Very late on Saturday, we came back from a two week holiday, to a country and a house which I had missed and a fridge which had missed me filling it. Having lived in England for years, I’ve gotten used to the fact that most shops are open on Sunday. And even in countries where as a rule they aren’t, there are at least some places selling fresh food, typically in tourist areas or transport hubs.
Not so in Greece. While some corner shops are open, there isn’t a supermarket in all of Greater Athens (population: 3.7m) open on a Sunday. Such is the law, a law that has long been defended by many on the political right (mostly for religious reasons) and on the left (mostly for anti-capitalist reasons). When “the institutions” are accused of micromanaging the Greek economy, it’s worth keeping in mind that in many cases, they actually ask for micromanagement to be ended.
I had decided to continue writing about Greece, even as the country ceased to be the main item in news bulletins around the world. But then, while I was away, things got interesting once again: prime minster Alexis Tsipras handed in his resignation and new elections will be held next month.
For the very short term, this isn’t good news: the last thing a country still affected by capital controls and a crumbling economy needs is instability. For the slightly longer term, it is probably a good thing though: while the government easily got some tough measures through parliament, it had to rely on the support of the three sensible opposition parties, as a large number SYRIZA members voted against.
Those people have now left SYRIZA to form a the new Popular Unity (Laïki Enotita), headed by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis. He and his party believe that No in the referendum should mean No and that the country should leave the euro and go back to the drachma. Something Lafazanis allegedly wanted (and for all I know still wants) to fund by robbing the Greek Mint and using the euros stored there to pay civil servants’ salaries.
Lafazanis and his party are unlikely going to be a significant factor in the elections though. The far most likely outcome is that SYRIZA yet again becomes the biggest party and that Tsipras returns as prime minister and is able to implement those measures he agreed to at the very last minute last month. But then, this is Greece. The ancient Greeks didn’t just invent democracy. They invented drama too.