“It’s the first day of the rest…”

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

“It’s the first day of the rest of your life” goes the chorus in Timo Maas’ (from techno to house to breakbeat) celebrated song taken from his “Pictures” album.

As Greece engages in an electoral year – going to the ballot box under tense conditions and with truculent party confrontations mounting – political debate gets loud; substance tends to fade away in favour of invective; time stretches out to accommodate appealing political initiatives and slogans.

For the Government, the very first days of 2023 will be much more than the end-run of its term of office; they will signal its effective chance to clear a path to a second term. Some Greece watchers, not necessarily friendly to right-wing politics, have long concluded that had current PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ father Constantine Mitsotakis obtained a second term 30 years ago, back in 1993, instead of yielding to his arch-foe, left leaning Andreas Papandreou, the country might have had a more constructive course in the next two decades. Sandwiched as it was between two resolutely left A. Papandreou terms and a more down-to-earth, social democratic version that led to two terms of Costas Simitis, the legacy of Constantine Mitsotakis, a legacy of freeing the economy, opening the financial sector, toying with the idea of privatisation – and turning an inflation-prone economy towards the rigours of the nascent Euro-area – was soon dissipated. True enough, both a rather grounded A Papandreou and his quite cautious successor C. Simitis retained part of this legacy – but took pains to distance themselves from any impression of ideological liberal contamination. Much goodwill was spent in efforts to keep distances; many chances were lost for the Greek economy to realise its full potential – revamping Social Security and co-operating with the private sector for the provision of essential services being major examples.

So, the current Government under Kyriakos Mitsotakis is understandably eager to leave a more indelible mark on the country it had to guide over successive disasters and /or challenges (the Covid-19 pandemic, fully exiting the EU surveillance process, Turkish aggression and now the energy crisis-cum-inflation conundrum). For reasons unfathomable its efforts are limited to gaining an absolute majority in Parliament – disregarding the fact that the remaining problems faced by Greece go so deep, that wider consensus is needed to even start dealing with them.

So, “it’s the first day of the rest of your term of office” will be heard as the background music over the dawning of 2023.