Greece: Austerity parties smashed, big win for far left

Issue 
Syriza supporters at an election rally in Athens, May 2.

The parties that have ruled the country since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 -- New Democracy (ND) and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) -- have collapsed in the May 6 parliamentary elections.

In all elections since 1974 (except 1990-91) one of these two parties was able to gain a clear majority in the parliament and form government, jointly scoring from 70% to 90% of the vote. On May 6, their combined vote was 33%.

New Democracy has fallen from 33% in 2009 to 19%, and from 2.3 million votes to 1.2 million. PASOK has fallen from 44% to 13%, from 3 million votes to 800,000.

LAOS, the extreme right party that also supported the eurozone loan agreements and the anti-social memorandums, fell from 5.6% to 2.9% and from 386,000 to 182,000.

More than two-thirds of the population have declared that they are against the austerity memorandums in opinion polls. But this majority has been ignored by the political forces that support the Eurozone loan agreements (ND, PASOK, LAOS and extra-parliamentary liberal parties Action and Democratic Alliance).

In the election, a clear majority of the vote was won by parties that campaigned in favour of the immediate cancellation of the loan agreements: 44% for the Coalition of the Radical left (SYRIZA), Independent Greeks, Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.

Parties that asked only for the renegotiation of the loan agreements or don’t have a clear position (Democratic Left, Greens, Creation) scored about 7.5%.

Parties that didn’t cross the 3% threshold to enter the parliament gathered 18% of the vote.

SYRIZA scored an extraordinary vote, jumping from 4.6% to 17% and from 316,000 votes to 1 million. SYRIZA was by far the first in all big cities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras) and to all working-class neighbourhoods.

SYRIZA campaigned for an immediate abolition of the loan agreements and the anti-social memorandums but also for Greece staying in the eurozone. New Democracy came first almost everywhere in the countryside.

The radical left won a more important score than the far right (27% vs 20%). The three radical left parties all together won 27% (SYRIZA 17%, KKE 8.5%, Antarsya 1.2%). The two latter parties campaigned for the exit of Greece from the eurozone and the European Union.

Shockwaves have also been sent by the tremendous vote of the anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi criminal gang Golden Dawn, which scored 7% of the vote and jumped from 20,000 votes to 438,000. It is ironic that these racists got their best results in small cities with little immigration.

Independent Greeks, a split from New Democracy, also focused on opposition to immigration and raised nationalist slogans. It won 11%.

The extreme right LAOS, got 2.9% and didn’t enter the parliament. That makes 21% for the far right, up from around 6% in 2009. We have to take note though that New Democracy also campaigned under the slogan ”re-occupy our neighbourhoods from the immigrant ghettos”.

None of the far-right parties has an expressed position in favour of leaving the European Union.

The electoral law in Greece demonstrated its absurdity; it grants the party that comes first with a bonus of 50 more seats. New Democracy thus gained 108 seats, SYRIZA 52, PASOK 41, Independent Greeks 33, KKE 26, Golden Dawn 21 and the Democratic Left 19.

New Democracy has three days to form government. If it fails the mandate goes to the second party for the next three days, then to the third one and so on.

New Democracy and PASOK are calling for a broad pro-EU coalition. SYRIZA calls for a left-of-PASOK government.

The leader of the Independent Greeks said his party won’t cooperate with PASOK and New Democracy and -- quite speculatively -- said he has common positions with SYRIZA on the debt and economy (however Independent Greeks' program supports privatisation whereas SYRIZA wants public control of the banks, energy and other industries).

The Democratic Left said it would support a government that would change current policies and support a process of disengagement from the austerity memorandums.

The leader of the KKE, Aleka Papariga has ruled out any possibility for cooperating with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which it describes as "new social democrats", who "spread illusions" among the people.

It is therefore probable that PASOK, New Democracy and the Democratic Left may form a government when the mandate goes to the third party, PASOK. Such a government would have 168 of the 300 seats, but it will be politically very weak because the backbone will be formed by parties spectacularly punished by the popular vote.

It would also imply a huge political cost for the third partner whether it is Democratic Left (which is the only one that leaves some openings for cooperation) or anybody else. SYRIZA still hopes to convince the Democratic Left and KKE to support it -- and then some MPs would quit the New Democracy and PASOK parliamentary groups.

The way that SYRIZA deals with these processes, but also whether the KKE abandons its failed tactic [of refusing to work with the radical left], which lost it thousands of votes in working-class municipalities of the big cities, will define the programmatic perspectives of the Greek left and whether a front for people’s power will be formed. Antarsya, which tripled its votes from 25,000 to 75,000, has also an important political role to play in this.

Results
1. New Democracy 18.87%
2. SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left) 16.76%
3. PASOK (Socialdemocrats) 13.19%
4. Independent Greeks 10.6%
5. KKE (Communist Party) 8.48%
6. Golden Dawn (neo-Nazis) 6.97%
7. Democratic Left 6.1%
8. Greens 2.93%
9. LAOS (Popular Orthodox Alarm) 2.9%
10. Democratic Alliance (Liberals) 2.6%
11. Creation Again! (Liberals) 2.15%
12. Action (Liberals) 1.8%
13. Antarsya (Anticapitalist Left Cooperation) 1.2%

Results from the website of the Ministry of Interior

[Slightly abridged from Ypsilo's Weblog. Yiorgos Vassalos is an activist and researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory.]

Comments

I don't quite see how Greece can possibly survive without the austerity measures. A country can't just continue borrowing money to the ends of the earth, there has to be a limit. People in Greece are used to living in a welfare state, so of course the majority is going to be opposed to these cuts. Does this mean that their position is correct? Of course not! Greece and most of the European Union got themselves into this mess so I'm afraid it's up to them to get themselves out. Not that they will, they already needed to be bailed out by one the only sensible economic managers in all of Eastern Europe, Germany!

If you offer people money they will take it. Especially if they haven't had much of it before. The argument has always been whether it's unconscionable to lend people money when it's known that they couldn't possibly repay it, or whether it's the fault of the people borrowing the money. The rewards of getting people into debt means you can demand much more of them than just the money you lent them originally. This is the model for modern debt enslavement whether it applies to an individual or a nation. This is the position that Greece is in now. I think the only way forward is for Greece to exit the EU with dignity and respect, and with it's self esteem and infrastructure in tact and owned by the people of Greece instead of some faceless foreign overlord. This could be a popular position for other new and struggling EU states to emulate, and it may have a cascading effect. The newer EU states have improved their trade and infrastructure since joining the EU to the extent that they could now be self-sufficient in the globalised economic environment.

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