Using A RantAWeek to clarify the complexities of news.
The impact of the Eurozone debt crisis forced politicians in troubled Greece to ignore party lines and form a national unity government. The two major parties in Greece, center-right New Democracy and center-left Panhellic Socialist Movement, banded together under the leadership of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. Importantly, Papademos has been able to lead Greece as an economist, not as a politician, furthering the example of national unity in this time of crisis. Still, national unity governments are only temporary measures, and one promise Mr. Papademos made when he took control was that he would call for early elections. Greece held these early elections on May 6th, and that’s when everything went wrong…
National anger against the two major parties in the coalition grew in the run-up to the election. Many voters, angry at the harsh austerity measures that Greece is facing as part of its loan agreements, tried to show their displeasure by voting for other, often more extreme, parties. The result was devastating and unexpected. While New Democracy and the Panhellic Socialist Movement were expected to lose many seats in the nation’s Parliament, they were still expected to maintain a majority. Instead, after the votes were counted, the parties were two seats short of being able to form a majority coalition.
Normally, in instances like this, a smaller party will join the coalition in order to be a part of the majority. However, none of the other parties were willing to join a coalition, even after tense negotiations and a plea from Greece’s leadership. As a result, the election was unsuccessful and a new one will have to be held in June. The practical effect is that Greece will lack a fully functioning legislature for a month, crippling the nation’s government in a time of economic crisis.
Unfortunately, this new election in no way guarantees that the old coalition will be restored and things will return to the way they were under the unity government. In fact, the opposite seems true. The Coalition of the Radical Left, commonly abbreviated to Syriza, has been rapidly gaining momentum. If this trend continues, Syriza may be in a position to form a coalition of its own in the wake of the next election come June. Naturally, many in Europe are uncomfortable with the idea of a far left party coming to power in Greece, but worse still is the fact that Syriza is running on a platform to stop austerity measures by ending the loan agreement Greece has made with the entities that are bailing it out. These entities, namely the ECB, the IMF and the European Council, have dictated the paths to austerity Greece must take to continue receiving bailout money, instigated resentment within Greece. However, with the loan deal broken, Greece will stop receiving this money, leaving them with no reasonable alternative except default.
Of course, this is a worst case scenario, but the way things have been going in Greece as of late, worst case scenarios are seeming more and more likely. And even if the worst doesn’t happen, the political divisions this election has created will make the bailout and corresponding austerity measures even more complicated. The rise of Syriza will undoubtedly create a stronger voice in opposition to the bailout whether they manage to take power or not.
Ultimately, Greece’s national unity government helped the nation to get past some hurdles in dealing with its debt, but its dissolution has reopened old political wounds, provoking fears that the Eurozone relief plan is bleeding out.