For the first time the leader of Potami, Stavros Theodorakis publicly expresses his intention to support a new government, in case that SYRIZA’s unity is threatened and especially «if Alexis Tsipras realizes the need to enlist centrists in his government». In any other case, the leader of Potami, through Kathimerini newspaper, reminds Mr Tsipras of his commitment to carry out elections with the proportional representation system. Potami would support a new government, “if Alexis Tsipras realizes the need to enlist centrists in his government, people free of ideological obsessions, and if he prioritizes the reforms required for the salvation of the country”. This is the answer Stavros Theodorakis gave in his interview to Kathimerini. An answer of major political importance, considering that the pursued agreement with our partners might divide SYRIZA. Mr Theodorakis also characterized the leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL) as a “far-right obscurantist”. In his interview to Kathimerini, he also claims that he would be willing to join Mr Tsipras in his negotiations around Europe, so that Potami can actually contribute in the final phase of negotiations. Nevertheless, he warned the Prime Minister that “if he finally decides to carry out elections in the country, it should be held with the proportional representation system”. To this effect he pointed out that there are currently 200 MPs in the Greek Parliament, willing to vote for an immediate change in the electoral system, thus challenging Mr Tsipras to comply with his own pre-electoral commitment.
Stavros Theodorakis interviewed by Konstantinos Zoulas from "Kathimerini"
As there have been more than a hundred days since the coalition government of SYRIZA/ANEL assumed power, I want you to sum up your conclusions in a phrase.
I will tell you what an old man told me in Thessaloniki. «They used to tell us that they knew how to pilot an airplane but they do not even know how to drive a YUGO». This man admitted that he was one of the disappointed SYRIZA voters.
So, you basically blame them for being incapable?
Yes, for being desultory and having ideological obsessions. This is the most explosive mixture. Not knowing what to do, but still being sure of the value of your rusty opinion. Honestly, there are moments, when we actually try to find reasons to support them in the Parliament but we just can’t find one.
And why do you feel obliged to support them anyway?
Because we wish to be well-intentioned to the end. This is a new government. We think to ourselves «It must offer something new. It can’t be otherwise». So, we keep searching and searching for something to support but still we cannot find anything worth supporting.
In any case, whether this is intentional or not, the message you send is that you could actually form a coalition government with Mr Tsipras. It is as if you wink at him, implying that if there is a problem with his left faction, you would support him. Is this what you are aiming at?
Mr Zoulas, I guess that you are misled by our movement’s European approach to the role of opposition. Our political party does not believe in the old political parties’ approach to the issue of opposition. We don’t reflexively say «no to everything». When we disagree, we provide well founded reasons as to why we disagree. However, this doesn’t mean that we want to join the government. Besides, this government cannot be saved by one or two members of Potami.
Then, what could save this government?
This government cannot be saved. Out of roughly 40 ministers, if I am not mistaken, the positive exceptions are so few, they could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Isn’t it a paradox claiming that «this government cannot be saved», while, at the same time, refraining from attributing any responsibility to Mr Tsipras. He is the one who chose his Ministers…
This is all Mr Tsipras’ responsibility. But, this does not mean that three months following the elections, the opposition is entitled to demand a replacement of the Prime Minister. He has been elected by citizens. Our own hope, although rapidly fading away, is that, at a certain point, Mr Tsipras will realize that he is not the leader of his party’s factions, but he is rather the Prime Minister of a country that faces major issues.
Let’s assume that there is a deal with the partners, but it is not accepted by a part of SYRIZA and the government’s majority in the parliament is under question. How would you react in such a scenario?
That depends on the deal. If it is a beneficial one for Greeks, we will support it, no strings attached. However, I am very much afraid that there is no more room for such a deal with our partners anymore. Let me explain why. The government itself “managed” to become unable to make a good deal. During the first weeks of negotiations, our partners and creditors were willing to give it all. They were all positive, even thrilled with the political change that had just taken place in Greece. Socialists, Greens and so on. Even Liberals believed that “at least he will crack down on corruption”. Ask them now and you will get your answer. They have all given up. This is the mood that is being shared among the institutions.
Who do you think is to blame the most? Mr Varoufakis?
Well, we are talking about a government that a couple of days ago decided to appoint a woman, who believes that mosquitoes are German robots spying on us, as President of the Hellenic Food Authority. You honestly think that the “foreigners” don’t get to know what the Ministers of Education do? You really think that they cannot see that the party controlled state of New Democracy and PASOK is being replaced by the party affiliates of SYRIZA and ANEL? You really think that they don’t know that the Greek army is making videos for the “patriotic education” of Greeks? All these give Europe goosebumps. Do you want to know how the MEPs react when hearing that Greek Ministers say that electronic voting is a techno-fascist practice to that? They laugh their hearts out.
You sound as if you believe that the prevailing mood towards our country cannot be reversed.
It is very hard to turn this game around. The last bell has already rung. In any case, we are willing to even join Mr Tsipras in his negotiations in the European capitals, if he realizes that the voice of the European political party of this country can help him. And before you ask me, let me tell you. We will do so, with no strings attached.
What do you mean join Mr Tsipras in his negotiations around Europe?
It seems that negotiations look like a mountain to Mr Tsipras’ eyes. And the closer he gets, the higher the mountain looks. In Potami, we managed to create a great team with economists with vast experience in negotiations. And I repeat this: We are willing to help the government. Besides, many of the proposals that they discover now, in the middle of this panic, are actually our ideas. We are not afraid of the political cost. We do not have any factions screaming in our ears. So, we are here to share the cost.
And then you will join the government?
But, why do you insist on that? I have already told you that Potami does not belong in the existing government. But when the economy collapses and the society gets back to what psychiatrists call “bereavement numbness”, then we should act. Not for the sake of our political parties, but for the sake of our country.
I insist. If Mr Tsipras is forced by the circumstances to create a new government, would you support him?
If he realizes the need to enlist centrists in his government, people free of ideological obsessions and if he prioritizes the reforms required for the salvation of the country as a main objective of the government, then I would have no objections in supporting him.
Unless a referendum or elections come first…
Yes. And I cease the opportunity to remind Mr Tsipras of something. If he prefers to carry out elections, and not a referendum, which I have already stated that it is the last resort of the faint-hearted, then it should be held with the proportional representation system.
But, it takes 200 MPs for the immediate change of the electoral system.
There are 200 MPs willing to support such a change. “Potami”, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), PASOK, at least half of New Democracy MPs and, hopefully, the majority of SYRIZA. All these MPs count for more than 200 and would vote for a proportional representation system. We have already carried out the preliminary work. So, hic Rhodus, hic salta.
In any case, whenever this is to happen, in case of elections, Potami will be tested on its own? I am posing this question, because many believe that the polarization between SYRIZA and New Democracy will wipe out anything in between them. Especially, your political party.
Other publishing groups have been engaged in predicting for a year now that our party will become extinct, but not “Kathimerini”. Let’s get the record straight. Potami has been gaining more and more influence. People have started to realize that we are not here to pander, that we are clashing with special interests and privileged groups, that we fight for a strong country. And, let me clarify something, anticipating your next question about whether I would form a coalition with New Democracy or PASOK for the elections: we are going to take part in the next elections as Potami, meaning “River”, not “Stream”, not “Dugout”, or “Front”.
So, I guess that you took Mr Tsipras’ advice, when he asked you not to talk to Mr Samaras or Mr Venizelos, as they would drag you down to the bottom?
I don’t think that Mr Tsipras is in a position to give me any piece of advice, as to who I will be talking to and who I will not. When you have chosen a far-right obscurantist to head the Ministry of Defense, you cannot tell other people who they will be talking to. Let Mr Tsipras mind his own friends and not drown in angst about mine. I know how to protect myself.
19 May 2015
Photo credit: Theodore Manolopoulos