The year we’re saying goodbye to started with turmoil in Greek politics. The New Democracy-PASOK coalition government was buckling under heavy pressure from the opposition and the weight of the upcoming austerity measures and reforms Athens needed to implement in order to get further financial aid.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was riding high promising the impossible. He promised the end of bailout requirements, the end of austerity, wage and pension raises, jobs for the young among other nice things. Taking advantage of the disappointment and despair of crisis-stricken Greeks, he posed as the great leftist savior, the man who would kick out the “evil” Germans, make Greece a paradise and change Europe. He went to the January 25 election with the slogan “Hope is coming, Greece is moving forward, Europe is changing”. He sold that hope pretty well and won the election. That was a historical moment, as Greeks elected the first leftist government ever.
What followed though was a disastrous year that brought Greece close to bankruptcy, close to a Grexit, with capital controls imposed, collapse of Greek banks and dozens of thousands of illegal migrants stranded all over the country. At the end of the year, Greeks are as disappointed and pessimistic as they were before “hope came”, more cynical about politicians and with much less trust to the 300 who fill the parliament seats.
Satirists and analysts have called Alexis Tsipras the master of the back-flip, the man who delivered none of the things he promised to do. Instead, in most cases he did the exact opposite. He brought the harshest measures, left state coffers and security funds empty and some of his cabinet proved to be as corrupt as the “oligarchs” he had promised to fight. And when previous to the last election the words “Left” and leftist” were in every other sentence he uttered, after September 20 the L word disappeared completely from his vocabulary.
Let’s see the 10 most spectacular lies and backflips of Mr. Tsipras:
“Go Back Mrs. Merkel”
In his election campaign, Tsipras always referred to the German Chancellor as a persona non grata. But when negotiations with creditors took a bad turn for Greece, he was always on the phone with Angela Merkel and she was the one he always ran to for help.
“No snap election, no referendum”
In early June, Tsipras was saying that he will not call a referendum. He called one at the end of the month. In August, he said “no premature elections”. On September 20 Greece went to general elections. For the second time in 2015.
“The ENFIA tax is an abomination, it will be abolished”
In early January, generous Alexis was telling us to not pay the single property tax (ENFIA). Then he saw that state coffers were empty and decided to change the name of the tax. He would establish a tax for large real estate property. Then he asked us to pay the ENFIA.
“We will finish them off”
“Them” were the parties that were ruling Greece in the past 40 years and wallowed in corruption, namely PASOK and New Democracy. Apparently, Tsipras had forgotten that most of his cabinet used to belong to PASOK. He tried his hardest to turn his voters against their parties. In November he asked for their consent to pass the austerity reforms. One wonders what would have happened if he had finished them off.
“We will put an end to all memoranda”
“Memorandum” was the key word that helped Tsipras come to power. The two memoranda of understanding Greece and creditors had signed in 2010 and 2012 were, according to SYRIZA, the root of all evil that happened to the country. He had promised to put an end to memoranda with a single legislative act. In the end he discovered it was more feasible to sign a third memorandum, full of harsh austerity measures that made the previous two look like a walk in the park. He called it everything but a memorandum, but also added another 86 billion to the already heavy sovereign debt.
“Regional airports are public property, they are not for sale”
Adverse to any kind of private endeavor as good “leftists”, Tsipras and his ministers were declaring left and right that no state property will be sold. The sad state of regional airports was not sad enough to convince them. The insistence of lenders though forced them to sell. With a heavy heart.
“We will put an end to corruption”
When several of his cabinet members “forgot” to declare assets of millions of euros, good-hearted Alexis was whistling indifferently.
“No Greek home in the hands of bankers”
Tsipras and his ministers were very generous in promising that bad house loans would be forgiven and written off before coming to power. When in power though, things changed. The banks had to get some of their money back. After hard negotiations, they managed to protect the primary residence of people with very low or no income; roughly about 25 percent of debtors. The remaining 75 percent of homes will pass in the hands of bankers.
“Greece will not become a warehouse of human souls”
Another good slogan, but it does absolutely nothing to solve the grave problem of dozens of thousands of migrants who wander around Greece with no particular place to go. The complete lack of planning and political will to deport all economic migrants has turned Greece into a migration limbo.
“We will run a parallel program for social welfare”
“Program” and “Greek government”, regardless of color, are two words that can’t be in the same sentence. Nevertheless, Tsipras promised a “parallel program” to alleviate the burden of the real, bailout program. The parallel program would be full of welfare benefits and subsidies. When creditors heard about that so-called program they simply told the Greek government that it is against fiscal targets. Tsipras had to take it back immediately.
Yet, there was one great promise Tsipras had made and he kept it: He never wore a tie. So far.