Greek politicians and pundits are scampering to unravel on a political and military level the repercussions of Turkey’s snap elections, scheduled for24 June.
With Turkey having escalated tensions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, many experts believe that a clash of some kind, purposeful or accidental, is simply a matter of time, and that Athens will be on constant alert in trying to decode the actions and intentions of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sources in Athens and Brussels believe that what will determine Greek-Turkish relations in the coming period are the post-electoral political balances in Turkey.
While an Erdogan win is considered a given, the margin of his victory will determine whether he will face a strong opposition from Meral Aksener’s IYI Party (Good Party), unless of course the party is judicially banned from running, a prospect that has been discussed in Turkey recently.
Aksener’s parents were from Thessaloniki and left Greece during the 1923 population exchange.
One view is that Erdogan opted for escalation in the Aegean after having already decided on early elections, in a bid to whip up nationalist sentiment.
On 30 March, US Ambassador to Athens remarked that the US and Greece would be confronted with challenges from Ankara over the next two months, until Erdogan is re-elected, suggesting that Washington was tipped off to the snap elections.
Another interpretation is that Erdogan will make waves in the Aegean, but not to the point of inciting even a limited military clash, as he is counting on tourism to prop up the sorely tested Turkish economy.
Nevertheless, the consensus is that Ankara will continue Aegean provocations linked to his and his opponents’ electoral rhetoric.
There is a receptive audience in Turkey for nationalist salvos against Greece, and that is expected to be exploited for electoral gain.
For his part, PM Alexis Tsipras has decided to ply the course of calm prudence, ignoring Ankara’s ultranationalist rhetoric and extending an olive branch, while declaring that Greece has a potent deterrent power that it is prepared to use if forced to do so.