A pariah to the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras he served as a contentious finance minister in 2015, economist-blogger Yanis Varoufakis is hoping to resurrect himself in European Parliament elections – for Germany, and Greek local polls.
The pugnacious Varoufakis, ousted by Tsipras after Greece’s international creditors tired of clashing with him over his unwavering anti-austerity stance – Tsipras caved – launched his European Spring DiEM25 party to little fanfare and it seemed to disappear overnight.
He told The Economist in an interview about his return that, “It’s a necessity. I really dislike running and asking people for votes,” but he doesn’t think of himself as a politician.
He’s spent the last four years taking potshots at Tsipras and SYRIZA for giving in to the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and betraying their alleged principles, and basking in his book about his fights with the lenders, Adults in the Room, being made into a movie by noted French-Greek director Costa-Gavras.
He calls DiEM25 Europe’s first transnational party and he’s taken to going after publicity in big media, shunning smaller newspapers and websites, even in Greece, where he didn’t want to be interviewed and where he appeared in a parade leading a small group of ragtag followers in a forlorn march, ignored in the crowds.
In Germany, he’s more demonstrative, taking stages, waving his hand to demonstrate his displeasure with political establishments, trying to define his purpose, talking about cash surpluses and arcane subjects that for more in the electorate are MEGOs – My Eyes Glaze Over – but near and dear to his heart, along with sniping at the political elite.
The Economist’s column Charlemagne wrote that he seems to be a caricature of himself and that he’s easy to mock after badgering “Eurocrats for their desiccated economic orthodoxies—sometimes reasonably (he correctly pointed out that Greece will never repay all of its debts), sometimes outlandishly (covertly planning a parallel Greek payments system)” that seemed way-out-there voodoo economics.
He’s not afraid to swim upstream though, taking his campaign to Germany, a country which put up the bulk of 326 billion euros ($367.95 billion) in three international bailouts to save Greece’s economy, but which came with brutal pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings, with Varoufakis leading the charge against Chancellor Angela Merkel.
At a rally in Berlin, the paper noted he spoke in Utopian tones, he talked about a 2.5 trillion – trillion – euro ($2.82 trillion) plan for green investments from the European Investment Bank (EIB) over five years, a guarantee from the European Central Bank that it will prop up the prices of EIB bonds in secondary markets and the mutualization of (good) European debt to lower interest rates.
“All of this sends orthodox eyeballs skywards. Yet one does not have to agree with everything the Greek politician says to find some aspects of his efforts welcome,” the column added.
One of his party’s candidates for the European Parliament, Elly Schlein of Italy, said that, “The EU is a round table where politicians have their backs to each other, facing domestic political concerns instead,” shunning EU-wide policies, problems and programs, with most of the EU’s debates not taking place at the level where European power is exercised.
Said Charlemagne: “You do not have to agree with the European Spring’s proposals—which include a universal citizen’s income, totally open borders and relaxed fiscal policies—to welcome the possible arrival of new, fresh legislators like Ms. Schlein.”
As Varoufakis put it, “If you try to take over an existing political party, you will be taken over by it. They are bureaucratic machines wedded to the nation-state with an institutional aversion to ideas.”
Still, DiEM25 seems like a small group of rebels with a lost cause, what paper called “at best a fringe outfit,” with few followers apart from the hardcore who’ve always been outside the mainstream political landscape, and with little chance of impact even if elected.
Varoufakis and his little band though got some praise from the decidedly mainstream Economist which said that, “At a time when pro-Europeans seem ever more confined to the technocratic center of politics, it is welcome to find a transnational party making the case for openness from a different perspective.”