By Andreas Kapsampelis
Although internal problems are multiplying, andas disintegration and divisiveness within his partykeep growing, Mitsotakis naively continues tobelieve that he will remain the protagonist of the political game…
Faced with deadlocks on all fronts, Mitsotakis’ government is now racing against time to call elections under decent political conditions, that will allow it to remain a contender for the first place.
The following 90 to 100 days that are estimated to elapse before the incoming snap elections are crucial one by one, since the political unrest is reaching its climax and a cascading series of events is unfolding.
Regarding both external and internal affairs, the latest developments are particularly worrisome for the Maximos Mansion, which is now struggling to hold the line by utilizing its media supremacy and pro-government polls, pinning its last hopes on the “anti-SYRIZA” reflexes of the governing party’s electoral base. Beneath the surface, however, internal problems are multiplying, and as disintegration and divisiveness within his party keep growing, Mitsotakis naively continues to believe that he will remain the protagonist of the political game, even in the aftermath of the elections, even if New Democracy fails to achieve an absolute seat majority.
These ominous messages are already being received by MPs and party officials, who have thrown themselves into a hectic pre-election campaign and are giving fierce battles all over Greece for their personal post-election “survival”, as their parliamentary group may lose more than a third of its current strength – owing to the current system of simple proportional representation, inter alia.
In the field of the national economy, the only sigh of relief is offered by the summer period we are going through and the hopes for a lucrative tourist season. Aside from that, all financial indicators are constantly deteriorating and all predictions paint a dire picture of the following months. The government is attempting to tackle the crisis by implementing a perpetual benefit policy – of which Mitsotakis himself disapproved before becoming prime minister – which they hope will adequately contain social unrest so that it does not turn into an uprising.
The worst, however, is yet to come, as all reports predict that soaring prices will continue into next winter, while the energy sector outlook appears nightmarish for Europe, due to the sanctions imposed against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
At the same time, Greece is unable to take on new international loans due to the jump in greek bond yields and the widening of yield spreads to the levels of memorandum-era 2010. This, in turn, brings about serious problems in the drawing-up of next year’s budget – which is expected to be in deficit, anyway – thus increasing the worries of the government’s financial staff. Furthermore, according to credible information, early elections are expected to be called before the presentation of the new draft budget, so that there is some room for Mr. Mitsotakis to sugarcoat the situation during his appearance at this year’s TIF (Thessaloniki International Fair), which will probably be part of his pre-election campaign.
The dire state of the national economy directly affects Greek society, which – having suffered through two years of pandemics and restrictions – is now experiencing unprecedented fatigue and uncertainty. Furthermore, with every occasion, they see their fear of new restrictive measures being revived. Among citizens, pessimism about the future is off the charts and this is directly reflected in the entire political system, but even more so in the government, which exercises authority and makes crucial decisions. A clear indicator of the growing economic and social pressure is that, for the first time in recent history, more than 50% of citizens stated that they will not go on vacation this summer, while this percentage is considerably higher in those over 35.
Raging social discontent acts, in fact, like quicksand and makes pollsters – even the most professional ones – unable to correctly assess whether at the time of the elections this dissatisfaction will translate into an election boycott or into a vote of punishment and condemnation.
The government is also facing a series of institutional failures, which are, in fact, quite distressing. Its pursuit to couple the upcoming elections with Special Courts – most notably for the Novartis case – collapsed with a bang a few days ago, following the Judicial Council’s acquittal of all those involved in the alleged “conspiracy”, politicians, judges, and journalists.
This development proved to be a major blow for the government and for Mr. Mitsotakis personally, who – given that he keeps Antonis Samaras “repressed” within his party – has fully and publicly embraced his defeat, through his speech to the Parliament, ending up completely exposed in light of the upcoming election.
The negative developments in the field of diplomacy in the aftermath of the NATO Summit further tarnish the image of the prime minister and the government. Compared with Turkish President Erdogan, who maneuvered and negotiated hard to get what he wanted, including a US commitment to sell Turkey F-16 jets, Mitsotakis appears to have gotten the short end of the stick, although he had invested – especially, in fact, after the war in Ukraine and the imposition of sanctions on Russia – in the role of the “faithful and predictable ally” of the West.
Terribly embarrassed, the government is now trying to distort the facts concerning these developments, while at the same time Erdogan, emboldened by his successes, has not only brought back up the claims regarding the demilitarization of the Greek islands, but also, exceeding all limits, has called the Greek people to “teach a democratic lesson to their rulers” who lead them to “troubles and disastrous conclusions”. Couple all this with the pernicious handling of the “Turkeagean” issue – which for many is widely similar to the Prespa Agreement for Macedonia under SYRIZA – and you have a chaotic situation in national affairs that New Democracy has to deal with.
A three-month nightmare
This downward trajectory, which no longer seems easy to revert, has cast a shadow of doubt over the political “imperium” that Mitsotakis may have at the time of the elections and the formation of the new government.
His demand to secure preemptive consensus that he will remain prime minister in case of a coalition government is also withering away day by day, as the possibility of failing to find government partners is visible, and the next 90 to 100 days may turn out to be literally nightmarish for Mitsotakis, largely resembling “the last days of Pompeii”.