THE BLOG

The New "Syriza" Unmasked!

Opinion polling in Greece throughout the recent pre-election period pointed to a close outcome, indicating that, perhaps, the leftist "Syriza" party may be tied to the right-wing "New Democracy" in order to form a government. However, the opening of the ballot box brought about great exasperation with the pundits.

For the second time in seven months, the Greek electorate clearly opted for Syriza, granting it a solid victory with 35 percent of the vote against only 28 percent for New Democracy. As such, the Greek citizens renewed their trust in Alexis Tsipras and charged him with the responsibility of carrying out the stiff memorandum of understanding he signed with his European partners in early June.

The message of the national elections was clear: Alexis Tsipras, despite repeatedly going back on his promises and acquiescing to the harshest of austerity agreements with his lenders, received a new vote of confidence from his people. He is, without a doubt, the new leader of the Greek political scene whose strength failed to be shaken by the fracturing of Syriza itself, whereby its more radical members left to form their own party, or by the fact that Tsipras' abandoned much of his social platform and promises.

Once again, last Sunday's elections proved difficult for Greece's traditional parties that agreed to the country's original bailouts, leaving New Democracy stuck in second spot with 28 percent and the once-dominant "Pa.So.K" in fourth place with 6.3 percent. The tragic irony is that the fascist "Golden Dawn" party again came in third with 7 percent, bringing shame and causing concern among the public.

Thus, Syriza, with the support of its right-wing partner, "ANEL (Independent Greeks)" is once again called upon to manage the affairs of the state with prudence, wisdom and seriousness as it is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the difficult terms of the new bailout deal. And with his un-cooperative, far-left wing having being excised, there is no further excuse for Alexis Tsipras to delay his obligations with respect to the new agreement, thereby enabling his nation to secure the financing it sorely needs to fulfill its loan liabilities, return the economy to growth and reduce unemployment.

Surely, the task will be a difficult one and the major decisions required will be costly and politically charged. Among the many painful actions looming are a reduction in pensions, the gradual elimination of 70,000 beneficiaries collecting the EKAS solidarity allowance, significant tax increases for farmers, a reduction in the heating allowance, the permitting of the sale of non-prescription drugs outside traditional pharmacies, the need to promote faster privatizations and a tax increase on agricultural diesel fuel.

Regardless, Alexis Tsipras is the absolute master of the game, having skillfully exorcised the "drachma lobby" led by his former ministers and confidants, Panagiotis Lafazanis and Giannis Varoufakis, both inside and outside the party. Set to implement the deal he was forced to accept, Alexis Tsipras must make the tough decisions that will undoubtedly damage his image as a popular leader, but will return Greece on its European path.

It is clear that the re-election of Alexis Tsipras at the helm of Greece no longer scares anyone. Not even the Greeks who were weary the first time around and who suffered through the "Armageddon of his inaction," the continued delays in the bailout negotiations, the closure of the country's banks, the accelerated deterioration of the economy and the endless internal infighting in his government.

The Europeans, on the other hand, are rejoicing as they have been handed the unexpected: a re-elected, leftist party led by a charismatic leader who has agreed to implement the toughest and most unpopular measures with the support of his populist backers.

For the country, the triumph of Alexis Tsipras is the optimum scenario. The people have given him a clear mandate to remain within Europe and to honor the new memorandum even though they will be subject to even bigger austerity and taxes. Aware that the election promises of the pre-memorandum period were simply words to caress the ears, the Greek people now understand that they have opted for difficult days ahead given the list of measures waiting to be implemented.

Now, they are well aware of who they voted for and why!