IBNA/ Interview with Stavros Theodorakis – Leader of ‘To Potami’

IBNA/ Interview with Stavros Theodorakis – Leader of ‘To Potami’

Athens, January 23, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

Mr. Theodorakis, we are used to seeing you with a backpack. You may say that is quite common for a reporter. What is it that made you change the tools of your trade and fill your backpack with hopes and Greece for a different Greece?

It was agony. Not only my own agony but that of many people with which I spoke as a journalist. Agony for where the country is headed; for what tomorrow holds for our children. Agony and anger. Anger for the way the political establishment managed to destroy the livelihoods of the people and take Greece back to much poorer times; to indignity and vilification. A common refrain in these discussions was “something has to happen”. And this “something” could not just fall out of the sky. The future of this country is our responsibility. Therefore, instead of asking what has to happen, my colleagues and I began to ask “what can we do” when we started this journey. And we are doing it. As a diverse and dynamic civil movement.

What is at stake in the elections of January 25 for Greece? Is the dilemma “in or out of Europe and the euro” a valid one? Can there be such a result that will lead to an exit from the EU?

Here is where the popular saying “not a chance under any government” applies. No government could withstand an anti-European course where Greece will be isolated from its natural habitat. Some were slow to realize this. Even now thought, we see them completely revising their policies and rhetoric. They are beginning to accept the European orientation. Even the eurozone and the common currency they used to throw stones at. I say “welcome” because Greece is and will remain the soul of Europe. I remind you of what Helmut Schmidt used to say: A Europe without Greece is not Europe. Not even the Europeans could expel Greece from the EU or any Greek power for that matter. The sum of the hysterical anti-European powers (KKE, ANTARSYA, Golden Dawn and Panos Kammenos) is insignificant against the vast majority of citizens. Even if you add some old Communist components of SYRIZA to them.

You have been accused that The River party is a creation of interlaced interests and that your political manifesto has no ideological base. You have responded to this criticism many times and we will see in times what happens. However, in a possible coalition with SYRIZA or New Democracy how will you ensure your proposals are considered? Which “red lines” do you draw?

I am pleased that our answers to these fainthearted and cunning accusations are sufficient for you and the citizend that put their trust in us. I have presented our “red lines” many times. Allow me to repeat them. I have four key prerequisites for our participation in any government.

Firstly, the country must stay firmly on the European course. Europeans are our primary allies and everyone else comes after them.

Second is a social state that will soothe the wounds of Greek society. Not just makeshift measures, 50 or 100 euro benefits for someone to get by, not just turning electricity back on; humanitarian organizations do such things. [I mean] a social state. That means protection, guaranteed income for those that are really poor.

The third is the triptych for development: Jobs, jobs, jobs. This country doesn’t want handouts from other countries. It needs some help to stand on its feet and create new jobs. Therefore we need investments. We want investments attracted to the country on clear terms. And this is possibly an area where we will find opposition because we don’t want to return to a statist economy. We don’t want the state to grow, we want the economy to grow.

And the fourth issue – which is a matter of principle for us and why we got involved in politics – is justice. When we say justice we don’t mean courts – even though those are problematic too and we need to make changes. We mean justice. We mean that those who live off public funds should be withdrawn and possibly punished.

The experience of cooperation at government level was not enough to build a strong case for the need of proportional representation. It seems like coalition governments do not work in Greece. Why is that the case in your opinion? Would could be done to move away from the obsession parties have with power towards real government for the people?

The reason coalitions don’t work is that we have not learned to cooperate. Because throughout the post-junta era larger parties managed to impose one-party governments at times through setting extortionate dilemmas or through the use of complex electoral laws.

These majority single-party governments led us to the current situation. Because they handled the state as a feud and mortgaged the the future of the Greek people. It is really sad to see a left-wing party today reproducing the same blackmailing dilemmas they previously condemned and – showing opportunistic immorality – settling for an electoral law that gives the first party a 17% boost beyond the percentage given to it by the people.

Pre-election talks amongst the center-left was fruitless. Do you intend to take initiative towards creating a larger group that will bridge differences and work to the benefit of citizens and not the few?

We are building this group day by day. Without center-left, center-right or any other labels. We are building a group in which all citizens unite. Not a setting were fake unions and artificial coalitions amongst politicians work as a political lifeline for some. The fact that we are building the group correctly is evident in that in less than a year since our launch we have established ourselves as the third power in the minds of the people while leaving behind parties with long histories. We will not be trapped running around people and groups that only care for their political survival.