It's enough to give an oligarch chest pain. Barely a month in power, popular support for the left-wing, anti-austerity government in Greece is soaring. Syrzia won the January polls with 36% of the votes. A few weeks later and there's no sign of buyers' remorse. Instead the party's support has climbed to almost 48%. Not bad for a movement that came out of nowhere just three years ago.
It's not so much the Greek government digging in its heels on debt repayment and austerity demands that will be infuriating the Euro bankers. It's the attitude of the Greek people that they'll find unnerving.
On the street, optimism has returned. People worn down by gruelling austerity, on the back of unprecedented recession, are smiling. Government officials have taken to walking through central Athens, instead of ducking into chauffeur-driven cars to avoid protesters. Last week, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – a maverick to many of his counterparts – was mobbed by appreciative voters as he ambled across Syntagma square.
“They’ve given us our voice back,” said Dimitris Stathokostopoulos, a prominent entrepreneur. “For the first time there’s a feeling that we have a government that is defending our interests. Germany needs to calm down. Austerity hasn’t worked. Wherever it has been applied it has spawned poverty, unemployment, absolute catastrophe.”
If there's one thing the ECB and IMF realize it's that this sort of thing can be contagious. It can spread. In other countries those populations are also feeling "worn down by austerity" and saddled with governments that are not defending their interests.
It's already taking hold in Spain. Italy, Ireland, France and even Britain could be susceptible. I expect the conservative lenders won't sit by idle. They need the Greek people back in harness to austerity or, before long, everyone will be kicking over the traces. Optimism, left unchecked, can be a very, very dangerous thing.