In yesterday's Greek election, the victor was the leftist party Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras; they ended up with 149 seats in the Parliament, just two short of a majority. To fill out their government they turned to populists on the far right, The Independent Greeks, who finished in fourth place with 4.7 percent of the vote. This odd coalition may not last long, but anyway it has been formed for only one purpose, to push for an end to austerity and a renegotiation of Greece's foreign debts.
Efforts by the Greek elite to portray Syriza as dangerous radicals were not effective; the first, third and fourth place parties were all radical groups demanding change, and only 28% of voters opted for staying the course with the current government.
I wonder what happens now? Brussels and Berlin still say there will be no renegotiation of debts and Greece must adhere to the terms of the bailout. The only weapon Tsipras has to force change is the threat of default, which would probably mean leaving the Euro. I think that is the right course but in the short term it would make things in Greece even worse. Do Tsipras and his followers have the nerve? Will they rise up and declare a halt to the 60-year march toward European integration?
And what will they do in Brussels if Tsipras looks set to default? Will they grant him major debt relief, or shrug their shoulders and let the chips fall?
I have a feeling that the most likely outcome is a Greek climbdown after some very minor concessions. No doubt the bankers and industrialists will do their best to make things in Greece as bad as possible during the next few months, trying to turn people against Syriza and create a desire for stability. It would take the nerve of a Lenin or Churchill to say no to Europe at this point, and I doubt Tsipras has it. We'll see.