The Corner

Syriza’s Moment?

Greece goes to the polls on Sunday, and it seems close to certain (insert Dewey/Truman reference here) that the far-left Syriza will come top of the polls.  The remaining question appears to be whether the party will win enough seats to govern on its own.

Reuters:

Four surveys on Thursday showed Syriza widening its lead over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s conservatives with just over a day of campaigning left. Samaras holds his final election rally on Friday.

A poll by Metron Analysis to be published on Friday showed Syriza’s lead over the New Democracy party growing to 5.3 points from 4.6 points. Syriza would take 36 percent of the vote, putting it on the verge of an outright victory, the poll showed.

A second poll, by Rass, showed Syriza leading by 4.8 points, while a third poll by GPO for Mega TV showed Syriza with a 6 point lead, up from a 4 point lead in a previous poll.

A fourth poll by Marc for Alpha TV showed Syriza was ahead with a 6.2 point lead, up from a 3.2 point lead in a previous poll….

Under Greek electoral law, parties must secure 3 percent of the vote to enter the 300-seat parliament. The biggest party gets a 50-seat bonus. The level required to win outright depends on the share of the vote taken by parties that fail to cross the threshold.

Oh yes, there’s this:

[Syriza leader] Tsipras was joined on stage by the leader of Spanish leftist party Podemos. Supporters waved Greek flags and placards reading “Change Greece, change Europe!”

Podemos may be even deeper into the lunatic asylum than Syriza.  Founded last year, it is now top of the polls (at some 28 percent) in Spain, which will also be holding a general election later this year.

Perhaps it’s unkind to point out that one of the justifications for the euro was that it would somehow keep extremists at the fringes of European politics. In reality (and predictably) it has given them their chance. 

So what will happen if Syriza wins?

Well, take a look at Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front has to say (via France 24):

 “There is a revolt within Europe that is being led by people who are retaking control of power from the totalitarianism of the European Union and its allies,” Le Pen told the leading French daily Le Monde on Tuesday.

“This does not make me a far-left activist,” Le Pen added in relation to her support for Syriza. “We do not agree with their entire programme, specifically their immigration policies. But we would welcome their victory.”

France’s leading anti-immigration party, the FN is also virulently anti-Euro, calling for France to drop the single currency and erect border controls with its European neighbours.

As Le Pen knows, Syriza is not a nationalist party: it is neither opposed to the EU nor (at least nominally) the euro. It is the (supposed) financial discipline that comes with the single currency that Syriza objects to.

Reuters:

Tsipras urged Greeks to give Syriza an outright victory in Sunday’s vote so the country could turn its back on four years of austerity under the terms of an EU/IMF bailout.

“On Monday, national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad,” Tsipras, 40, told flag-waving supporters at his biggest election rally. “We are asking for a first chance for Syriza. It might be the last chance for Greece.”

Tsipras has unnerved financial markets with a pledge to overturn austerity cuts and demand a debt write-off from European partners. But his message has resonated with Greeks struggling with unemployment over 25 percent and wage and pension cuts.

If Syriza wins (certainly if it wins outright), fears that Greece will either quit or be forced out of the euro zone (it ought to be hopes: ‘Grexit’ would probably be the least bad outcome for Greece, but that’s a different debate) will pick up sharply, but, I reckon, unnecessarily.

Syriza will make a lot of noise, but if I had to guess (and guess is the word), those running the euro zone will, after some months of theater, give Syriza most of what it is asking for. They will not wish risking their grand federal project just to make a point to Greece, and they will take the risk of setting a dangerous precedent that Podemos and others may follow. They will see that as a crisis for another day. That this will involve another humiliation for Germany may be a bug or it may be a feature, but, after the European Central Bank’s announcement of quantitative easing, it won’t be a novelty.

I suspect that Le Pen knows this too. But she also knows that there is plenty that might make a mess of this scenario, starting with a revolt in those parts of Europe that will be asked to bail out Greece just one more last time. 

And out of that mess some opportunity could come her way.

The worse the better, as Lenin (supposedly) said.  

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