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May 20, 2019

SYRIZA and the People

We don’t need elections to hear the people’s mandate, they speak through Alexis Tsipras. That, at least, is what he would like us to believe. Unlike the Pythia, who liked to confuse those who appealed to Apollo for prophesies, the prime minister’s message is clear as day: The people and SYRIZA are one and the same, SYRIZA does not stem from the people nor does it represent a percentage of them; this duo is indivisible and one in essence.

“The Greek people surged to power through their stand and their activism against austerity policies and in demand of greater democracy, and also with their vote in the electoral contests of 2015,” the prime minister told Parliament yesterday, during the debate on constitutional reform. To make himself even clearer, Tsipras addressed the leader of the opposition directly. “The Greek people did not come to the fore only to withdraw again after four years, Mr Mitsotakis,” he said.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in other words, is addressed as the people’s opponent, as separate from the people, in order to be told that his struggles will come to naught, that his New Democracy party will not succeed SYRIZA in power. How can he win elections when the people are not only with SYRIZA but are SYRIZA? Faced with such self-assuredness, the cynical among us may ask, “What’s the point of elections then?” The answer: one of the countless photographs of leaders of one-party “popular democracies” posing with great grins next to a ballot box, sure that their theatrics satisfy their people.

Having recently shed Independent Greeks, the third member of the trinity that “surged to power” in 2015 (with SYRIZA and the people), Tsipras presents SYRIZA as a bulwark against the extreme-right, populism and “neoliberalism.” He tries to present his former extreme-right partners and his own populist tactics as part of those who stood against his government’s populism and irresponsibility. In populism’s vocabulary, as in that of right/left fascism, opponents are “enemies of the people.” This applies also to members of the “elite,” the public pollsters and “the handful of oligarchs and their media groups,” whom Tsipras denounced on Wednesday while addressing SYRIZA MPs.

When he himself has manipulated voters with lies and fake dilemmas, it is understandable that Tsipras should attempt his biggest lie: that he is not dividing the people, as the people are one, indivisible and SYRIZA. He is just defending them against their enemies.

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