Critics of our institutional democracy often complain that, as a rule, elections do not offer a true choice. What we mostly get is the choice between a center-Right and a center-Left party whose program is almost indistinguishable. Next Sunday, January 25, this will not be the case—as on June 17, 2012, the Greek voters are facing a real choice: the establishment on the one side; Syriza, the radical leftist coalition, on the other.
And, as is mostly the case, such moments of real choice throw the establishment into panic. They paint the image of social chaos, poverty and violence if the wrong choice wins. The mere possibility of a Syriza victory has sent ripples of fear through markets all around the world, and, as is usual in such cases, ideological prosopopoeia has its heyday: markets have begun to “talk,” as if they are living people, expressing their “worry” at what will happen if the elections fail to produce a government with a mandate to continue with the program of fiscal austerity.
An ideal is gradually emerging from this European establishment’s reaction to the threat of Syriza victory in Greece, the ideal best rendered by the title of Gideon Rachman’s comment in the Financial Times: “Eurozone’s weakest link is the voters.” In the establishment’s ideal world, Europe gets rid of this “weakest link” and experts gain the power to directly impose necessary economic measures; if elections take place at all, their function is just to confirm the consensus of experts.
From this perspective, the Greek elections cannot but appear as a nightmare. So how can this catastrophe be avoided?
[Extract. Appeared in In These Times, on January 22nd, 2015. (full text).]