Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Greek Easter with a side of political tribulations

Celebrating Orthodox Easter has always been something of a unique experience. If you live abroad Ğ in Western Europe, for example Ğ it is usually an incomplete and frustrating event, starting with many expectations and ending the same day, always on a spring Sunday, of course, with an even greater feeling of homesickness.

The cause is externalities that others may find trivial. Yet, for us, the Greek Orthodox Christians, they are crucial, like the fact that you can never properly roast a lamb "on the spit" on the green, damp grass of your backyard garden, or that you can never reach perfection in the red color of your Easter eggs, even if you buy imported genuine dye from your local Pakistani delicatessen. English lambs may be considered among the best delicacies in Europe, but they can never produce the crispy crust you can get in any dusty backyard of a provincial house in Greece. During Easter, nothing feels or tastes the same if you are outside Greece. Greek Orthodox Easter, celebrated this year last Sunday, does not even feel the same in Istanbul, where the Patriarchate lies on the shores of the Golden Horn in the neighborhood of Fener.

But this Easter felt different even in Greece. A new and modest archbishop, who had left behind the pomposity of his recently deceased predecessor, and a generally toned-down celebratory mood among the Greek public were just an indication of the political and economic uneasiness being felt about the way things are going. The upcoming elections for the representatives of the European Parliament are seen as yet another date in the political calendar that will gauge the situation.

This Easter marked almost eight months of continuous political confrontation across the political spectrum, whereby the Parliament is mostly used as a platform for the exposure of a string of financial scandals, mainly Ğ but not exclusively Ğ involving the government. Yet, although one would have expected a natural wearing out of the popularity of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, he has somehow managed to retain his position as the most popular and trustworthy leader. This confusing political landscape perplexed me, too, as I was trying to decipher the thoughts of my Greek relatives, friends and colleagues during my recent Easter homecoming to Athens.

Friends and relatives are mainly worried about the economy and job insecurity, no matter who is in power. However, in an atmosphere of crisis, they would trust Karamanlis to steer them out of it, one way or another. At the same time, they are still anxious to hear the opposition parties’ ideas Ğ vaguely expressed so far Ğ on how to get out of the crisis. They are disappointed about the dramatic fall in popularity of the young new leader of the left-wing coalition who was, for a brief moment, seen as the fresh progressive alternative. Yet neither Alexis Tsipras nor Yorgo Papandreou, the leader of the official opposition party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, has convinced my lot that they could seriously help get things straight. Colleagues and other sources tried to put things into perspective. Describing the current political situation in Greece as a pendulum, they believe that the government may not only collapse at any moment by losing the majority in the Parliament or by being defeated in a scenario of early elections Ğ as early as this June, together with the Euro-elections Ğ but, they predict, the opposition may secure a result as high as 45 percent. This is what everyone in Greece is discussing.

However, I was more interested to hear an alternative interpretation of the situation, as posed to me by a well-informed source close to political circles. That analysis relies on the personal popularity of the Greek prime minister and the psychology of the public. According to this particular argument, public opinion is based on the simple axiom that "everybody is a thief, after all," so it tends to choose leaders not on the basis of their Ğ or their party’s Ğ honesty, but on their capacity to spell out specific approaches and stand for specific ideas, even if they are not always correct. In other words, consistency and courage Ğ in the old "David vs. Goliath" sense of the word Ğ may in the end be very useful political weapons for Mr. Karamanlis.

When talking about courage and standing up for your principles, inevitably we come to Turkey. My well-informed source believes that the strongest political asset of the Greek prime minister is the "national" card. If he appears to stand up for his country against traditional "enemies" like Turkey, he may gain enough political clout to overcome his difficult position.

This analysis, conducted over an Easter lunch last week, gave me some useful insight into Karamanlis’ recent anti-Turkish rhetoric. Starting from the beginning of this year, we observed him adopting a much stricter rhetoric against Turkey, accusing Ankara of failing to live up to its promises on a number of bilateral and European issues. He recently complained publicly to President Obama about the misbehavior of Turkey toward Greece and Cyprus and traveled to Cyprus himself last week to deliver similarly strict speeches targeting Ankara’s ears.

The old soft and friendly tone towards the Turkish Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government and its leader have been replaced by an almost angry tone of disillusionment, while the populist pro-government press is fuelling guesswork stories about a Turkish plan to encircle Greece using northern Cyprus as a base. Is Karamanlis building up a profile as a "national patriotic leader" in order to overcome his domestic and party difficulties, as my source claimed? Maybe. At any rate, this is a well-known and oft-tried formula. But is this totally one-sided, or is Ankara, with its own domestic problems, also looking toward Greece and Cyprus for a diversion? Needless to say, I am returning to Istanbul with lots of food for thought. I mean, besides the perfectly roasted Easter lamb on the shores of the Euboea.
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