Any­thing-goes Tsipras

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

De­void of clear vi­sion and prin­ci­ples, and true to its herd men­tal­ity, the Greek es­tab­lish­ment, as it were, is once again go­ing with the flow (pro­vided that its in­ter­ests are not at risk). “Tsipras-ism” is the latest thing. Be­fore the last elec­tions, the feel­ing among Athens’s more con­ser­va­tive cir­cles was that it would not be long be­fore the left­ist leader would move to­ward the cen­ter, clinch a deal with lenders, and put Greece back on track. In the end, of course, none of that hap­pened. Alexis Tsipras was con­stantly stand­ing on two boats and only signed up to a deal af­ter the Greek econ­omy nearly col­lapsed. Some peo­ple will re­spond that he signed an oner­ous mem­o­ran­dum and saw his party break in two, pay­ing a heavy po­lit­i­cal price. The ques­tion how­ever is: Can the SYRIZA chief trans­form his party and rule the coun­try with the help of skilled tech­nocrats? Can he take the tough de­ci­sions that are nec­es­sary with­out pay­ing heed to pri­vate and par­ti­san con­cerns? So far the signs are dis­cour­ag­ing. Tsipras chose to rely on a nar­row cir­cle of close al­lies. He proved to be re­ally bad at pick­ing of­fi­cials be­yond that cir­cle. Yian­nis Panousis was a rare ex­cep­tion to the rule. Also, Tsipras went on to staff the broader state ap­pa­ra­tus with party cronies. Ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cians say that peo­ple hardly change af­ter they are 40 years of age (Tsipras is now 41), re­gard­less of cir­cum­stances. It’s hard to see how Tsipras can evolve into a deft CEO to run Greece be­cause he sim­ply lacks the ex­pe­ri­ence and abil­ity to do so. Even if we as­sume that crit­ics are wrong, the next ques­tion is: Do we re­ally know what Tsipras be­lieves in? I think the an­swer is what­ever it takes. He has no such thing as a na­tional vi­sion. He sees power as a process of smaller and big­ger trade-offs. Sure, pol­i­tics is a lot like that, but it does take some vi­sion and ro­man­ti­cism. Again, some counter that this ex­actly is his main strength. He does not ob­sess about prin­ci­ples and vi­sions; he is prag­matic and flex­i­ble. This is the legacy of An­dreas Pa­pan­dreou. We have come to ad­mire a politi­cian’s abil­ity to lie and to mis­lead his fol­low­ers and still get away with it. Per­haps it would be great to have a left­ist pop­ulist leader who would mis­lead the masses as he is busy push­ing pri­va­ti­za­tions, re­build­ing the state and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, and curb­ing cor­rup­tion. Such a leader would be mostly wel­comed by cen­trist vot­ers. I am afraid that is too much to ex­pect from a politi­cian who is the par ex­cel­lence po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural prod­uct of Greece’s post-dic­ta­tor­ship era. There is of course the cyn­i­cal view. As a vet­eran politi­cian was say­ing the other day: “It is would be good if Tsipras stayed in power a lit­tle longer. Af­ter all, all you needed him to do was to place his sig­na­ture, not gov­ern.”

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