This Sunday Greece is holding a general election in a very tense and fraught environment. It looks likely that the “radical” left wing group Syriza will win, with the threat that they will default on Greece’s debts and possibly lead it out of the Euro, back to the Drachma. Meanwhile Golden Dawn remain a real menace to migrants on the streets of Greece, and there are rumours that they have connections with what is sometimes called the “Deep State,” internal security and police who hold a secret longing for a return to the days of dictatorship and a deep hatred of the left. The London Review of Books published a good and very disturbing account of the behaviour of Golden Dawn and its links to this alleged Deep State, written by a journalist who managed to get some way into the organization. Meanwhile the European Central Bank has announced a new run of quantitative easing, perhaps intended to send a message to the Greek electorate that they might expect some support in their austerity plans, but the austerity program the Greek electorate is facing is shockingly tight and extremely disruptive.
Given this environment, and being safely ensconced far away from the trouble, I have thought of a few possible outcomes of the election, and have a few questions about what might happen. Even though I think asking a question and answering it yourself is the first mark of a dickhead, here are some of my questions with my thoughts on the possible answers.
- Will Syriza win? The polls seem to give them an edge but maybe the possibility of a real default will lead Greeks to return to the status quo
- How will Golden Dawn react? It seems to me that there is a very real possibility they will try and instigate some kind of communal violence, and the state doesn’t seem interested in confronting Golden Dawn
- Will the Deep State act to preserve the interests of the elite? Assuming this Deep State is even a thing, will it react to a communist victory by moving to interfere in the functionings of democracy? If it is true that a large minority of powerful people still hanker after the era of the Generals, will they move to act on this?
- Will Syriza back down on default and exit? Some are suggesting Syriza have been mellowing their rhetoric on default and exit as the election looms, but this could just be a campaigning tactic. Even if they really are starting to feel the heat, backing down on key parts of their platform will probably break them apart and bring about more instability. It seems to me they’re going to be hard-pressed not to follow through on core policies
- What will the effect of this be on other countries, especially the UK? The UK is slated for a referendum on EU membership if the Torie win in 2017. If Greece exits and it is not a catastrophe for Greece or the EU, this will potentially influence that referendum, since the pro-exit people will be able to point to Greece as an example. Likewise if exit is disastrous for Greece. If Greece starts a chain of exits by highly-indebted or highly anti-EU countries it could spell tough times for the EU. Will the much-maligned Greek left be the trigger for a conservative rebellion in the UK?
I don’t have an opinion on what Greeks or Syriza should do, being too far away and too ignorant to have strong views, and although I think much of the narrative on Greece and its economic problems is shallow and ideologically driven, and I’m generally not in favour of the Euro, I can’t say what I think is right or wrong about the whole sorry mess. If Syriza win I hope the transition to radical left leadership happens without neo-fascist street violence, and if Greece exits I hope they are able to solve their economic problems quickly and with minimum fuss. If a Greek exit begins a chain reaction that sees the EU scaled back a bit and maybe made more fiscally flexible I think that would be a good thing, though it won’t change British angst about the EU so long as the free movement of people remains at the heart of the project. But I really really hope that if Syriza win, their victory doesn’t lead to a long period of instability that turns Greece into the neo-fascist cradle for all of Europe. That would spell trouble far beyond Greece’s borders, and well beyond this election, and I hope the Greek people are able to avert such a disaster regardless of how they vote this weekend.