The national tragedy with the heavy death toll in Eastern Attica canceled most of the government’s plans, as it renders unfeasible most of the moves the government had planned to turn the political tide in its favour.
Celebrations of bailout exit canceled.
Firstly, plans have been definitively canceled for the big 21 August celebration of Greece’s exit from the bailout memorandums. Actually, those plans were essentially canceled before the disaster, as leaders of European governments were reluctant to contribute to a communications show of the Tsipras government.
The tragedy and the continuing mourning are a suitable justification for just holding a modest ceremony on the island of Kastellorizo, where George Papandreou announced at the beginning of the crisis that Greece sought help from the IMF.
In any event, it is now clear that the country will remain subjected to enhanced fiscal surveillance and to austerity policies for a protracted period.
Return to markets postponed
By all indications, the much-touted return to the markets will be postponed. Despite the fact that the government had prepared with road shows to attract investments by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Alternate Minister Yorgos Houliarakis, there is a sense that a country which could not handle a large forest fire – combined with questions about the viability of the Greek debt and the wounds of the previous period – probably could not attract investors. Consequently, the return to the markets will be delayed.
A cabinet reshuffle due to necessity
At the same time, Alexis Tsipras sees political tools such as a reshuffle taking on another dimension. Whereas he could have used a reshuffle as a means to show the government has a new air, now it will be seen as a communications effort of damage control in the face of society’s anxious demand for the attribution of responsibility to those who could not rise to the challenge.
This will force the PM to make choices that he normally would not have made, and to manage intra-party balances.
No chance of snap elections surprise
It is common knowledge that the government was taking all the necessary measures to enable an electoral surprise at any moment.
Although the government says it wants to serve out its four-year term, and even though it left open the prospect of general and local elections in May, 2019, at the same time it was ready to hold early elections in the autumn, relying on the momentum of the “exit from the memorandum” and the “return to the markets”, combined with the promise that it will not cut pensions.
Now, the scenario of early elections has been put on hold. That is because the government runs the risk of being confronted by the great outcry over the management of the wildfires. In addition, it will seem like an attempt at a “heroic exit” that will signal to voters that the government is opting for a disorderly retreat due to its failure.