Germany’s Bild reports that Greece could call snap elections if its European creditors refuse to relent in debt negotiations. “We have nothing to lose,” one cabinet minister told the tabloid newspaper. “If the EU remains hard, we must show that we stand firm.”
If true, the report shows that three months into government, Greece’s ruling parties still don’t understand that their problem isn’t one of legitimacy. Their problem is that the other twenty-seven nations in the European Union are democracies as well that would rather Greece kept its word.
Since winning the election in January, the far-left Syriza party and its Independent Greeks coalition partner have insisted that “democracy” triumphed over austerity and that the wishes of a majority of Greek voters should trump any commitments or promises previous Greek governments made.
The rest of Europe isn’t so sure.
Other European countries have loaned Greece €240 billion since 2010 and wrote off much of its debt in 2012 — on certain conditions. The Balkan nation was supposed to reduce its government spending and debt and liberalize its economy. It fell short of those commitments under previous governments. The incumbent administration has reversed some reforms altogether, by canceling privatizations, and intends to break more promises, by rehiring public sector workers and raising the minimum wage.
Greece’s leaders may have a democratic mandate for going back on their country’s word but then they must live with the consequences.
The Greeks signed up to the conditions of the bailout when they first elected parties that promised to honor them. Other European voters, in turn, agreed to help Greece when they elected, and reelected, leaders that supported the bailouts. This was the democratic compact the Greeks made with the rest of Europe.
If they insist on breaking it, they shouldn’t be surprised if other Europeans don’t keep up their end of the bargain. If the Greeks don’t want austerity anymore nor pay back in full the money they borrowed, they can’t honestly expect to still get financial help all the same.