The irony is that until recently, it was Greek politicians who railed loudest against the bailouts, with opposition parties branding governments as sellouts for signing on to reforms and austerity in exchange for loans. The present government — a coalition of the radical left and nationalist right — came to power in early 2015 on an anti-austerity, frequently anti-German platform. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras demanded support with no strings attached.
When Greece’s partners and creditors called his bluff, the country defaulted on a payment to the International Monetary Fund and was on the brink of exiting the eurozone when Mr. Tsipras signed on to a new bailout agreement with even tougher terms. Forced to abandon his radical policy, he came to rely on the German chancellor for support and understanding. But his brinkmanship undermined earlier efforts and pushed Greece back into recession. The country is still trying to pull itself together, with the economy showing modest growth this year.
Now it is German politicians who threaten to derail the relationship that held the eurozone together. Even before the Sept. 24 election, the surge in support for the extreme-right-wing Alternative for Germany party had skewed the country’s politics, with members of other parties echoing some of its demands, including opposition to the eurozone and to support for Greece.
In trying to forge a governing coalition, Ms. Merkel will have to reconcile contradictory policies among potential partners and placate critics within her own party. The Free Democrats, who are likely partners, advocate a hard line on Greece. Recently, the party leader, Christian Lindner, accused the soon-to-be-former finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, who had repeatedly proposed that Greece leave the eurozone (at least temporarily), of being too soft. Mr. Lindner is in a position to demand commitments that there be no debt relief for Greece and that Germany maintain a strict fiscal policy…