A groundhog day for Greece

In the well-known movie “Groundhog Day” Bill Murray’s character is forced to relive the same day over and over again. He initially has his fun with it but gradually becomes disillusioned and starts wondering what to really do with all that time.

Having recently returned from a visit to Greece, where a General Election is taking place this Sunday (barely nine months since the previous one), I can’t help noticing that many in the country seem to have developed a Murray-esque quality. People who have always been political and had consistently condemned casting a blank ballot as an a-political action are seriously considering that option. Others are deep into soul-searching mode, having real trouble finding a party that represents them or even deciding on a purely tactical vote.

With both large parties and a number of smaller ones now of the belief that the alternative to an undesirable agreement would have even more catastrophic results, it is not clear for the casual observer where the fundamental differences between different parties lie. Indeed, what we are experiencing could be the end of the era which started with the restoration of democracy in 1974, where both left and right had clearer delineations and political positioning was still influenced by the struggle for democracy during the seven years of military dictatorship.

What we could be witnessing at a political level is the gradual, imperceptible emergence of a more post-ideological type of politics, where grand schemes will give way to more pragmatic questions about how we manage different aspects of the country. Which parts of the public sector should be more opened to market forces and to what extend? Where might introducing more competition be beneficial and in which cases will this be more of a threat? These are debates that many other Western countries are currently having, away from the traditional grand divides of left and right, and it could be the direction Greece will be heading towards.

It is possible that through the current political fragmentation new forces will emerge that will bring together the centre right and the centre left under two “large tents” and eventually restore the system to its strong bipartisan roots. The crisis has already seen the creation of a number of small parties that aim to play their role as stabilisers in coalition Governments and it is possible that these will be the building blocks of new political formations free from the legacy of the old political system.

In the end of Groundhog Day the main protagonist ends up out of the mess, a changed man, having undergone a transformative journey, but not before he has killed himself numerous times. We can only hope that Greece will eventually be transformed but without the multiple suicides. Unlike in the movie, the day does not start identical every morning, although it might sometimes appear to do so.