Perhaps the blazing sun is affecting my mental faculties, but here in Athens I am forming the impression that people in other European capitals are misreading the political tide ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election in Greece.
There has been much loose talk, for instance, to the effect that the Greek armed forces, which seized power in a 1967 coup and ruled for seven years, might once again step in because of the failure of the nation’s traditional political classes and the apparent radicalisation of the electorate.
Here is what one minister in Greece’s interim government, formed after the inconclusive May 6 election, told me: “There is zero possibility of a military coup. The lesson was learnt from the military dictatorship.”
Famous last words? I don’t think so. Much more likely than military intervention is the prospect, after the election, that Greece turns (as it has done twice since November) to a select group of so-called technocrats to run, in part or in whole, the government.
One cannot exclude the possibility that Lucas Papademos, the former European Central Bank vice-president and temporary prime minister from November to May, might make a reappearance. It is sober, capable administrators such as Papademos who are trusted in the rest of the eurozone – and since the eurozone is Greece’s major foreign creditor, that matters.
Certainly, eurozone leaders place more faith in men like Papademos than in Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, which is tipped to win the election just ahead of the radical leftist Syriza party.
Samaras arouses unease in Europe. Among other things, he is blamed for insisting that Greece should hold an early election in May, just when the Papademos government was making progress on fulfilling its commitments to its international creditors. Over the past two years, moreover, Samaras has wobbled on whether or not he truly backs the terms of Greece’s financial rescue from the eurozone and International Monetary Fund.
In some form or another, I would not be surprised to see the technocrats back in power once the dust settles after Sunday’s election.