The homeland of democracy witnessed perhaps its most interesting election Sunday as the anti-austerity Syriza party won 149 of the 300 seats in the Greek parliament, with 36.4 percent of the vote. Forced to attract a coalition partner, Syriza did so immediately after the election results were clear, allying with anti-bailout, anti-austerity partner, the Independent Greeks. The right-wing populist partner appears to have only won 13 seats in the parliament, but that was enough to pass a vote of confidence in the new government. The question now is what's next for Greece?
Although Greece's economy is less than 2 percent of the total European Union's, its elections are critical for markets throughout Europe and the world, including Turkey's. Should the anti-bailout governing party decide to write-down debt it took on as part of a deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the other eurozone countries, it faces serious questions in regards to its membership in the eurozone.
Technically, Greece cannot be forced out of the eurozone and it probably does not want to revert to the drachma. However, eurozone countries have little recourse if it decides to default on the bailout plan it agreed to in the wake of its economic collapse only a few years ago. Greece and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras have a powerful bargaining chip in the form of a mandate by the Greek electorate, as Greeks have voted against the bailout and austerity. Tsipras can threaten unilateral default and removal from the eurozone, which would force an existential crisis within the eurozone. If countries can easily join and later return to their national currencies, the euro would lose the guise of invincibility it currently enjoys, defeat the purpose of the euro altogether and would leave both the eurozone and the EU in shambles.
Independent Greek coalition partner Panos Kammenos recently remarked that the eurozone was led by "Neo-Nazis," referring to the Germans. Kammenos' rhetoric, although very much exaggerated, is now one voiced by a coalition partner in the Greek government. Such language, if followed by action, would be an affront to Germany. It would force Merkel to decide to either kill or wound the euro by cancelling aid to Greece and force it out of the eurozone. Alternatively, the Germans can write-off Greek debt and extend interest-free loans to Greece, which can also later be written off.
The European Central Bank is in the midst of beginning a quantitative easing (QE) program. What could be better than pumping money into Greece by paying off its debts and further devaluing the euro? European bondholders would win and so would export-driven Germany.
Turkey would be far worse off if the EU's economic malaise continues as it has since the 2008 crisis. If this means helping Greece get bailed-out again, so be it. Turkey needs a strong neighbor to export to and a strong euro to continue to make Turkey a great marketplace to import from.
The Greek election has overshadowed the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey's announcement last week in which it cut the benchmark policy rate by 50 basis points. The one-week repo rate was cut from 8.25 percent to 7.75 percent last Tuesday. The overnight borrowing and overnight lending rates of 7.5 percent and 11.25 percent were left intact. Lower energy costs have led to a decrease in inflation, which in turn has led the bank to cut rates.
Turkish financial markets rallied on the rate cut with the benchmark BIST-100 index trading higher by 1,400 points. The index traded at 90,689 points late Monday afternoon.
Bond markets also rallied with both the benchmark two-year and long-end 10-year trading higher as their yields dropped to pre-Gezi lows. The government issues trade at 6.8 percent and 6.85 percent, respectively, dropping by 50 basis points and 20 basis points, respectively.
Insuring Turkish investments against economic uncertainty was cheaper over the past week, as credit-default swaps (CDSs) traded lower to 1.82 percent late Monday, down 2 basis points.
The Central Data Registry's "foreign participation index" in Turkish equities index reached the highest level it has seen since May of 2013, hitting 64.44 percent. This is a very strong indicator as it shows foreign investment in Turkish equities at a 20-month high.
The recent Greek election has highlighted the weaknesses that exists in the EU and has only bolstered Turkey's strong economic position. Markets rallied on continued interest rate cuts and the ECB's QE program, and they will continue to do so as the Greek tragedy unfolds.