A Familiar Partisan Dynamic: Left Cleans Up and Gets Blamed for the Mess

There is an interesting similarity between the Greek political crisis and the American one. In Greece the former conservative government led by the New Democracy party ran the country’s fiscal health into the ground, although left also contributed to the crisis. When a new government was elected in 2009 headed by George A. Papandreou, the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist party, Pasok, it was faced with cleaning up the mess. But the conservatives refused to help and even condemned Papandreou’s conservative measures to restore fiscal balance in order to exploit popular outrage over economic distress and gain an advantage in the next election. This scenario fits the U.S. very well, at least to this point. In frustration, Papandreou called New Democracy’s bluff by announcing a popular referendum on the austerity plan he had agreed to with the leaders of the Euro Zone. Knowing that the conservatives are deeply committed to the Euro (as is Pasok), Papandreou was confident that they would have to campaign for the plan and thereby share the responsibility for the crisis and its solution. Although the referendum gambit was an internal Greek political maneuver, it alarmed European political and financial leaders. Then Papandreou withdrew the referendum and made an offer to step down in favor of a unity government with New Democracy (and other parties) to support the plan in the national interest. But as of November 8, New Democracy refused to join the government and take responsibility: it wants to keep voters focused on Pasok’s austerity plan until the next election when it hopes to win and, of course, carry out even more draconian policies.