White shirt and red rose in hand, Aléxis Tsípras showed up on Sunday morning all smiles to vote in a school in the Athenian popular district of Kypséli, where the Greek Prime Minister still lives, having always refused to move under the gold of the Republic after his party’s historic victory four years ago. But how far it seems that day in January 2015 when Syriza, with more than 35% of the vote, offered power to the Greek left for the first time. Four years later, Tsípras’s defeat in Sunday’s legislative elections leaves a bitter taste.
Until the last moment, the youngest head of government that Greece has known – he will soon be 45 – tried to mobilize left-wing voters by dangling the possibility of a anatropi, a reversal of the polls which, for several weeks, had won his right-wing rival, the leader of New Democracy, Kyriákos Mitsotákis. “We vote Sunday for our life”, Syriza hammered during the campaign, raising the specter of a new social regression should the conservatives return to power.
But didn’t Tsípras also, in many ways, lead a right-wing policy? Elected on the promise to end austerity in 2015, he loses the battle six months later against the country’s creditors, who will not give him any gifts. Here is Syriza forced to apply in its turn an even more severe austerity, accompanied by a new “rescue plan”. A new loan which, far from saving Greece, has especially enriched creditors and shareholders: bonds on Greek debt offering the best performance in the euro zone this year with 23% yield. As for the country’s indebtedness, it remains at 180% of GDP. Still, by dint of sacrifices, Greece ended up officially coming out in August 2018 from the chain of “rescue plans”. While remaining under the close supervision of creditors, who de facto placed the country under guardianship until 2060.
In August 2018, Tsípras brandished the exit from the bailouts as a historic victory, boasting a record primary budget surplus of 3.5%, well above the demands of the country’s creditors, the European Union. , the IMF and the European Central Bank. “Tsípras triumphed, but the Greeks did not understand: why have gone beyond the demands of the creditors, when this” surplus “was obtained at the cost of excessive taxation of the middle classes, even today? more stifled than before the left came to power? ” notes political analyst Georges Seferzis.
Syriza, however, strived to protect the social rights of the most vulnerable, while 35% of Greeks still live below the poverty line. But it was the middle classes that paid the bill, while “The absence of major social demonstrations, as was the case under the previous right-wing government, totally blinded Syriza, which has not seen this front of anger rise”, Seferzis also notes. The scathing defeat of Tsípras’ party in the European and local elections at the end of May therefore led to early elections on Sunday. All in a context of anti-Tsípras hysteria, orchestrated by the right and the private media, in the face of predominantly fatalist voters.
However, Syriza carried out important reforms allowing a certain stabilization of public expenditure, finally opening the possibility of naturalization to the countless children of immigrants who had been stateless until then. Not to mention the increase in the minimum wage to 650 euros. Or the historic agreement concluded in June with the northern neighbor, now officially called “North Macedonia”. An agreement that unleashed the wrath of New Democracy. The revelations of the Greek magazine Document on the double game of the Greek conservatives, who in 2005 were ready to completely sell off the sensitive name of “Macedonia”, have not changed anything. The tide had already turned.
“I am certainly the only Greek leader who has not enriched myself and whose party is not involved in any corruption scandal”, However, Tsípras recalled Tuesday, during a televised interview on the private Skaï channel where he defended himself with impressive panache against two journalists openly committed to Kyriákos Mitsotákis. Which refused for his part to debate publicly with him. Tsípras had promised that a new mandate would allow him to finally carry out social reforms that would relieve the middle classes. Obviously too late. By practicing a liberal policy, under the constraint of the creditors, the Greek left suffered the fate reserved for a part of European social democracy which takes the same path: at the risk of discouraging voters who no longer believe in a bright future.