Greece–what next? (Yes, I asked that already)

As I type this, nearly three fifths of the votes have been counted in the Greek referendum, and the percentage voting no keeps creeping up, currently 61.3%. This is quite a decisive result, notwithstanding a consensus of several polls that it was too close to call. So now what?

One hint of a possible next political step comes in the Guardian live blog:

And there is even the possibility that Greece’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, resigns to trigger early elections in an attempt to prevent Greece sliding out of the eurozone.

Interesting. It was the deadlock of the parliament last December over choosing a president that, under a provision of the constitution, triggered the early general election. Pavlopoulos is a former minister in conservative New Democracy (ND) governments, but was put forward as the new government’s candidate (after a farther-left rebellion inside SYRIZA against the initial candidate).

I find it fascinating that an almost completely powerless presidency becomes the focus of deadlocks and early elections for parliament. In December, the ND-PASOK government and the opposition (of which SYRIZA was the largest party) could not agree on a candidate. It takes 3/5 to elect a president, or else there is a new general election. But the new parliament can elect a president with a simple majority. Despite that, SYRIZA put forward an ND guy, who then won over 2/3. So ND’s last lever might be for its guy to resign as president and try to force a renewed deadlock over the presidency. Which is powerless–except when its occupant resigns!

10 thoughts on “Greece–what next? (Yes, I asked that already)

  1. Ketynes in The economic consequences of Mr Churchill speaking of those who sit in the top tier of the machine:

    …that they are immensely rash in their regardlessness, in their vague optimism and comfortable belief that nothing really serious ever happens. Nine times out of ten, nothing really serious does happen – merely a little distress to individuals or to groups. But we run a risk of the tenth time…

    from Jeffrey Sachs

    I doubt forcing Syriza to an early election is a viable strategy, for the EU or for the Greek right, although it may happen anyway. The referendum result changes the likely outcome of an election and the room for manoeuvre by Syriza’s opponents. If people think a 36% Syriza government is a difficult negotiating partner let them try a 61% Syriza government.

    We don’t know if this is a tenth time, but faffing about trying to manipulate Syriza out of power would certainly make it one.

  2. From what I have read (and seen on BBC World), an early Grexit (from the euro zone) is inevitable. The only question is the manoevering as to who will take the blame or credit for it.

  3. Well, it appears that Berlin has insisted that Varoufakis must go. He’s gone, now they can restart negotiations?

  4. They are restarting negotiations tomorrow. They will consist of Germany and France saying “we are eager to hear your new offer” and Greece saying “we are eager to hear your new offer.” They will dance until the Greeks get their new drachmas printed.

    • I think Wilf is spot on. I believe we are at a point where both the Greek government (and maybe even much of the opposition), along with most of the other EU countries’ governments, have concluded that the situation needs to be resolved with Greece outside the euro. However, each would prefer that the other make the move, or be credibly blamed for having made it.

      It would not surprise me if the Syriza party itself actually intended to withdraw from the euro all along, but had to hide this intention to get even the 36% of the vote that it obtained in the general election. Of course, I am aware of no evidence to back this up. It just is that so many of their moves make sense to me only if this is the case.

      • I think, Syriza, not unreasonably. sees the problem as politics. The EU North sees it as this weird and insoluble technical problem. Probably the funniest claim is that everything would be fine if only that awful Varoufakis had not been so frightfully abrasive.

        Any number of economists, from Krugman to Waldmann see the technical problem as highly soluble, but not within the tight TINA structure laid down by the Eurozone treaties and the EU North. No economist I’ve rad seems to see the issue was one that can be solved by the present situation continuing.

  5. Well, now that all parties except KKE and Golden Dawn have backed the Syriza government we know that ND is not about to ask the president of the republic to resign and force a new election.

    The thing is both Syria and the Greek electorate want to remain in the Eurozone. The Eurozone treaties do not have any provision for expelling a country because that would admit the irreversibility of the euro. The usual way the EU deals with such problems is a superseding treaty, but they cannot change the Eurozone treaty by supersession or otherwise without Greek assent and ratification. I am not sure letting the Greek banking collapse complete is, or ever was, a real option.

    Der Spiegel seems to think that Grexit would be the end of the Merkel chancellorship. I expect the German government to be wonderfully concentrated over the next few months on avoiding Grexit in a way they were never focused on resolving the bailout because the bailout could not lead to Grexit.

    Frankly I do not know whether Tsipras is .a genius or a fool. He just may have altered the stakes by subjecting the EU spodestocrats to some risk of reputational damage.

    The flurry of rather weird responses out of the EU suggest he has. My favourite was a commission statement (withdrawn exceedingly quickly) that the referendum was not ‘legally or factually correct’.

  6. The scenario of an early election was probably never realistic, and the line I quoted about the possibility the president would resign was not sourced by the Guardian. Still, that something like that could even come up is fascinating, as another in a line of reasons why “mostly ceremonial” presidencies sometimes have real, or potential, impact.

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