and Stathakis have focused their attacks on the national oligarchy rather than the Troika. Dropping expectations even before the electoral victory, Yanos Dragasakis, another economic spokesman close to Tsipras, has publicly acknowledged that the best that can be expected in the negotiations with the troika is an “incomplete victory”.

Although the so-called left platform of Panayotis Lafazanis, which has the support of 30% of the Syriza militants, is opposed to the permanence of Greece in the euro, Tsipras has managed to convince the majority of the Greeks that there is danger of grexit.

The optimistic and dialoguing discourse seems to be working. The polls go in favor of Syriza – it already has 31% to 35% of the intention to vote – although the absolute majority still seems difficult to reach. In the international arena, Tsipras already has the support of many Social Democrats in Brussels. The Italian Prime Minister, Mateo Renzi, has defended the “right to decide” of the Greeks.

Although Tsipras is already using an Obama-style speech, of hope, in search of 10% of undecided voters, he keeps winking at the anti-American left of Lafazanis. Publicly discards a coalition with the small parties in the center, either with To Potami (El Rio) – the centrist party of the charismatic television personality Stavros Thodorakis, with 7% in the polls – either with what remains of the Pasok or the new party of the former socialist prime minister Yorgios Papandreou. Nor do the conservative Greek Independent Nationalists seem very compatible with Syriza, although they do oppose the Troika.

Tsipras astonished more than one commentator last week by saying that he prefers to have the parliamentary support of the still pro-Soviet KKE, staunch enemies of the euro. “I support the proposals of Stathakis regarding the oligarchy, but Tsipras prefers to ally with the communists,” said Pavlos Eleftheradis, To Potami’s candidate in Athens.

They are the subtleties of a plural discourse of Alexis Tsipras, considered a tactical habil. “Syriza is the party of change for a young middle class, very punished by the adjustments and the system of oligarchs and clientelism in Greece but which is not very left-wing,” said an adviser to Nadia Valavani, possible foreign minister if she wins Syriza .

But Tsipras knows that the great asset of Syriza is that it is a party of the claiming left in a moment of serious crisis of the model of privatization and liberalization with a base of militants of the old guard. “This neighborhood is destroyed, we are fighting against the black cloud of Angela Merkel,” said a resident in the chaotic working-class neighborhood of Kolonos where the neo-Nazis of Aurora Dorada – with 6% or 7% in the national surveys – compete for the vote of rage with Syriza and the KKE communists.

Many of these militants would prefer that new elections be convened rather than agreeing with To Potami or Pasok. An agreement with To Potami that supposed to accept the demands of the troika “would be a kolotoumba (a somersault)”, writes in his blog Hugo Dixon, correspondent in Athens of Reuters, “the left of Syriza would hardly accept it”. 

Image result for Evangelos MeimarakisThe president of the Greek Parliament, Evanguelos Meimarakis, admitted yesterday that the troika exerted strong pressures on Athens to advance the elections. “The creditors were aware of the political uncertainty and, as we approached the expiration of the rescue program, they demanded more things, they gave us to understand that we are not a strong government and that it was necessary to put an end to the uncertainty,” he said. local radio Parapolitiká. Asked if there was blackmail of the troika, he replied: “That is what you are saying, but it is clear that it was about that”. “When we explained that it was not possible to reduce pensions even further and they insisted, the negotiation could not conclude,” said Meimarakis, a member of the ruling New Democracy party. In September, the troika (European Commission, ECB and IMF) interrupted negotiations with Athens after demanding 19 measures of immediate application, such as the end of the moratorium on evictions of first homes and the reduction of pensions.