New government will have many battles to fight on many fronts. And one of the most important fights will be a psychological one: to convince a disillusioned public – at home and abroad – that it will break with a sinful past and offer something fresh in Greece’s struggle to overcome its financial crisis.
The election results on May 6 and June 17 showed, over and above everything else, that what the electorate wants most is change. The presence of non-elected academics and technocrats in the new cabinet is indeed a step in the right direction. The appointment of prominent banker Vasilis Rapanos as finance minister was greeted positively.
However, at the same time, the government’s promise of a “new face” has fallen short of expectations. The sight of several members of the old guard of a discredited political establishment being sworn in on June 21 must have surely sent shivers down the spine of those hoping for a new beginning.
Nonetheless, the new government could get off to a good start if it plays it cards right within an evolving political and financial environment in the eurozone and beyond. Francois Hollande’s victory in France, along with increasing calls in Europe for growth and for stimulus packages to accompany tough fiscal austerity, must work in favour of the new government.
And that will be its main challenge: to ensure that it can exploit the new mood in Europe to Greece’s advantage. The country’s creditors have always insisted that there will be no renegotiation of the memorandum and that fiscal targets set in the bailout agreement must be met.
New Democracy, Pasok and the Democratic Left, the parties comprising the coalition government, campaigned on a platform promising to renegotiate the memorandum, raising expectations that somehow Greece will avoid the harsh consequences of its bailout package.
How the Greeks will meet these fiscal targets is up to them. If the government can hatch the right policies that will shift some of the burden from the weaker social strata without missing the targets set by the memorandum, it will have made a promising start. And if, as Deputy Employment and Social Security Minister Nikos Nikolopoulos said on June 21, it sticks to its pledge to ensure an end to further pension and wage cuts, it may live to fight another day in a crisis with no end in sight.
*** Athens News Editorial