Friday 23 January 2015


Imagine that you learnt that, in a Europeran country, very proud of its democratic history, a party had just massively won elections but, since the electoral system is mostly proportional and there are very many parties, it came just short of an absolute majority and needs a few seats from a coalition party to reach it.
And yet, absolutely no party accepts going into a coalition with them. In fact, almost all of them went as far as categorically stating, before the elections, that they would not join them in a majority.

Before learning any more, what would be your expectations about this party?
Categorically refusing to join the clear winner of a popular vote is a fairly strong statement. It might make sense if you are at the polar opposite, but here EVERY party refuses to enter into a coalition with them, so what do you think?

You would probably assume that they have something absolutely terrible that justifies a united front against them. Say, they are neo-nazis or neo-fascists.
That would be making an assumption: it is far from clear that nobody would agree to joining a coalition with neo-fascists, as evidenced, for instance, by previous Berlusconi governments. But maybe the prospect of them taking power would lead all parties to resist any sort of alliance. No such thing happened when the leading party failing to reach an absolute majority was the Nazi party, but maybe we have learnt since then.

Maybe we have learnt, but we will not really get to know since, as you may have guessed, the party in the most likely playout of this scenario in the near future share no fascist tendencies: it is Syriza, who is likely to win the coming Greek elections at a canter, but to need a further handful (around 5 out of 300) of seats for an absolute majority.
And yet, potential parties have made it abundantly clear that they will not enter into a coalition, even by abstention (ie not voting against Syriza).

The reasons vary -the communists seem to be against any coalition as a matter of principle, for instance. Greek independents have not said no officially, but their anti-foreigners position makes a coalition impossible. For the rest (let's not considered the neo-nazis of Golden Dawn, which the crazy EU politics of the past 7 years have turned into a major party), though, the reason is simple: Syriza can do arithmetics.
That is, they are aware that the current roadmap imposed by the Troika is not workable. Greek debt cannot be repaid under the conditions imposed by the Troika, therefore it will not be, so Syriza wants to renegociate.
This is eminently sensible of course, as insisting on an arithmetic impossibility because that is your interpretation of a treaty rarely proves successful. What's more, Germans repeating "pacta sunt servanda" everywhere would be well advised to read the history of Germany not respecting pacts and treaties, and indeed its role in creating a far below target inflation in the Eurozone, lifting real interest rates in the process. Inflation should be around 2% by treaty (it should aim much higher economically), yet has been far below for years on end. Also, EU treaties explicitly forbid beggar thy neighbour policies, which is essentially their business model. Anyway, the point is that the distinctive Syriza policy is hardly in the fascist or Pol Pot league, in fact it is eminently reasonable. But it does not please rentiers.

And so we move into the purest form of post-democracy. Institutions are still allegedly in place. But first, most parties end up pursuing similar policies, making a democratic choice impossible. When, against all odds, an outsider (centrist though its policies really are) party manages to make itself heard, the whole system tries to shut them down, including other EU countries who have put a lot of pressure on Greeks not to vote Syriza, even using blatant threats and complete misrepresentation of Syriza's policies.
If despite all that, the said party looks like winning the elections massively, the more likely outcome is that no one will agree to join them in a majority and new elections will be called. People of the world, hear the message: you must learn to remain irrelevant.

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