‘Expect serious reshuffling of political lines in Greece’

Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Certain political forces in Greece that campaigned for ‘No’ at the referendum won’t be satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations so we should expect to see political changes, says Dr. Harry Konstantinidis of the University of Massachusetts.

RT:The IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, has admitted it underestimated the effects of austerity on Greece. So why are we seeing what appears to be a continuation of the same policies?

Harry Konstantinidis: This is a very good question. I think that the eurozone has been trapped over the past five years into pretending that the reason for the failure of the austerity policies is not the policies themselves, but the fact that the Greek government has not gone all the way. I think the parallel to that is a doctor, if you will, who blames the patient rather than the treatment itself. So essentially, if the eurozone admitted that the policies were wrong it would have to actually perform self-criticism and the eurozone has been very reluctant to acknowledge - even after these five years - that the policies were on the wrong track rather than on the right path. It’s easier to blame the Greeks for not going all the way, than to actually finally acknowledge that these policies were wrong to begin with.

RT:What kind of reaction should we expect from those who voted ‘No’ in the referendum?

HK: This is a good question again. I think that we should expect a serious reshuffling of the political lines in Greece over the next few days. So I think it will become clear that certain political forces that campaigned for ‘No’ are not going to be satisfied with the outcome of these negotiations. It’s not clear how this is going to manifest in terms of political behavior from the electorate, but at least immediately we should expect to see changes in the constitution of the political scene.

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RT: Athens was forced to make a lot of concessions - was there a genuine alternative?

HK: Was there an alternative? Yes and no. If you read the interview of the previous finance minister that came out today in the New Statesman it appears that the Greek government was not willing to consider alternatives. And to some extent this is a political calculation; this is not an economic discussion, it’s the calculation of our government that did not want to rupture with the eurozone at this particular junction. If you read Yanis Varoufakis’ interview you are going to see a calculation that it was not the right time to achieve a break with the eurozone and that the balance of power in Syriza was not providing the Syriza leadership with a mandate to go all the way. This is a political calculation rather than an economic one strictly speaking.

RT:The Greek Parliament has to pass legislation to implement the reforms by Wednesday. What happens if it doesn't?

HK: I think it will. Given the composition of the Greek parliament, I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Parliament is not going to vote in favor of the bills by Wednesday. Now the more important question is how the parliamentary majority of the government going to change by Wednesday. Because even though the opposition parties that have been supporting austerity all these five years may vote in favor of the legislation that is about to come forward, it’s safe to assume that a significant number of Syriza MPs are not going to vote for this new legislation. This is what we have to wait and see - how the Syriza majority is going to change and how the Syriza government is going to move forward given that we expect a number of defections over the next couple of days.

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RT:The Greek prime minister and eurozone leaders said firmly there will be no Grexit. In the long-term, is that a promise they can keep?

HK: It takes two to tango. If you want to stay in the eurozone your partners have to also want to keep you in the eurozone. What we have learned over the last couple of days is that the eurozone project is significantly traumatized by the fact that certain countries are willing to talk about the exit of Greece, or the exit of any other country to be frank. So if the Greek government is committed to staying in the eurozone - and I think that we have witnessed a very significant commitment from the side of the Greek government to stay in the eurozone - this may not be sufficient if the political establishment and the economic establishment of the eurozone does not want to keep Greece in the eurozone and keeps trying to force Greece outside the eurozone. If we’ve learned anything over the past couple of days, it’s that the political establishment that governs the eurozone - and this is perfectly illustrated by the German finance minister - are going to try their best in order to push Greece out of the eurozone in order to turn it into an example for any other countries that may decide to defy the current eurozone rules.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.