“Not a step back: End the troika and the memorandum.” Thus read one of the placards hung up on a lamp post close to Omonoia Square in downtown Athens, where Syriza—the surging left-wing party led by Alexis Tsipras—held its major pre-election rally last night.
Consistent in its suicidal tendencies, the Greek political system failed this week to come to an agreement on forming a coalition government. The leaders of Greece’s political parties—as we know from the published minutes of the meetings with the President of the Republic—showed themselves, with one or two dignified exceptions, tragically unable to rise to the occasion. New elections have now been called. The outcome on June 17, or even the mounting uncertainty of the pre-election period itself, could spell the end of Greece’s membership of the euro.
For two years, Greek voters could only express their mounting disaffection with the economic catastrophe that had befallen them by demonstrating, publicly rebuking members of the political class, even occasionally beating them. Yesterday, they finally got the chance to punish their politicians, in particular those of PASOK and Nea Demokratia—the two parties which had alternated in power for the past four decades—at the ballot box. They certainly got their revenge. But the cost of their choice may well be too heavy for them to bear.
Could this week produce a turning point in Europe’s long, Sisyphean battle against the debt-and-banking crisis that has been ravaging it for the last two-and-a-half years? This coming Sunday, France will likely vote for Francois Hollande, a pro-Keynesian Socialist, as its new president. In Greece, on the same day, parliamentary elections will produce a hammer blow to the existing two-party system and will significantly increase the strength of the anti-Europeans on the far left and the extreme right.