“Pinocchio” vs “Conservative Greek Zorba”: The first elections of Greece once the fairytale has ended
– “If I see the lion, I will beat him so much, that he will not find his way back home…” said the rabbit to its ecstatic followers.
– “Can you really beat the lion?”
– “Why not? I have the power, all of you support me, I will show him that we are many and we can win”
– “Have you worked / trained for this battle?”
– “I have my brain, not to mention my charming abilities”
– “But the lion is powerful, what are your weapons?”
– “You will see. The lion is lucky that it does not feel the heat of my punches”.
Once the lion heard about the rabbit bragging itself, decided to pay him a visit.
– “Hello rabbit. Is there any problem? Is there anything you wish to tell me?”
– “No, lion, all is fine. How are you? How is your health?”
– “I am fine… I heard you will beat me. Are you ready to try this now?”
– “Beating you… who said this kind of stupidities?”
– “The other animals you were bragging to…”
– “I am sorry, we all say couple of stupidities as a joke”
We all know the story of the lion and the rabbit. The problem is that the majority of Greeks actually believed the “rabbit” during 2015. After reality proved to be totally different than the lies their government had promised to them, the country heads to new elections on September 20th, voting for the 3rd time in 8 months!
The results of lies
“The approval of Alexis Tsipras despite his actions show that Greeks don’t vote for a prime minister, but for a groom” a Greek analyst has written couple of months ago. During 2015, Mr Tsipras promised to Greeks “the end of austerity, 12 billion Euro in the economy, salaries’ and pensions’ increases” and much more. Using big empty words, without any serious plan prepared, he took a country which was ready to fly out of crisis (the plan was for 3% GDP increase for 2015) and crushed it to the wall.
While Pinocchio had his nose grow after each lie he was saying, the Greek “Pinocchio” had his popularity increase after each and every lie. He risked his country own existence with an unnecessary referendum, which he won, and then immediately afterwards shifted his route 180 degrees and signed an agreement with 14 – 15 billion Euro measures for the people (instead of 1 billion measures that he rejected in January). While in January there was no need for new loans, but only for a “preventive credit line” like the one Romania had, in August he signed for additional 59 billion debts. The Greek banks, healthy in January, crushed and shut down in June by the signature of his minister Varoufakis, so an additional amount of 25 billion Euro is needed to recapitalize them. The capital controls existing today guarantee that the Greek GDP will decrease in 2015, despite the new record in tourism, with more than 26 million visitors this year.
Lately we hear that his own ministers (Tsakalotos, the one who signed the agreement in the end) informed him early enough that his promises would need billions of new taxes, “otherwise that we are heading to the wall” with the reply being “we cannot say this, we will lose votes”. His people accept that “we exaggerated a bit” and his partner in the Government (Kammenos) wonders if… “we need to check the role of Varoufakis, was he serving OUR interests or the creditors’ ones”. Too little, too late…
(The fact that Tsipras & CO would confront with the reality and that the damage would be huge for the Greeks was described in my articles earlier this year:
- Greece, February 2015: “Hope” vs Tough Reality: Can Paulo Coehlo be proved right?
- Greece: “Hope” vs Tough Reality: 0 – 2: A dance floor covered with broken plates awaits for Tsipras and Varoufakis to dance
- Greece: “Hope” vs Tough Reality: 1 – 5. The last 69 days of Greece as we know it
Contender no.1: “Pinocchio”
After his return to tough reality, Alexis Tsipras lost a part of his party, the radical ones who really believed in his and their words. Panayotis Lafazanis and a team of 25 members of the parliament left the party and created a new one, “People’s Unity”, where also “Gepetto” was included. “Gepetto” is Nikos Alavanos, an older Greek politician of the Left who pushes for return to Drachma. Mr. Alavanos is the one who gave Alexis Tsipras the chance to run for Athens’ mayor in 2006 and then offered him the party’s “keys” in 2007. Hundreds of Syriza party members have fled as well, declaring their disgust for the fact that “we promised a new solution and we ended up doing worse than the ones we blamed before”. “We promise to simply end the unfair huge property taxes and we will maintain them unchanged for the years to come”.
He asked for elections but now things are different. While in January he was the one setting the rules of the game, now he struggles to reply to all accusations against his actions, compared to his promises. In January’s elections he succeeded to convince Greeks that the question was “no more austerity and a magical solution by us, or more austerity by the others?”. Now he tries to explain that he has become a responsible, serious leader who chose to save his country (which himself put on risk as well). His followers do not really come with arguments regarding his advantages, they insist that the other solutions are worse, more corrupted. But also many Greeks wonder how can they trust someone who promised them solutions and delivered new problems, promised “no referendum” and made one, transformed the referendum’s “no” into “yes”, while he heads to early elections, which he promised that he will not do. Now his “message” is that “we don’t believe in the agreement we signed, vote for us so as to change it”. His words, body language and actions (continuous defense) remind of Kostas Karamanlis in 2009. Back then the ex-prime minister chose to drag Greece to early elections, “did all possible so as to lose” and left the country in the hands of Giorgos Papandreou.
Mr. Tsipras won January’s elections with 36% and in June his party received an impressive 42 – 44% in polls. His party members will be happy if they finish first this time, while he looks like he prefers the opposite. He starts from the pole position, but everything is expected to be clarified during his debates with the main contender, the “Conservative Greek Zorba”… Vagelis Meimarakis.
Contender no.2: “Conservative Greek Zorba”
“Around 60 years old, member of Nea Dimokratia conservative party for decades, minister in several governments, ex-president of the Parliament, considered responsible as well (for Greece’s problems), like the other old politicians”. This is the description his opponents would give to Nea Dimokratia’s interim president. He took over without elections in the party. The ex-president (and former prime minister) Antonis Samaras invited him to his office and offered him the party’s interim presidency, once he resigned after the referendum of July 5th.
Mr. Meimarakis cannot be considered a reformist. He did not offer such signs while being a minister, but he avoided scandals as well. His main characteristic is something else: His character and vocabulary would remind of a “conservative Greek Zorba”. He speaks with too many “bad” words, laughs a lot, uses the language that normal people speak, being the “soul of the party” if he is out with friends, now doing the same in public. He came as interim, but his party’s members were happy to hear him speaking their language, smiling and making fun of Tsipras. Greeks never heard a political leader calling a prime minister “small and insufficient”, “little liar, pretending the smart one”, “he forces us to elections. We are not a third world country, Greece is not his father’s property, he is not a dictator, he is out of control” or “he tries to escape” (always using Greek slag language). “Tsipras promised to cut the agreement with the creditors in pieces and liberate the Greeks. Instead he cut in pieces his own promises and program”.
Mr. Meimarakis received a mandate to run the party until Spring 2016, thus he is the candidate prime minister. He avoided to reform the party’s lists, adding new candidates, so the ones of January are still there. “It would be unfair to do so” he justified his decision. His most important move was to bring back the campaign manager that gave Kostas Karamanlis two wins in the elections of 2004 and 2007, Thodoros Rousopoulos. But as Mr. Rousopoulos’ legacy is not considered positive by the Greeks, he never appears in media.
Mr. Meimarakis took a party with 16 – 18% in polls, after having lost in January with 27%. Now he counts on the two debates that will occur before the elections, one only with Mr. Tsipras and one together with the rest of the parliament leaders (except from Golden Dawn party). He is expected to finish second and then form a coalition with Syriza (despite the fact that Mr. Tsipras refuses this scenario), but if he performs well in the debates, his chances to win will increase. He is the one with the biggest chances to establish “the question of the elections”.
- Golden Dawn, the party considered Nazi by the majority of Greeks but “patriotic” by its members, is expected to hold on third position, despite the embargo by media and the trials of its president and the majority of its MPs. Their proposal is to exit from EU and introduce Drachma.
- People’s Unity is expected to fight for the third position as well, representing the “betrayed one of Syriza, who have Drachma as solution and “a new, different world” as promise
- “The River” is a modern Greek party, with lots of reformists and positioned as being “a partner for a next government”. His leader, ex famous journalist, is targeting the third position as well and he may achieve his target if he creates the necessary dynamics (which he has not so far).
- “KKE” is the Communistic Party, with the same ideas for the last 90 years and a solid basis of voters. Obviously they also propose the solution of Drachma while exiting the EU.
- “Pasok” is the Socialist Party that governed Greece for almost 35 years (with 7 years intervals). With a new leader, a woman – daughter of a legendary party member, it tries to rise so as to become more important for the negotiations that will follow after the elections.
- “Independent Greeks” was the partner of Tsipras in the Government and now they are fighting so as to surpass the 3% threshold and enter in the Parliament.
- “Kidiso” is the party formed by the former prime minister Giorgos Papandreou. If he succeeds to enter in the Parliament, it will be one of the biggest surprises of the last decades
- “Union of Centrists” is expected to enter in the Parliament, for the first time after 25 years of attempts. Its president is the legendary Vasilis Leventis, who was considered “ridiculous” but now his prognosis seems to be correct and Greeks will give him a chance, by boosting him in the Parliament. This is the only party for which no one knows the rest of the candidates, but Mr. Leventis seems to be enough.
The first elections once the fairytale is over…
Greeks will vote on September 20th, but now things are different than in January. In 2009 Giorgos Papandreou said the legendary “there is money” (for all), but he signed with the creditors, doing the opposite. In 2012 Antonis Samaras was elected by promising “the end of agreements with creditors” and he signed with them few months later. In 2015 Alexis Tsipras promised that he would make Europe change, but after he caused a damage of 90 billion+ to his country, he signed an agreement as well. The fairytale of “easy solutions” is over.
- “Who will win?” Syriza or Nea Dimokratia (Syriza has an advantage, but I would not be surprised if “Conservative Zorba” turns it around)
- And then what?” Then they will collaborate or search partners in “The River, “Pasok” and “Independent Greeks” (only Syriza)
- Is it going to be better for the Greeks?” No, but it has to stop being worse…
- So why did all these happen then?” Because Greeks wanted to give one more chance to “dream” compared to “real life” and a young, nice populist took advantage of this sentimental approach.2015 keeps on offering amazing lessons to Greeks. But also to Romanians and all the people of the world, who realize the distance of words and actions and how this can undermine a country in just few months’ time.
Have we learned our lesson?
What is your opinion?