Published in the Cyprus-Mail under the title “Why I can no longer support Tsipras,” July 12th, 2015

On Saturday, a day before the referendum, I argued that I will no longer be supporting Tsipras even though I was in favour of the NO vote. Having read the Greek government’s latest proposals to their creditors, as they were submitted on Thursday night, I stick to my view.

These are the five reasons I gave that explain why I no longer support Tsipras and his government.

  1. He called people to vote on a document that was no longer on the table.
  2. The consequences of either option were not clear and not adequately discussed — thus weakening his argument that a referendum was the democratic thing to do.
  3. Tsipras and his officials were promising what they could not deliver: that a deal would be secured and that the banks would reopen within 48 hours — neither of which materialised, as it turned.
  4. I predicted that he would accept whatever is put in front of him, a product of his grossly diminished bargaining power, which would be marketed to the Greek people as a success.
  5. His failure would impede the momentum of leftist movements across Europe.

I could — and to be honest, I still cannot — make sense of his negotiating tactics. Why adopt such a confrontational rhetoric if the underlying agenda is to remain in the Eurozone? It only makes sense to call your creditors terrorists, if you want to show them the finger. If not, and irrespective of whether they act as terrorists or not, you should adopt a stance that will eventually allow for an agreement.

The moment of shock for me was when the FT leaked the emergency proposal that was submitted by Greece right before it defaulted on its IMF debt, on June 25th. The proposal accepted the very terms that the Greek people were called to reject a week later. It was nothing short of embarrassing to see a government concede defeat like that, showing their cards and making obvious that membership to the eurozone would be pursued at all costs. It was at that point that all hope was lost. The outcome of the referendum was, if not irrelevant, then of considerably diminished importance.

And here we are, Thursday evening with the Greek government submitting a proposal for another three years of austerity, with cuts that will run deeper than those rejected by the Greek people with their NO vote.

The idea of the referendum, by the way, was not a bad one. More democracy is never a bad idea provided that there is a clear choice and access to information, neither of which were available in the case of the Greek referendum. But in general, treating people like adults and asking them to own their choices is the way to go.

If we accept Tsipras’ democratically-driven defence for the referendum, then we are faced with a paradox: if the Greek people overwhelmingly opposed the destructive austerity politics that caused the humanitarian crisis in Greece, then on what grounds is it legitimate for Tsipras to propose even more austerity measures which will be more severe than before? Isn’t Tsipras going against the democratic mandate that the Greek people have generously given him on Sunday?

Not quite. Tsipras’ campaigning leading to the referendum was based on the promise that he wouldn’t leave the eurozone. A strong NO would strengthen his bargaining power, was the mantra used. Naive as it may be, the Greek people who supported it bought it. Few were those who advocated for a Grexit.

Alas, to be fair to Tsipras, one should not rush to put the blame solely on him. What we witness is not Tsipras turning into Samaras, but rather, Tsipras trying to balance the irreconcilable double mandate that he received; namely, less austerity and membership to the eurozone. The two, as Alex Andreou argued, are mutually exclusive.

But the story does not end here. Tsipras has not been elected as an abstract political actor who would implement whatever was demanded of him. Tsipras and his party represent the “radical left.” Granted, their policies have been less radical and more socialdemocratic, but whatever the case, they have an ideological axis that should constrain (if not guide) the type of policies that a radical left party can rightfully pursue.

If the option was to sacrifice the anti-austerity commitment in order to stay in the eurozone, Tsipras should either resign or proceed to another referendum, this time avoiding the idiotic mistakes of the last one. He should ask people to decide between the two mutually exclusive mandates. If, in the referendum, eurozone won over anti-austerity, then the only route left for a radical left candidate would be to resign.

Unfortunately Tsipras mishandled the negotiations, and is now proposing measures that would better suit his predecessor. In the meanwhile, his government has absolutely no bargaining power left in the negotiations.