Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras Martin Schulz/Flickr

Greece Without Illusions

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras understands that his freshly reelected government is skating on the thin ice of a fiscal program that cannot succeed and a "reform" agenda that his ministers loathe. With the reality of further austerity measures set to test voters' patience, does Tsipras have any room for maneuver?

ATHENS – “The costliest minor government reshuffle in Greece’s history.” That is at least one way to describe the result of the Greek general election on September 20. Indeed, with few exceptions, the same ministers have returned to the same offices as part of an administration backed by the same odd pair of parties (the left-wing Syriza and the smaller right-wing Independent Greeks), which received only a slightly lower share of the vote than the previous administration.

But the appearance of continuity is misleading. While the percentage of voters backing the government is relatively unchanged, 0.6 million of the 6.1 million Greeks who voted in the July 5 referendum on continued “extend-and-pretend” loans with stringent austerity strings attached did not turn out. The loss of so many voters in little more than two months reflects the electorate’s dramatic change in mood – from passionate to glum.

The shift reflects the mandate that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought and gained. Last January, when I stood with him, we asked voters to back our determination to end the “extend-and-pretend” bailouts that had pushed Greece into a black hole and operated as the template for austerity policies across Europe. The government that was returned on September 20 has the opposite mandate: to implement an “extend-and-pretend” bailout program – indeed, the most toxic variant ever.

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