June 17 is a big day for Greece. This is the day for the reelections of the various political players that will be determining the economic future of Greece. The lack of party majority in the early May election caused the need for this upcoming election.
As I am piecing together the story, the first important thing one must understand is how governments are formed in Greece. Now, coming from an American perspective, this may seem slightly odd at first (at least it did for me). Why am I saying governments and not parties?
I see American government as a kind of fill-in-the-blank bureaucratic system. We have a president. That president has a system of checks and balances so that theoretically what he says does not always go. He has to convince a certain members of other political bodies on the merit of his idea before it becomes an action plan. And, these members have the right to say that they disagree. But, once he is president, he is president. Meaning, he is elected as a Republican candidate, or a democratic one. He makes decisions according to his parties beliefs, but works with, and is thus making adjustments the other parties beliefs. However, in Greece there are not just two parties. There are many parties. These parties have followings. Currently, there are three main ones: New Democracy, The Syzira, and Pasok. Alexis Tsipras, Antonis Samaras, Evangelo Venizelos, respectively, are the leaders. These parties have become extremely hot because one issue has become a polarizing point for their platforms: should Greece refuse the Memoradum. The Memorandum is the document that outlines the financial agreements (meaning how money would be distributed to Greece for a bailout form their debts, and the kind of austerity measures that Greece would therefore have to stomach) between Greece and the IMF.
These party leaders are elected into office and once in office form the rules and regulation for the government they will create. Thus, depending on how many votes each has, they have differing levels of sway in shaping a government aligned with their parties beliefs. My question is: is there not a difference between the structure of a government and the policies it creates? Meaning, if the very structure (not just the policies that come out of it) of the government always change based on what a “coalition” of parties want, (remember though, one party always has a majority how can there not be a bias in the government structure? In the present situation, there was such division among the parties that no one had enough of a majority to be able to take the upper hand in forming the government. Hence, Athens face reelections June 17.
A danger of using coalitions and majorities has been illustrated in the present. The parties are now trying to gain more supporters to get a majority to be able to have the upper hand is structuring the government. Now the party leaders are changing their platforms to attract more voters. For example, the New Democracy is forced to promise slightly more radical things than they were initially comfortable doing in hopes of attracting maybe some of the moderate, but nonetheless, left-wingers. If they cannot attract these voters, their party will risk having no chance against the momentum the radical left party is gaining. But, if they are changing their platforms to attract different voters, what are their core beliefs anyway? It looks like they (the New Democracy) may just be trying to gather enough voters to avoid what they see as the worst thing possible (refuting the Memorandum and therefore a very real potential of leaving the eurozone) as opposed to trying to really enstill their parties values within the Greek society.
The New Democracy had vowed to stick to intense negotiations and continue to attempt to work within the framework of the memorandum (which came into action on October 7), but potentially make some changes. The Syzira promises to repeal the entire thing if elected. This has been understood as: if we do not want the Memorandum then we want an exit from the eurozone (this article explains this thinking. To understand why Tsipras sees Greece as inappropriatly dominated by the two parties he opposes, read up about how the New Democracy and Pasok crafted the Memorandum… GREECE — MEMORANDUM TO IMF ON ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL POLICIES14-05-20100).
Most of the media talks about if Greece should/will leave the eurozone and therefore if they will return to their previous currency, the drachma. This move would cause bank accounts in Greece to be frozen so that no money could flow out of them. This way, the country would have euros to be converted into the less valuable drachma. For the citizens, this means they would be loosing money into thin air. Knowing this, any seemingly official declaration that has the drachma attached to it will cause people to get their money out of banks in Greece, making any attempt to reduce panic and scare, and increase spending to reboot the economy, totally useless. But, do things need to hit absolute rock bottom at this point in order to be re-booted? That I don’t know.