Politicians are better at politics than the rest of us. This is a simple truth that those who write on politics tend to forget. And yet the recent Greek elections confirmed it spectacularly.
Some observers (me included) thought that Tsipras made a very bold move in calling elections just to do without internal opposition (left-wing politics is always a Bolsheviks vs Mensheviks game). Some were bold enough to prophesy a come-back of New Democracy, the right-of-center party whose new leader, Vangelis Meimaraki, appeared stronger than his predecessor Antonio Samaras.
But Alexis Tsipras's "Syriza" came up on top with 35% of votes, thus obtaining 145 seats in the Parliament. Compared to last January, he only lost 4 seats and one percent of the voters: a rather remarkable result, given the fact that Tsipras' conversion to a full-fledged Euro-philiac prompted the left of the left to disembark his ship. Meimaraki may have been a better leader for New Democracy than his predecessor, but he only won 28% of the votes, when in January the party scored 27.81%. Tsipras will now renew a government coalition with the right under Anel, which gained 3.68% of the votes (it was 4.75% in January).
So, after the election Greece will have the same government it had before. Whereas a similar electoral outcome was received with awe in January, today it is welcomed with relief all over Europe. This is because Tsipras, in the last few months, has become a man the European elites can do business with. He signed a memorandum with the EU institutions that was dismissed as "the terms of Greek surrender" by former Minister Varoufakis. This is why the Wall Street Journal can now write that "the re-election of Mr. Tsipras may reassure financial markets, as well as officials in Europe, that Greece will stick to its bailout commitments and enter a period of greater political calm."
Tsipras' bet in calling on elections proved to be right. He did it quickly, to avoid potential competitors having the opportunity to organise. He won again, with a majority which is the same insofar as numbers are concerned, but doesn't include internal opponents. Politically speaking: chapeau.
Many people will try to dismiss the Greek prime minister's triumph by pointing to the considerable number of non-voters. Indeed, this time only 55% of the Greeks voted. At the last general elections, in January, 36% of voters didn't go to the polls. In July, Tsipras' government called a referendum over the deal with the European Union: once again, 35% of voters didn't show up on election day. So, abstentionism increased - but was already a sizable phenomenon a few months ago, when Tsipras' victory was hailed as a triumph of the anti-austerity left. The fact their country is in shambles didn't seem to be a reason good enough to go to the polls, for many Greeks. This might mean they are far more lucid on politics' capacity for solving problems than most assume.