Take a deep breath. Things could get bumpy.
The world is waiting to see how Greeks – insert ancient democracy cliché here – vote in Sunday’s election. One of the latest polls says left (not center, not far, just left) SYRIZA will take the election with 30 percent of the vote and will only need one or two of the other small leftist parties to join forces. Another says conservative New Democracy will take first with about 25 percent of the vote. SYRIZA may still have another chance at governing if New Democracy wins and none of the leftist parties are strong enough or willing enough to cross the aisle.
So who could be the next Prime Minister? Time Magazine dubbed Alexis Tsipras, “The Greek who makes Europe tremble.” His plan is to throw out the second bailout agreement altogether, put together a new one sans further austerity, and pursue a more federal Europe. In his view, the markets will have their way one way or another, so Greeks and working-class Europeans need not suffer any more, but the Eurozone should stay together. Typical SYRIZA idealism, based in logic, but probably about two years too late. Greece may not make payroll even with more cash and a debt haircut. Without the bailout, Greece will face a choice between missing payroll or undermining its safety net for banks. In theory, Tsipras’ vision could lead Greece out of austerity and back to growth, in theory. Problem is the country’s creditors – even in a panic – probably will not move fast enough.
New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras has sat in Tsipras’ shadow since May 6 but he is the less bad of two options to Greece’s creditors. Samaras almost single-handedly set off the current electoral chaos. When Socialist PASOK was in power, Samaras agreed ‘in principle’ to the austerity drive and opposed everything in practice. During the six-month unity government, he stalled the process and insisted on elections before implementing the terms of the second bailout. Typical Greek political calculation.
And here we are.
If Samaras wins, the bailout goes through as planned with maybe a couple of tweaks, or he wins but cannot form a coalition. If Tsipras can form a broader coalition of the left (and that is an if) he will have a choice between driving a hard bargain but compromising on his platform or staying true and risking default.
These polls could also fail to yield a new government, meaning another round of elections. But this time there is no margin for error.