Greece: changing political environment and European Union crisis

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Greece: changing political environment and European Union crisis

Joachim de Villiers and Walter Sebastian

Modern Tokyo Times

The recent elections which took place in Greece have solved little because the political landscape remains extremely divided. At the same time, unemployment is hurting a sizeable minority of people in this country and the future looks uncertain. Outside political and economic pressure from nations like Germany is also creating an image of “loss of sovereignty.” Therefore, this is playing into the hands of both the far-right and far-left, and for many of the electorate they are at a loss about the right direction and which political party to trust.

The left-wing Syriza bloc under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras is trying to form a new government but irrespective of who rules Greece it is clear that much will depend on coalition members. Alexis Tsipras is adamant that he will tear up the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) bail out which he deems to be “barbaric.”

Alexis Tsipras will meet the political leaders of Pasok and New Democracy (ND), in order to try to reach some sort of accommodation. However, both political parties support the bailout under the EU and IMF, even if reluctant in certain areas, because both political parties understand the hardship that this will create. Yet, both ND and Pasok believe that the bailout is in the interest of Greece in the long-run. Therefore, according to these two political parties the “painful medicine” is needed.

ND won 108 seats after the election and Pasok obtained 41 seats in the 300 elected political chamber. Syriza won 52 seats with the vast remaining seats going to the far-right or far-left. This highlights the challenges facing Alexis Tsipras and for any political leader who desires to form a new government.

If he fails to reach an agreement with other political parties, then the onus will be on Venizelos to form a government. If both fail, then a new election will have to take place and if this happens, then it is most likely to lead to fresh paralysis and plunge the crisis to a higher level. The EU is watching events because clearly you have a lot of discontent towards major austerity packages but powerful nations like Germany believe that “painful medicine” is needed in order to solve the crisis.

If a power vacuum remains then Greece will be unable to obtain an international loan and the repercussions could mean bankruptcy. Also, powerful nations in Europe who support the German methodology will be at a loss because they believe that they are trying to help Greece overcome its dire economic reality. Therefore, another clash with EU leaders is on the cards unless the pro-bailout parties can form a government.

Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission President, commented that “What member states have to do is be consistent, implementing the policies that they have agreed.”

This is easy to say from a distance but in Greece the pro-bailout parties have suffered a huge share in their vote compared with 2009.  Also, the unemployment rate is extremely high and new cut-backs appear to be the final nail in the coffin to many ordinary Greeks, who just want to make a living.

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