It would be wrong to accuse SYRIZA of being populist just to gain support or of changing its beliefs. The truth is that the party could not do otherwise.

Does political ideology in Europe really count?

When Syriza first came to power, there was a lot of enthusiasm among liberals, as Syriza would be the first leftist government in the modern history of Europe. The party seemed to have a vision, an auspicious anti-austerity plan that was supposed to get Greece out of the crisis. However, since then, Syriza has been governing more like a center-right party, especially when it comes to economic policy, adopting harsh austerity measures.

It would be wrong to accuse Syriza of being populist simply  for the sake of pandering to the people. The truth is that the party could not do otherwise. They had either to follow the path that European Union was dictating, or to exit the Union. The political ideology of Syriza became totally irrelevant, because the EU was imposing its own.

Syriza’s case is not the only example of political ideology in Europe becoming irrelevant. There are other countries, for instance the Irish Republic, in which austerity has been forcefully imposed by the Europeans. In general, when it comes to economic imperatives, the political inclinations of a country’s governing party becomes insignificant. The quasi-centrally controlled EU has the ability to influence important economic decisions, such as the monetary policy.

Syriza chose to reject the mandate of the people 

When Greek citizens were asked last summer through a referendum whether they wanted to accept the European bailout conditions, the people overwhelmingly said, “no.” However, Syriza chose to reject the mandate of the people — for leaving the European Union was ostensibly too disastrous despite the choice’s apparent popularity.

A referendum is the purest form of direct democracy, therefore overlooking its results seriously undermines basic democratic values. Greek citizens were logically infuriated, blaming Syriza. However, the truth is that the EU is also to blame, since it left the Greek government with no choice, but to ignore what has been decided through a democratic procedure.

Political ideology should not be ignored regarding economic issues

It seems that the ideology of governing parties counts more when economics are not involved. In social issues, the political ideology of the governing party in each country influences the outcomes more than the EU does. For instance, each country dealt with the recent refugee crisis in its own way, depending on its own majoritarian  politics. Germany accepted more than 1 million refugees, while countries like Hungary built fences to keep refugees away.

The same should occur when it comes to economic issues. Right now, the EU maintains economic control of its constituent nations, resulting in EU countries being unable to act independently in relation to economic issues.

When such an arrangement threatens to encroach and undermine essential democratic values, it is obvious that change is necessary.

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Manos Makrygiannakis

Manos is an alumni of Yale Young Global Scholars and is currently studying Economics at UCL.

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