Alexis Tsipras’ foreign reputation has had a really impressive return to form. Here is a man who was widely vilified outside of Greece, frequently the but of editorial cartoons by publications such as the Economist. Leading up to the referendum, Tsipras was described as a dangerous brinks-man who threatened the stability of the continent. Today, Tsipras’ inflexibility (curiously, a trait he holds in common with EU trade negotiations) and belligerence have mostly been forgotten, as he faces down rebellions within his ranks for complying with the demands for austerity.
Prior to the referendum, I had no kind words for the man. However, I find my respect for him as a politician growing. I rarely find politicians I come to respect.
However, if you note two things about his politics, it should be that he genuinely seems to care about popular support and he was willing to do “the right thing” for Europe at a potential loss of support in Greece, and perhaps even against the national interest.
At a time of national instability, Tsipras has been, almost neurotically, confirming his mandate to rule. The somewhat mythical every-politician would seek to consolidate his power-base, knowing that the upheaval could wildly swing favour against you: especially when sitting governments are generally blamed for circumstances they had no role in creating. So, I have to admire this recent call for an election (even if I also acknowledge that another election might not be the best thing for the country right now.) Perhaps this interpretation is a mistake and he is only using this situation to silence dissenters. Maybe it was part of a bargain he struck. Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle of these options.
The second reason I have found myself admiring Tsipras recently was for the manner which he started working for a solution that doesn’t involve reaching out to Russia or stonewalling creditors. Yes, I fully understand that this too was a issue of self-preservation. However, having talked with baby-boomer leftists for a good long time this past weekend, I can appreciate how ideological difficult it would be for the man of his convictions, to toe-the-line. He has. This was a very smart move for his international reputation, which some say allowed him to out-manoeuvre his opponents on that day, if only to claw back a little advantage.
However, elections are not won abroad. This upcoming election will be an interesting one to watch, if not an litmus test for democracy. Will the Greek people punish Tsipras for working with those who push for austerity and reform? Or has Tsipras’ willingness to work with the European “opposition” (as opposed to the domestic opposition) won over some of his not-so-leftist opponents domestically too? For what it’s worth, I hope he sticks around. I might not agree with his ideology, but he seems to have the character.C. Shannon