Skip to main content

Greek politicians, don't destroy your nation's future

By Yannis Palaiologos and Theodore Pelagidis, Special to CNN
updated 7:16 AM EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
An employee walks by an index at Athens stock exchange on May 7.
An employee walks by an index at Athens stock exchange on May 7.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Parliamentary election in Greece delivered a crushing blow to the two dominant political parties
  • Yannis Palaiologos and Theodore Pelagidis: Expect uncertainty and frustration
  • Palaiologos, Pelagidis: If parties fail to form coalition, businesses, economy will suffer
  • They say that the future of Greece depends on the ability of its politicians to come together

Editor's note: Yannis Palaiologos is a journalist in Athens, Greece. Theodore Pelagidis, a professor of economics at the University of Piraeus, is the co-author of 'Understanding the Crisis in Greece: From Boom to Bust."

(CNN) -- Sunday's parliamentary election in Greece delivered a crushing blow to New Democracy and Pasok, the two dominant parties that have ruled the country for the last 37 years. In the coming weeks, expect uncertainty, shifting alliances and growing frustration as a new political landscape struggles to emerge from the wreckage of the old.

As the main backers of Greece's second bailout and the harsh austerity measures that accompanied it, New Democracy and Pasok saw their combined share of votes plunge, as angry voters punished them for two years of wage and pension cuts and rising taxes. Pasok, in particular, which won a landslide election in 2009 and made the fateful decision to seek the financial assistance of euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund in 2010, saw its support collapse.

Coming in second at the polls was Syriza, a left wing party fiercely opposed to privatization, public sector spending cuts and labor market reform. The other four parties that garnered enough parliamentary votes, ranging from the unreconstructed Communists to the pro-Nazi thugs of Golden Dawn, are also opposed to further austerity.

Yannis Palaiologos
Yannis Palaiologos

What will happen next will depend on the ability of the frontrunners to form a coalition government made up of pro-European forces that will meet the conditions set by Greece's official creditors for the disbursement of further funds.

Theodore Pelagidis
Theodore Pelagidis

These conditions include the adoption of spending cuts worth 11.5 billion euros for 2013-2014 by next month, as well as quick progress in privatization and the opening up of closed professions, two areas in which neither the former nor current prime minister made any significant headway.

Antonis Samaras, head of New Democracy, said initially that his party was willing to lead a coalition government with the aim of keeping Greece in the euro zone and amending the policies of the loan agreement so that they could promote growth. But he has relinquished the mandate to form a government after talks broke down with the leaders of other parties, including Syriza, Pasok and the Democratic Left.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion

Greece searching for a solution
Markets spooked by Greek political limbo

Syriza, the real winner in the election, has made it clear that it plans to reject the new loan agreement and come to a new understanding with Greece's euro zone partners. This position makes it hard for it to take part in a national unity government that would include New Democracy or Pasok.

At this point, it appears more likely that the parties will fail to form a coalition and Greece will be led down the treacherous path to new elections in June. This would entail a delay in the adoption of a new package of spending cuts, which in turn will mean that the next installment of the loan, due in August and worth up to 29 billion euros, will also be set back.

A political stalemate will delay both recapitalization of the Greek banks and repayment of more than 6 billion euros owed by the government to private contractors. The consequence is that Greek businesses, including healthy ones, will be deprived of much-needed oxygen.

In a country that is in its fifth consecutive year of recession and with an economy expected to shrink by more than 5% this year, this mess will cause any green shoots of recovery to wilt and die.

However, the victory of Francois Hollande in the French presidential election has sent a breeze of hope throughout the euro zone. Many expect, perhaps too optimistically, that France's new leader will convince Angela Merkel of Germany to temper her obsession with austerity in the European economy. It is hoped that she may give her consent to the issuing of euro bonds to promote infrastructure investment, complement the recently agreed fiscal compact with pro-growth measures and perhaps, less realistically, accept a plan to allow the European Central Bank to lend directly to fiscally troubled countries.

From Greece's vantage point, these are positive developments. But they will all be for naught unless the Greek political system can form a viable government that will implement the commitments it has undertaken -- properly amended in ways that Greece and its lenders can agree on -- and set the foundations for the transformation of the Greek economy to allow it to benefit from any improvement in Europe's prospects.

It is a tall order. And Greek politicians have shown little evidence of their ability to shoulder it. But the future prosperity of Greece, as well as the stability of the European Monetary Union, depends on their success.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Yannis Palaiologos and Theodore Pelagidis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT