As Greece embarks on its third poll in nine months, political and economic uncertainty prevails. For seven months, former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras engaged in reckless brinksmanship with Europe. Tsipras' approach backfired and he pushed Greece to the verge of economic collapse. As a direct result, Greece was forced to accept the third bailout in five years from its creditors. Greek citizens will now pay an enormous price. Greece remains on edge as the bailout's terms have yet to be fully implemented and its full impact felt.
Ironically, Tsipras is now asking for a second chance to govern. It will simply serve no one's interests. Greece, and its European partners, now need responsible leadership that can be provided by Vangelis Meimarakis, the leader of Greece's center-right New Democracy party. Meimarakis is firmly committed to restoring the political and economic stability that Greece so desperately needs and that Europe requires in increasingly turbulent times.
Meimarakis has laid out a clear pragmatic approach. Immediately upon assuming power, he will pursue the formation of a government of national unity open to all parties committed to Greece remaining in Europe, including Tsipras's Syriza party. While Meimarakis pursues outreach and collaboration across Greece's political spectrum, Tsipras continues to preach and practice the politics of division and confrontation which marked his dismal tenure as prime minister.
Throughout the current electoral campaign, Tsipras has consistently refused to express any willingness to work with others beyond his narrow ideological base. He clearly reaffirmed this position in the election's final debate. At this critical historic juncture, Greece needs greater national unity and consensus. Meimarakis provides this with a reliable track record as a bridge-builder. Tsipras simply does not.
Furthermore, what Greece needs and Meimarakis aims for is a fair deal for the Greek people. Greece's greatest natural resource remains its people. Its potential must be unleashed through the creation of a business-friendly environment and fair rules-based system that welcomes all who wish to contribute to Greece's growth and prosperity, both domestic and foreign.
Such a framework must reward hard work and incentivize personal enterprise and initiative with a focus on small and medium enterprises that provide the backbone of the Greek economy. Greece's overseas diaspora has consistently prospered whenever operating in meritocratic business environments. Greek citizens must be given the same opportunity at home. It is simply long overdue.
Under Tsipras, a fair deal is simply not possible. Tsipras represents nothing but the same old state-centric solutions to society's problems which prove futile. According to Tsipras' ideological foundations, society must revolve around the state as the principal provider. For Tsipras, empowering the citizen, individual enterprise and personal initiative are simply antithetical to his far-left instincts. Tsipras' state-knows-best approach simply condemns citizens to state dependence - particularly Greece's youth which suffers Europe's highest unemployment rate at over 50 per cent.
This is further compounded by Tsipras' bleak economic track record. Whereas governments are often accused of overpromising and under-delivering, Tsipras' government not only overpromised but failed to deliver anything except for a burdensome third bailout. It was the direct product of his government's incompetence and ineptitude. Some of the sharpest and most accurate criticism of Tsipras emanate from his former allies who defected from Syriza. Syriza's youth wing which provided an indispensable support base has practically collapsed. They remain completely disillusioned by Tsipras' complete political reversals and failure to fulfill any promises.
Rumors circulating in European political circles maintain that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande prefer Tsipras' return as prime minister. According to this logic: after months of intransigence and defiance, Tsipras will now effectively implement the bailout after ditching Syriza's far-left faction. As a center-left pragmatist, Tsipras has the necessary credibility to impose difficult reforms and can effectively contain resistance in leftist ranks and broader general public.
At best, such logic amounts to wishful thinking. Neither Tsipras nor his inner circle actually believe in the bailout and the reforms it demands. Despite the defection of Syriza's far-left faction into the newly formed Popular Unity party, many hard leftists still remain in Syriza. In or outside of government, they can continue to destabilize Greece, maintain a prevailing state of uncertainty and keep Greece on the brink of exit from the Eurozone. Considering Europe's mounting challenges, opting for a second Tsipras mandate is not a risk worth taking.
Under a Meimarakis government, Greece remains firmly committed to Europe and the NATO alliance. In addition to its critical geo-strategic location, Greece remains a core and indispensable partner in the community of western democratic nations. Its position must be never questioned or doubted.
Unfortunately, during his tenure as prime minister, Tsipras proved an unreliable partner to Europe and the broader western alliance.
Tsipras immediately set the tone upon assuming office by hosting the Russian ambassador to Greece as his first official guest. Behind the symbolism were underlying deep-rooted and far-left ideological convictions dating back to the Cold War. In fact, before assuming office, many of Tsipras' closest allies vehemently opposed Greece's membership in NATO.
Furthermore, the Tsipras government regularly engaged in hostile and conflicting rhetoric against European partners. Often there were veiled threats of pulling Greece out of Europe if Syriza's demands were not accommodated. The refrain that Greece had "friends" elsewhere was not uncommon. The Tsipras government was implying the pursuit of closer relations with countries such as Russia and China to western disadvantage. In particular, Tsipras thought he could leverage Greece's geo-strategic location to extract concessions from western allies.
Tsipras even alluded to breaking ranks with Europe over sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of its aggression in eastern Ukraine. All along, Tsipras naively expected financial and diplomatic support from Russia and China if push came to shove. It never materialized.
To its credit, the Tsipras government achieved the unusual feat of uniting all of Europe's governments. Unfortunately, it was unanimously against Greece. The Tsipras government wasted months of precious negotiating time through useless grandstanding. The only purpose it served was to plant the seeds of animosity which came to full fruition in Greece's third bailout. In summary, during his seven months as prime minister Tsipras failed to perform at home or abroad.
More than ever, Greece now needs a responsible leader like Vangelis Meimarakis with the skills, experience and pragmatism that can restore stability at home, reestablish Greece's position at the core of Europe and secure Greece's place in the alliance of western democracies.