No one should be weeping nor should they be frightened that the Greek Parliament failed to elect a president on its third and final attempt this week and, as a result, set the country on course for a national plebiscite to be held on January 25th . There, the nation's citizens will select the political party and the leader that will take Greece onward.
The Europeans were quick to lament this turn of events, voicing their fear for the way forward and the upcoming election that will, in all likelihood, bring the radical leftist "Syriza" party to power. The truth is, however, that they should keep silent. For, after backstabbing Greece's fragile "New Democracy-PASOK" coalition government by insisting on a continuation of the austerity measures on a long-suffering electorate that had been promised an end to the so-called "memorandum" by year's end, Germany and its like-minded neighbors have only themselves to blame for creating a new European crisis.
Clearly irked by his European partners' intransigence, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras proceeded by calling the snap presidential vote and putting forth a purely partisan candidate from his New Democracy Party, Stavros Dimas. He knew full well that it was highly unlikely he could convince other parties, such as Fotis Kouvelis' Democratic Left (DIMAR), to give him the 180 Parliamentary votes required for Dimas' election.
Kouvelis, whose fledgling DIMAR seceded from the Syriza-dominated "Synaspismos" alliance some years ago, appeared to be the wild card in the presidential election. With polls giving his party little chance of attaining the three percent threshold required to re-enter Parliament, there was a possibility that he would opt to support the election of a president in order to forgo the onset of national elections. In the end, however, he chose to try and revive his political fortunes by pursuing a rapprochement with Syriza rather than cast a vote for a conservative president and the indignity that would result.
Another group that had the power to prolong the survival of the government was the right-wing "Independent Greeks," led by Panos Kammenos. However, the party unwittingly found itself at the center of a laughable corruption scandal, with one of its members, Pavlos Chaikalis, claiming he was offered millions in return for supporting Dimas' candidacy. Tragically, the presidential machinations were quickly usurped by a farcical sideshow with the judiciary and investigators taking center stage in lieu of the actual political maneuvering.
The result was a blow to the overall image of Greece's Parliamentary Democracy and a shock to the public at large, an unsettling occurrence given that the country now finds itself heading toward crucial national elections with its European commitment hanging in the balance.
With all polls pointing to a Syriza victory, it appears that the Greeks, unlike their European counterparts, have slowly begun to overcome their suspicions of what a left-wing government may have in store. Just the same, however, Syriza is beset with major internal problems of its own, given that its original, hardcore base was barely able to muster the three percent of the popular vote required for Parliamentary representation as recently as 2004. Today, the bulk of the party's support comes from the center-left and is overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining Greece's eurozone membership.
As such, Syriza's charismatic head, Alexis Tsipras, is faced with the delicate task of bringing into balance the two diametrically opposite ends of his party if he hopes to assuage the remaining skeptics among the electorate that he has no intention of abandoning the euro and the risks this would entail. He will have to concentrate his efforts on emphasizing his ability to negotiate an end to the despised austerity "memorandum" while, at the same time, minimizing any discussion of the perils that would ensue should Greece's lenders refuse to lend an ear.
He will also have to persuade the markets about his desire to maintain the status-quo in the European Union and to convince them that he is capable of re-negotiating Greece's loan agreements under more favouable terms than his predecessors. He must do this calmly, without the use of threats or demagogic rhetoric. Syriza must have a realistic agenda in place for the day it will take over the reigns of government if it hopes to be able to offer relief to the Greek nation within the framework of the country's liabilities.
Importantly, the upcoming election will bring a Syriza-led administration to power that will require the support of other parties. A thoughtful Alexis Tsipras could, possibly, look towards PASOK and its leader, Evangelos Venizelos, the current vice president of the outgoing coalition government. Rather than having to partner with the newly established "Potami," for instance, which has no ideological platform nor any political experience to speak of, Alexis Tsipras would be well advised to approach Venizelos whose many years of experience negotiating with Europe's leaders would be a precious asset to any government.
Above all, the best chance for the country's smooth transition from the "memorandum" to the "post-memorandum" era is by providing a context that is void of fanfare and hysteria. Common reasoning must take precedence. And who knows? Should Tsipras' Greek "experiment" be successful, it may lead the way to a Europe that can grow, both economically and politically, and put an end, once and for all, to this hated and destructive age of austerity.