Domestic politics don’t affect Israel-Greece friendship – opinion

Greek citizens will go to the polls on May 21 to vote for a new government. Following almost four years of an administration led by the conservative New Democracy party, the political landscape seems rather blurred. The current electoral law is based on proportional representation. Although not impossible, it will be unlikely for a coalition government to be formed after the forthcoming parliamentary election under these terms.

A failure to do so will lead to a second round expected to take place in July. The fundamental difference is that this second round will be organized with another electoral law. Instead of a proportional representation, the winner will then benefit from a bonus of parliamentary seats that will somewhat increase analogically to its percentage.

Surveys suggest that New Democracy will win the first election. It is hard and perhaps risky to engage in prognostics, however. Scenarios of different coalition governments are being debated with or without New Democracy in the core. Even after a second election, the winner will probably need a partner to secure a majority in parliament.

More importantly, Greece is currently suffering from the trauma caused by a train crash that killed 57 people last March, most of them youngsters returning home after a long holiday weekend. Whether anger over this tragedy will motivate young Greeks to abandon their usual preference for abstention and show up to vote in favor of every type of opposition party, remains to be seen. Such a development will possibly challenge the methodology of pollsters.

Greece is stabilizing, but problems remain

The economy has been diachronically the most important theme of concern for the majority of Greeks. After several tough bailout years, some stabilization signs are evident. In spite of COVID-19, Greece is returning to some normalcy. Of course, problems remain serious.

The site of a crash, where two trains collided, is seen near the city of Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023. (credit: Giannis Floulis/REUTERS)

RECENT DATA from the Finance Ministry shows a debt increase of 12 billion euros in 2022. National debt skyrocketed thus for the first time to over 400 billion euros. Also, high inflation and prices – partly caused by the conflict in Ukraine – stymie the efforts of ordinary households to cover daily expenses as salaries are being reduced and taxation costs are growing.

An April OECD study outlines the disappointing trends. The governing New Democracy bears responsibility for the situation but opposition parties arguably offer reliable alternatives. No spectacular economic changes are expected, irrespective of the result.

Greece’s pre-election period is marked by a toxic atmosphere whereby politicians loudly disagree in the hope of rallying their parties’ supporters. Undecided voters and centrist citizens are allegedly becoming wiser by following this campaign and are naturally pondering whether a small degree of political compromise is needed to prevent instability the day after.

The Greek-Israeli partnership

Notwithstanding these rather typical characteristics of domestic politics in a Mediterranean country, Greece’s foreign policy has not been subject to populistic rhetoric. Within this context, the Greek-Israeli partnership is generally considered to be an uncontestable achievement. The three main parties, which will – in one way or another – form the new Greek government, namely New Democracy, the leftist SYRIZA and the social-democratic PASOK, agree on the matter.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is a traditional friend of Israel as his father, Constantinos, made the decision to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state in 1990. The leader of SYRIZA and former premier Alexis Tsipras surprised many during his 2015-2019 administration, when he brought the bilateral relationship to new heights, despite the leftist ideology of his party. And Nikos Androulakis, the chief of PASOK, a promising, young politician and former member of the European Parliament, did not forget the work of his predecessor, George Papandreou, who was the first – along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to believe in the dynamism of the then-emerging Greek-Israeli friendship back in 2010.

This is how Athens and Jerusalem have managed to work together since then – regardless of the personalities of the leaders or the political spectrum of governments.

Continuity matters in foreign policy, and domestic politics have little impact on strategic choices. Another country, the Republic of Cyprus, is employing the same approach. New President Nikos Christodoulides, who advanced Cypriot-Israeli relations while serving as foreign minister in the previous government of Nikos Anastasiades, is now accelerating efforts in this direction.

A few days ago, he was received by Netanyahu in Jerusalem to foster bilateral cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Governments may change, but commitment to relations with Israel stays rock solid.

The writer is a research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a lecturer at the European Institute of Nice and a senior fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

Source link

Add Comment