Friday, 21 June 2013

Is The Greek Government Really Better Off Without The Left? Jubilation May Be Premature

This editorial was published on EnetEnglish.

The Democratic Left party made its withdrawal from the coalition official on Friday, when it removed its four cabinet members. At least three of these have been controversial for their internal opposition to austerity or their ideological differences from the rest of the cabinet. 

Antonis Manitakis, as minister of administrative reform, famously refused to fire a single civil servant while in office, despite the fact that Greece has pledged to ridding itself of 150,000 people from the overmanned public sector until 2016.  

Justice minister Antonis Roupakiotis was one of the more benign presences in an otherwise authoritarian and conservative cabinet. He advocated an anti-racism law the ruling New Democracy conservatives chose to bury. Partly thanks to his criticism, a new citizenship bill that would have made it harder for non-Greeks and their children to become enfranchised, or for Greeks to attend foreign schools, was never tabled in parliament. 

Deputy Health Minister Foteini Skopouli was a divisive figure, roundly criticised by the opposition radical left Syriza for failing to channel funds to hospitals and pharmaceutical suppliers. Her moment of highest controversy came earlier this year, when she allowed the Greek Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to run out of funds with which to carry out vital monitoring of HIV patients. 

Many observers opine that the work of reform and austerity measures will now move apace with the most change-resistant member of the coalition gone. But the government is left with a majority of just three votes in the 300-seat parliament - the type of margin that has historically ended terms of office prematurely. It happened to Konstantine Mitsotakis in 1993, and to George Papandreou in 2011. 

Now, however, the risks are greater. In 2011, Papandreou reluctantly invited the conservatives to join him at a time when Samaras was still touting the anti-austerity position. Samaras came kicking and screaming, but together they controlled two thirds of parliament under a consensus prime minister. Now, they barely produce an outright majority, and there are no other parties supporting the memoranda of measures that accompany Greece's bailout loans. 

It is almost as though a consensus is forming in Greek public opinion that the bailout plan won't ultimately be feasible and the country will be forced to declare bankruptcy - not because of ideological idees fixes or bone-headed opposition, but because the Greeks can no longer finance the recession through savings and work, and to allow themselves to drop into the abyss of their real standard of living is an indignity defying consideration. 

The problems aren’t just political perceptions at home. According to the Financial Times, the International Monetary Fund, a key lender, has openly stated that Greek debt is not sustainable. It threatens to stop paying Greece its portion of the bailout loan that’s keeping the country afloat, because its charter won't allow it to support a programme that doesn't add up. 

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