“Hope is on the way!” – In the most inspired and defint of voices, a thundering echo was heard in front of the headquarters of the Coalition of the Radical Left the night of the 25th of January.
The exhilarated crowd savoured an electoral victory that “wrote history”. These were the words of Alexis Tsipras, leader of the winning party (better know by its acronym Syriza) and Greece’s pragmatic new Prime Minister. Tsipras isn’t your average classic politician. The man from Athens has climed the Greek political ladder with a clear intention to protect a very ragged economy and demoralised population. Gone are the days where Hellenic politicians had the pre-scheduled agenda of going to Brussels in order to look at everybody with puppy eyes. Tsipras strives for more than to merely come back with a bail-out out in one hand and a bag of asphyxiating austerity measures on the other.
It’s no wonder that his election has caused more than one headache around Europe. One of those heads is British Prime Minister David Cameron’s, who assured that Syriza’s victory would “increase economic uncertainty across Europe.” The other heads belong to EuroGroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, IMF director Christine Lagarde and ECB president Mario Draghi – Greece’s owes 76% of its debt to them, and all of them now fear a lack of Greek compliance they did not have to contend with under Antonis Samaras. Syriza is ready to contest the rule of the Troika’s (European Commission, IMF and ECB) original bail-out management plans. The party is seen as the salvation of a populace that have been living with water up to their necks.
The numbers Syriza is looking at are not exactly positive: a debt of 323 billion euros, 175% over Greek GDP, unemployment of 25%, a growth rate three digits below zero and deadlines looming for the repayment of its loans. The new government’s innitial objective is to provide a Ten-Point reform plan in order to overhaul a 30% of its bail-out obligations.
Syriza believes that much of the empoverished terms Greece finds iself under are the result of unfair and badly negotiated lending conditions to which former leader Samaras complacently agreed to. The conditions aren’t exactly in Tsipras’ favour and at the end of the day; his country does as of now depend entirely on the Troika’s support. The 28th of February sees the end of the current loan program and Syriza are not about to pen down a new deal under the same terms.
They have four months to find an alternative to “a committee built on rotten foundations.” – Words straight out of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ mouth – He was indeed referring to the Troika. In June, the nation must theoretically pay the ECB 3.5 billion euros worth of bonds. It’s looking bleak. Despite this, Tsipras has taken a stand; almost daringly so some would think, as countries like Germany wonder how the man has the effrontery to do so in light of the aforementioned economic figures.
The president of the Bundesbank Jens Weidmann, warned about this in advanced as he recommended Syriza to “not make promises it cannot keep and the country cannot afford.” But others would understand that Tsipras has nothing to lose, and that it’s probably about time to ease the knot around Greek necks. The Prime Minister wants to lift Hellas out of the economic nightmare, but he doesn’t want to choke under foreign direction in the process.
Banners and posters said it loud and clear during the night of Syriza’s victory: “All we are saying is… Give Greece a chace”. Now we remain to see if conditions will really be eased under Tsipras and if the key to recovery is to let the Greeks breath a little. After all, how can a suffocated nation offer anything of itself?