By Desmond Lachman
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Greek government’s failure today to secure sufficient votes in parliament to choose a new president for the country. Since such a failure not only forces Greece to hold snap elections by the end of January, which could see the coming to power of a radical left-wing government. It also raises the real possibility that Greece will be forced to exit the Euro in 2015 that would be a major blow to the prospects of a meaningful European economic recovery.
On the basis of current electoral polls, the Syriza Party, headed by Alexis Tsipras, should win the parliamentary elections now scheduled for January 25. Judging by
Syriza’s consistent electoral promises, if elected one must expect that Syriza will roll back the austerity policies imposed on Greece by the IMF, the ECB, and the European Union (the so-called “troika”). Syriza must also be expected to reverse many of Greece’s recent structural reforms in the labor market and in the area of privatization policy. In addition, it will more than likely insist on substantial official debt relief from the ECB, the IMF, and its European partners.
The prospect of a Syriza government taking office is already sending shudders through the Greek financial markets and is undermining confidence in the still very depressed Greek economy. One must expect that the election of Syriza will put Greece on a collision course with both the troika and the German government. Since it is difficult to see how the troika and the German government can accede to Greece’s request for either debt relief or for additional budgetary financing at a time that Greece’s economic policy would be going in a direction clearly unacceptable to its European partners. For its part, it is difficult to see how Syriza can quickly make a policy U-turn from a position that it has been consistently espousing these past few years.