16
Jun

By Nikos Konstandaras

My country is hurtling toward an election that will decide its fate — whether Greeks will fight on to remain part of Europe’s core or succumb to their own weaknesses and turn inward, choosing isolation, anger and uncertainty greater than that from which they wish to flee.

The vote on Sunday will change our lives — determining not only whether we remain in the euro zone but also the nature of our society and the fate of the democracy that was re-established just 38 years ago after a dictatorship. We are bitterly divided between those who want to carry on with the reform process and those who want to turn back the clock. Our partners in the European Union are frightened of the consequences of our vote, but seem otherwise indifferent to our fate.

At a moment when the choices should be as clear as possible — between reform and stagnation, between Europe and isolation, between painful progress and the deceptive comfort of surrender — the issues are hopelessly confused by false expectations, by false choices and by the total failure of a political class that can’t propose solutions to the country’s problems and can’t forge a minimal national consensus on what is at stake and what needs to be done.

We face a choice between two deeply flawed alternatives. On one hand, there is New Democracy, a center-right party that has done much to undermine Greece’s economic reform and revival over the past two years. It refused to support the bailout agreement signed by the Greek government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund on the grounds that it would stifle growth and so it undermined initiatives like tax reform that would have helped combat tax evasion by self-employed professionals and businesses. Yet it is now presenting itself as the responsible force that will stick to austerity and keep Greece in the euro zone.

On the other hand there is Syriza, a fractious coalition of 12 radical groups that has anointed itself the herald of leftist change throughout Europe and declares that it will immediately annul the bailout agreement while demanding that our partners continue to lend us money. The latter course could lead to the country’s swift exit from the euro and a chaotic and unpredictable future. Read more…

Nikos Konstandaras is the managing editor and a columnist at the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini.

As published in www.nytimes.com on June 14, 2012 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 15, 2012, on page A39 of the New York edition with the headline: How Greece Squandered Its Freedom).

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