After a Night of Euphoria, Greece Will Have to Wake Up Sober
In Bulgarian we say that after a cart tumbles off track, we can think of many possible routes we could have considered to prevent this from happening.
The translation is tricky - just as Greece's bailout referendum was on Sunday night, with a cheering crowd flocking to the streets to celebrate their victory after having said "No."
What did Greeks actually say "No" to? Now that they have voted lenders' conditions down, it is quite easy to figure it out. Judging by the vague-worded referendum question, they have certainly rejected yet another document prepared by bureaucrats that a majority believe ruined their lives.
After Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' tireless "No" campaign, it might also be interpreted as resistance against austerity.
What certainly triumphed on Sunday night was Greeks' milleniae-old skill of selling ideas which dates back to ancient philosophers, goes through the myth of "White Greece" in the 19th century and leads to an anti-bailout, anti-neoliberal campaign which reached out to Europe over the past years. Whereas the idea of "disobeying" international creditors was truly sold to citizens and Tsipras' supporters themselves, the latter evidently forgot that their "heroic" PM simply had no other choice but to ask for their opinion, since officials admitted Tsipras could not have accepted a bailout agreement fearing it would split the ranks of his SYRIZA party in Parliament. Had he been that adamant on saying "No" he would have said it outright, at the negotiating table, without putting an entire nation at stake.
So Tsipras gained a victory which secured his political survival; but nobody knows what follows next.
"Yes" campaigners are now cautious, fearing a spillover to the rest of Southern members of the Eurozone and a potential Grexit scenario, while European officials (who lobbied for "yes" as much as it was possible) have already softened their tone.
At the same time, while Brussels has openly conceded defeat (and obviously avoids even discussing Grexit as an option), it is preparing for new talks with Tsipras, who didn't need the results to leave the "bailout" era behind but to gain bargaining power and make sure the goddess Athena will extend the time window in front of him just as it did for ancient Greeks according to their own mythology.
Bluntly said, regardless of the results, Tsipras' first task will be - again - to look for money to save an economy that is on the verge of... who knows what.
Whatever happens, he is yet to fight an uphill battle. So are lenders, especially those in Europe; but let's not forget it is they who are holding the money.
European officials seem to have taken the results personally, but should have expected the results given the strange wording: many people weren't quite sure what they were voting for and had to count on the "yes" and "no" campaign to find their way into the obscure language. Nor did obstinacy on debt relief and relentless calls for certain austerity measures play into Brussels' hands.
However, when it comes to financial help for Greece the EU still has the last say, and this is something Greek citizens are unable to prevent, whatever ballot they cast. New concessions (now on both sides) will have to be passed by Parliament and this only reminds that in the morning Athens will have to wake up to the reality of a bank holiday, a missed payment deadline, and the need of a new package received from abroad. Another immediate fiscal package will have to address humanitarian shortages which have become more and more manifest since capital controls were introduced.
After all this was what Tsipras wanted, and what (judging by the desperate reaction of European top executives) he is poised to get. Until he does, it is Greece and its citizens who will be footing the bill; they already are.
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