Old Regime is Dead. But the New Regime is Struggling to Be Born
Ireland has rejected the policies of Fine Gael Minister for Finance.
Speaking as the Irish General Election 2016 results began to come in, Mr Varoufakis said the inconclusive general election result confirmed a pattern in Europe’s periphery, where the “old regime seems to be debased, but there is nothing new to replace it”.
Sinn Féin was one alternative and had made gains, he acknowledged: “But they failed to put together an alternative programme that attracts sufficient support from the electorate to make it possible to implement from a position of government.”
Speaking to The Irish Times, he said: “The old regimes of ‘Bailoutistan’ that were put in place by the troika, or by their acceptance of the troika programmes, have collapsed in every country where we had an election during the last twelve months, beginning with Greece, then Portugal, Spain and now Ireland.
“The old regime is dead but the new regime is refusing, or struggling, to be born and a coherent alternative to this failed sequence of programmes has not emerged,” said Mr Varoufakis, who served for five months as finance minister in the Syriza-led government last year.
In a widely reported intervention in the Irish general election a fortnight ago at a Right2Change meeting in Dublin, Mr Varoufakis urged Irish voters to “send Michael Noonan packing”.
“And he has been sent packing in that he’s no longer going to be Ireland’s finance minister,” Mr Varoufakis said.
His singling out of Mr Noonan had not been personal, Mr Varoufakis said. Rather, it was based on what had transpired in the five years since the 2011 election.
“What has been rejected are dead-end policies and the cynicism with which Michael Noonan won the last election on a promise to renegotiate the promissory notes and a serious debt restructuring for Ireland when in reality, in my experience, he never even tried.”
Commenting on the performance of Sinn Féin and the left, Mr Varoufakis said it was clear they needed to do more to convince voters that there is a way out of the crisis.
“They are an alternative, but they failed to put together an alternative programme that attracts sufficient support from the electorate to make it possible to implement from a position of government.”
But he pointed out that the “defeat of our government” last summer, when the Syriza government signed a third bailout memorandum with its lenders, was instrumental in depressing the potential of parties like Sinn Féin.
“The reason why the troika was never interested in discussing Greek recovery and insisted on policies which they knew would return the Greek economy to further depression, was because it was their considered opinion that a defeat of our government and the continuation of the Greek depression would help arrest the growth rate of Podemos and Sinn Féin,” he said.
“It’s a very sad day in Europe, when economic depression, which is detrimental to the chances of the EU consolidation process, is being utilised for such petty political purposes,” he said.
While there was no official reaction from the Greek government on the results, sources in the office of prime minister Alexis Tsipras said that Athens welcomed “every step in Europe that is opposed to austerity and supports the protection of the social state, both domestically and in the EU”.
Giving his reaction, Dimitris Papadimoulis, Syriza’s leading MEP, said the results showed that the “radicalisation of the Irish society was taking shape in more striking way”.
“The former coalition government has counted huge losses, with its support slumping almost 50 per cent. Sinn Féin has grown impressively, setting itself as the party that will define mainstream politics in Ireland from now on,” said Mr Papadimoulis, a vice-president of the European United Left, of which Sinn Féin and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan are members.
“Syriza, Sinn Féin, Podemos and other left-wing political forces are part of a great realignment in European politics. The vision is common, but domestically political balances are different, demanding multiple strategies,” he added.
Acknowledging that this realignment has “moved faster” in Greece, where Syriza grew from a party of 4.6 per cent to around 35 per cent in six years, “the pace of success for the left” was determined by the domestic political balances in each country, which required “multiple strategies” by the different parties.
“The composition of the new parliament and the next government will only prepare the field for Sinn Féin to rise even stronger and take advantage of the new balances being formed both in Ireland and the EU,” he said.