Pop­ulism strikes back

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras is fi­nally fac­ing the beast of pop­ulism. The beast grew fat on the left­ist politi­cian’s de­ci­sions, from the time he be­came leader of the party un­til this sum­mer’s bailout ref­er­en­dum. Tsipras never se­ri­ously con­sid­ered the im­pli­ca­tions of be­com­ing premier – a post he pas­sion­ately fought for. Save very few ex­cep­tions, most of his po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ments were in­ap­pro­pri­ate. He en­gaged in ex­tremely cru­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions lack­ing any se­ri­ous prepa­ra­tion – and with­out a se­ri­ous con­tin­gency plan. In the name of SYRIZA’s anti-bailout strug­gle, Tsipras re­cruited sev­eral rad­i­cal and col­or­ful fig- ures that have now turned against him. He never sought to dampen the ex­trem­ist rhetoric com­ing from his party. The SYRIZA leader was ob­vi­ously not in­ter­ested in the dull art of gov­er­nance. What he re­ally was in­ter­ested in was po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing, PR stunts and the game for power. What he is ul­ti­mately con­cerned with is his po­lit­i­cal sur­vival and hege­mony. For ex­am­ple, when two min­is­ters are hav­ing an ar­gu­ment, there is no one to make an ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sion. There is lit­tle of essence in gov­ern­ment meet­ings, which are more like the­o­ret­i­cal sem­i­nars – a dys­func­tion re­flected in the han­dling of the immigration cri­sis. The July ref­er­en­dum was the last stop on a di­rec­tion­less course. It was a dis­as­trous de­ci­sion dic­tated by Tsipras’s my­opic ob­ses­sion with cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing. In any case, the ref­er­en­dum meant a rude awak­en­ing for him, as well as the coun­try. And now, Greece’s fu­ture de­pends on whether Tsipras’s re­al­ity check will turn to be po­lit­i­cally vi­able – and enough to save the coun­try from crash­ing into the rocks. His pop­u­lar­ity is still un­chal­lenged. It re­mains to be seen whether he will re­sist the at­tacks from the nascent an­tibailout bloc of his one-time com­rades. It would be a grave mis­take to seek sup­port from vested in­ter­ests. If he con­tin­ues to stand on two dif­fer- ent boats, if he keeps on with the sorry-but-the­p­ol­icy-was-im­posed-on-me mantra, he will have a bad po­lit­i­cal end. The vot­ers who be­lieved in Tsipras will not do so for­ever. As they start to feel the pinch from the fresh taxes, the mood will change. Given the state of the op­po­si­tion, things could turn ugly. With­out hope and an­i­mated by the belief that “all politi­cians are liars,” vot­ers are likely to move to the po­lit­i­cal ex­tremes. It is a great peril for the coun­try. Tsipras will ei­ther tame the beast that he raised, or the beast will de­stroy ev­ery­one in its path. Start­ing with Tsipras of course.

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