The eurozone’s biggest economies, France and Germany, hold elections next year. So may Italy, its third biggest, if a government formed out of the present parliament cannot hold.
Greece, in recent years the eurozone’s politically most unstable country, may now be vying for a place in the pack, adding to the shifting political parameters of 2017.
That, at least, is how some observers are interpreting Prime Minister Alexis Tsirpas’ decision to hand out 700 million euros ($744m) in concessions for low-income pensioners on December 8.
The announcement followed a Euro group meeting in which the ruling leftists failed to win more than short-term debt restructuring, leaving to 2018 the more substantial measures Greece needs to be viable.
The reasoning is that with the 2017 budget now safely passed in parliament last weekend and Syriza fast running out of political capital following its failure either to restructure the debt or to enter Greece into the European Central Bank’s quantitative-easing programme, it is time to let the conservative New Democracy (ND) assume the mantle of austerity before Syriza loses any hope of re-election in future.
The ruling leftists are now trailing ND by more than 10 points in every major recent poll.
Syriza, which was returned to power in September last year, theoretically has until 2019 to run.
Alekos Papadopoulos, former finance minister, gave the daily newspaper To Vima a caustic interview on Sunday, in which he launched a broadside at the political system for failing to undertake necessary reforms.
“After seven years of crisis, the political system … deliberately hasn’t allowed people to understand the causes of this crisis,” Papadopoulos said.
“Between 2001 and 2015, our people subsidised pension funds’ deficits to the tune of 220 billion euros ($234bn) through taxes and borrowing. That is equivalent to two thirds of the debt.”
Papadopoulos acknowledged the “many tens of billions of euros” spent by European taxpayers to raise the Greek standard of living through European Union subsidies.
Still, he blasted the EU for postponing a resolution of the Greek crisis until after 2018, something he called “a grand deception on the part of the Europeans”.