In diplomacy, there is a sacred rule that reads: “Diplomacy is the art of telling people the worst things, but in the most elegant way possible”. But how can one interpret the defeat of Alexis Tsipras in the most elegant manner, without misusing diplomacy? In the region, many diplomats, analysts and citizens are convinced that Alexis Tsipras lost the parliamentary elections in Greece because of the signing of the Prespa Agreement. We are not Pretorians to reach for muscle arguments, but such a statement requires at least some corrections and explanations. It is known that the historic Prespa event with some of the Macedonian and Greek political and intellectual elites broke old nationalistic constructs and washed out the suppressed and wild and anti-European complexes on the surface. Politicians from Golden Dawn and New Democracy, and even VMRO-DPMNE, began working on the naive crowd. For make the absurd greater, both in 2005, according to the Greek magazine Documento, were prepared for compromise. In fact, the biggest opponents of the Prespa Accord, Golden Dawn, failed to pass the censuses for a place in parliament. This is only the first parameter that the Zaev-Tsipras agreement was not so relevant in the defeat of Syriza. Then what are the main causes of failure?
Dressed in his emblematic white shirt and red rose in his hands, Alexis Tsipras came on July 7th morning to give his vote to a crowded place in the popular Athenian neighborhood of Kypseli, where he has been living for decades. Since 2015, he refused ever since his party Syriza won the elections, to move to the lavish chambers that every president of the government in Greece is entitled to. His 35% of the votes won in 2015 have demolished the existing bipolar party-cracy of New Democracy and PASOK. However, four years later, the defeat of the lucid and atypical leader Tsipras leaves a bitter taste not only among his party supporters, but also here in North Macedonia among all those who witnessed his political growth, positive spirit and success.
Until the last moment, the youngest head of the Greek government, who will soon turn 45, sought to mobilize left-wingers promising an opportunity for an anthropy, believing in a miraculous twist of exploration that for months gave a significant advantage to his rival, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Tsipras hopelessly encouraged them that good ideas never go out of style, but that they had a future and said “We will vote for our lives on Sunday… if the conservatives come back to power, we will face a new wave of social regression”.
When the impressions gradually settle down, many of Tsipras’ supporters asked the hypothetical question: “Was the leader of Syriza leading right-wing politics?” Let’s remind ourselves that he was elected in 2015 on the basis of promises to overcome the policy of “rigor and difficult reforms”, to which Greece was exposed after the severe economic and social crisis. Six months later, he lost the battle against creditors represented by the European Troika. The cynicism of the Greek populists towards the strict Europeans was really exaggerated, but they did not give any gifts to the man with no tie. On the contrary, they forced him to accept even a stricter policy of austerity, reforms and low wages to his own people, which meant political suicide in the long run. Tsipras barely managed to anchor the “new plan for the salvation from bankruptcy”. His government was blackmailed to indebted allegedly “to rescue Greece,” and essentially the effects of this borrowing were more enriched by creditors and shareholders. The bonds of new borrowings in Greece have allowed the highest performances of creditors across the Eurozone with a huge 23 per cent earnings. The level of borrowing reached a fantastic 180 percent of the GNP, although for the consolation of our southern neighbors, the state officially walked out of the “salvation plans” chain in August, 2018. However, the state remained under the watchful eye of creditors who put Athens under their tutelage up to 2060.
In August 2018, Greece finally left the concentric circles of “the policy of salvation”, and Prime Minister Tsipras declared this act as “a great historical victory”. He noted that thanks to his policy, the budget reached a record surplus of 3.5 percent (above the expectations of creditors – the EU, the IMF and the Central European Bank). In reality, as the analyst Jorgos Seferis concludes, “Tsipras really triumphed, but the Greeks did not understand why he was trying to go at all costs above the creditors’ expectations, although the “excess” was derived from the exasperate taxation of middle classes who found themselves in even more difficult position than before 2015″.
Syriza, according to its own ideology, tried to protect the social rights of the most threatened, although 35 percent of Greeks continued to live below the poverty threshold. However, it is the middle class that paid the bill of strict reform, remained silent and did not initiate major social protests. This silence totally offsets Tsipras who failed to feel the dissatisfaction of the people. The big defeat of Tsipras’ party in European and local elections in late May leading to early parliamentary elections pointed to Syriza’s great unpopularity in public opinion in Greece. Tsipras played a risky poker game with the announcement of snapshots for July 7 this year. Until the last moment, he hoped to make a turn in public opinion, but this time he was wrong.
Throughout the reform period, Tsipras was confronted with a strong hysteria of the media and his former allies orchestrated by New Democracy. They looked for any kind of reason to challenge his talent as a statesman. Such was the case with the Prespa Agreement. There was criticism just for the sake of criticizing, although deep inside, Mitsotakis was happy that finally the problem with North Macedonia was resolved without any harm to his rating. The hysteria against Tsipras began to resemble our domestic anti-Zaev hysteria, both by those who were supportive and close to the ruling party, as well as by the opposition. Tsipras even initiated a law on the naturalization of migrant children and certain protective measures.
On the eve of the elections, Tsipras reminded his fellow Greeks: “I am the only Greek leader who has not made a fortune, nor did my party get involved in any corruption scandal”. On privately owned TV Sky, Mitsotakis, similar to Gruevski, refused to accept a TV duel, but Tsipras faced two journalists who openly supported his opponent Mitsotakis. And then he expressed the hope that “the new mandate will enable him to finally intensify social reforms, which will improve the position of the middle class”. The results of July 7 showed that, regardless of good intentions, he lagged behind the demands of the Greeks. Tsipras was pressured by creditors to practice liberal politics, far from his ideological orientations, and it is therefore understandable that the Greek left experienced the fate of the other European left. Once again, when deciding at the polling stations, empty stomachs and the social revolt of the voters are the deciding factors. Neither diplomacy, nor the Prespa Agreement were the decisive factors.