Developments in Greece are taking a strange turn after Tsipras announced on TV (enikos.gr) the government’s intention to hold a referendum if the Europeans insist on asking things that contradict (according to the PM) Syriza’s mandate.
While the stock-market and analysts outside Greece are predicting a deal with the Eurogroup very soon, internally, Syriza is doing whatever it can to promote a climate of polarisation and a siege mentality. This is the poster that circulated in Athens during the May Day celebrations yesterday. It reads: “We will not be blackmailed. Not one step back”
Add to this the extreme pronouncements of Lafazanis, posted on the Ministry webpage moreover (see here), and one gets the sense that something is afoot.
What is happening is that Tsipras finds himself in exactly the same place Samaras was at the end of 2014. He needs the support of the lenders, but he cannot bring himself to pass the measures they request, least the government collapses. Samaras got out of it by calling an election using the pretext of the Presidential selection. Tsipras plans to get out of it by calling a referendum. But what will this referendum be about?
The referendum will not be about Euro-membership because, as Tsipras very well knows, this would set in motion a chain of events that would not be controllable. This is what Tsipras had said about Papandreou’s attempt at a referendum:
If the referendum is not about Euro-membership, what will it be on? Alexis Mitropoulos (Parliament’s deputy chair) proposed a referendum (taking Euro-membership as a given) on whether the Greek public would like continued support from the lenders on their terms, or on Syriza’s terms. Effectively, this is like going to a restaurant and having a poll on whether to pay for your lunch or not. This would be laughable if it were not serious. Mitropoulos’ farcical idea shows why the government is considering a referendum:
A referendum aims to legitimise rupture and blame the Europeans for the consequences, absolving Syriza.
This is why I have argued all along that an election is needed, NOT a referendum. An election will offer the chance for the Greek people to choose a negotiating stance (cooperation or rupture). The issues are too complex to be put to a referendum, and one that asks for a free lunch is not a solution to Greece’s problems. It may be a solution to Syriza’s problems, but that is another issue.
Why am I saying all this? According to the narrative of the government, I must be part of this Fifth Column that is paid by the Germans to undermine Greece. This is a naive at best and idiotic at worst way to deal with criticism.
I have been a supporter of this government and a supporter of Varoufakis. Those who care to read what I am writing will have no doubt. Those who cherry-pick comments and mis-translate articles about me will see what they seek.
Focus Magazine wrote an article about me that has led the German public to be shocked by my suggestion that Germany is to blame for disastrous policies imposed on the European Periphery. It has also prompted Greek hacks to accuse me of betrayal.
I was even interviewed by Kostas Sarikas on Alpha TV about this. When Mr Sarikas asked me if I am asking for Varoufakis’ resignation, I said categorically no. I am asking for an election. Mr Varoufakis -as I said clearly in the blog post (see here) that sparked all this- is right. The rupture strategy however is not a choice up to the Government, it is a choice that should be put to the people. The interview of course never aired, as it could not nicely fit with Dora Bakoyanis calls for Varoufakis resignation.
But of course, according to the likes of Mr Lafazanis, I must be a traitor.
Let me say this: If the Greeks wanted red lines, grandiose rhetoric and rupture, why didn’t they vote for KKE? They voted for Syriza because they wanted someone to negotiate on their behalf. They did not vote for a Greek Che Guevara with a messianic syndrome.
Basta Mr Tsipras!