Sunday's national elections in Greece, where the nominally far left party Syriza is poised to win, could actually change Europe and the world, but not for the reasons you think.
We have three scenarios to consider at the outset. Will Alexis Tsipras, the leader who took his party from the political hinterlands to centre-stage in the short space of four years, win an outright majority and form a government? Will there be a new coalition government? Or will the country need to go to elections again?
In this fluid political climate, it is not out of the question for xenophobic and ultranationalist Golden Dawn party leader Nicholaos Michaloliakos, currently held in pre-trial detention in Korydallos prison, to be asked to form a government.
And that is just the beginning. How will a new Greek administration, whichever form it takes, negotiate with Greece's international creditors which include the daunting to many International Monetary Fund? And how will a possible Syriza victory inspire other countries and other electorates in Europe and the world?
Deep pool of questions
In this maelstrom of questions, there is a single point of reference and that is unstable too; the European Central Bank, the monetary, and up to a point, the fiscal nerve centre of the euro currency area.
|Economy main issue in Greece election|
In a world where the power of financial markets determines nearly all policy in nearly all nations, the ECB's recent announcement that it will begin buying state and bank assets across the euro area (called quantitative easing stimulus or QE), brings a new reality to the table.
It is a move that came at the last minute in the hope of averting deflation and possibly kick-starting growth in the euro area.
And Greece must play by the rules if it wants to take a nibble of this new carrot and not keep feeling the proverbial stick on its austerity-slashed back.
At the same time, we see the Swiss franc exploding in value, the Russian rouble collapsing and the price of oil falling through the floor.
Market players are scrambling to find safe havens for funds or considering where to place their next lucrative bet. So this latest ECB move might amount to nothing much.
So we come back to Greece itself.
Rich not getting richer
According to World Bank indicators, Greece is still a rich nation but there are clear signs of a drop in per capita income and a collapse in investment. These are trends that cannot easily be reversed, so things will get worse before there is a chance of them getting better. We also are witnessing a fall in environmental standards. Across Europe there is a trend for diluting or even scrapping environmental regulation to favour economic development.
So how can a country such as Greece actually inspire others? Incidentally, one of the few countries that managed to avoid the so-called middle income trap and join the elite of prosperous nations was Greece, along with Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.