• After the Greek Elections: “Let Us All Give a Promise!”

  • By Stavros Panagiotidis | 25 Jun 12 | Posted under: Greece , Elections
  • The night of the Greek elections of 17 June punctuated the map of Modern Greek history. For the first time, parties left of the Social democracy receive such as a large percentage (SYRIZA, Democratic Left and KKE together 37.5%), and assume the position of the major opposition. The only time something similar has happened in the whole of Greek political history was in 1956 when the political alliance of EDA (United Democratic Left) won 25% of the vote and second place. This was just seven years after the Greek Civil War and the defeat of the communists, proving that the Left continues to live in the country and is a political force with very strong social ties. In the next elections in 1961, the percentage of EDA decreased, mainly for two reasons. First, because the then Prime Minister, Konstantinos Karamanlis, uncle of the later Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (2004-2009), organised a plan of extensive intimidation of left, mostly rural voters and rigging election results, in conjunction with agents of the army, some of whom were the protagonists of the coup that took place six years later. The second reason was that George Papandreou, (the father of later Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou (1981-1989, 1993-1996) and grandfather – also Prime Minister! – George Papandreou (2009-2011)), with the collaboration of Konstantinos Karamanlis and the US-Embassy had founded his party, the Center Union, designed to absorb and weaken the radical social power.

    The Election Result: New Democracy – A Winner Without Power

    Back again in 2012, SYRIZA received 27% (71 seats), while in the previous elections in May received 17% and 4.6% (13 seats) in the 2009 elections. Despite this high percentage it failed to achieve the goal to form the first left government. The New Democracy (Conservatives) won the election with 29.66% share, over the course of 18.85% of the elections in May, but still smaller than that of the 2009 elections (34%), which was considered as an electoral defeat. It is telling that despite the unacceptable electoral law, which gives a bonus of 50 parliamentary seats to the first party, regardless its percentage (!), the ND was not able to reach parliamentary majority, winning only 129 out of 300 seats. As the readers of the transform! newsletter already know, the main weapon of ND was terrorizing citizens by threatening that a government with the Left will cancel the Memorandum, the country will exit the Euro and the economy will be destroyed. This was the only electoral platform of the New Democracy (endorsed by the rest of the parties and all major media, co-ordinating political propaganda against SYRIZA). Thus it became the first party that wins the elections throughout the post-dictatorial period, not on a political project and an optimistic promise, but on the basis of threat and fear. It also became the first party that wins the election with so little acceptance of its ideas. As a former communications specialist wrote: “Most of those who voted for ND, they did so by wrinkling their noses in disgust!”

    After the elections of May and the rise of SYRIZA, all parties had talked about the need to revise the Memorandum, and to develop a plan of conflict with the Troika. Similarly, the ND, the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who in his first statement did not speak at all about the renegotiation of the Memorandum. It is worth mentioning that the percentage of ND as a result of increased anti-SYRIZA-campaign, managed to rally not only voters of other right-wing parties, but even voters who had supported the PASOK in order not to allow SYRIZA becoming first.

    Elections’ Polarization: Pro-Memorandum and Anti-Memorandum

    PASOK (Social Democrats) lost nearly one percent since the elections of May, decreasing to 12.28% (33 seats) from 44% in 2009 due to the enormous damage caused by its governance and the signing of the Memorandum, losing thus the majority of its voters to SYRIZA. Shortly before the election, the president of PASOK, Evangelos Venizelos announced that his party would launch a process of reinvention, removing all the organs of PASOK except himself, a decision which was accepted by members without reaction due to the political decline of PASOK.

    The Independent Greek’s (Antimnimoniako, an emerging right-wing party, resulting from division of the New Democracy, with tough positions on foreign policy and immigration and supporting the immediate cancellation of the Memorandum) vote has been pressured by ND but the results have remained high, going from 10.5% to 7.5% (20 seats).

    The Democratic Left (coming from a split of Synaspismos in 2010) maintained its rates at 6.26% (17 seats). The party throughout the election period put forward the slogan “Stay in the Euro at all costs” and “renegotiation of the Memorandum (as opposed to the proposed cancellation on the part of SYRIZA) and gradual disengagement by 2014”, but, anyway, in this year supposedly the Memorandum will expire! Finally, the Democratic Left presented itself as a responsible power of the Left (as opposed to the “irresponsible” SYRIZA, who refused to join the government after elections in May), which will guarantee the formation of a government after the elections. However, surveys show that they’ve lost ¼ of the voters of May to SYRIZA.

    The Communist Party suffered a huge crash, losing half of the votes of May and dropped from 8.5% to 4.5% (12 seats). Like other small extra-parliamentary left alliances, the percentage of it dissipated due to the dynamic that developed SYRIZA and the prospect of a left government which charmed the traditional left-wing voters. The CP has paid the consequences of sectarian policies and the refusal of any cooperation with other left forces, the features of which are captured in the phrase of its Secretary: “We are not leftists, we’re communists!” Thus they refused to cooperate with SYRIZA, accusing it of not supporting an exit from the EMU (although this claim disagrees with the vast majority of Greek society) – and of being a party which agrees with the system and endorses a new social democracy! It is indicative that the interpretation of election results by the side of the CP is that “we told the truth to the people and we have paid!”

    Last we left the case of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, whose rates remained high at 7% (18 seats). Readers of the transform! newsletter had the chance to read in the previous issue an analysis of this phenomenon. An article vindicated that the stabilizing influence of GD is based on very real trends in Greek society, which have been even strengthened after the attack of a member of GD on TV against women candidates of the Left. The election result has encouraged its followers to engage in previous days in a series of actions, indicative of their inhuman ideology, such as knife attacks against immigrants and the destruction of SYRIZA stands.

    The Characteristics of Voting for SYRIZA

    The qualitative characteristics of SYRIZA voters are extremely interesting. According to one survey, the alliance comes first in the preferences of private employees (19%), civil servants (22%), self-employed (18%), unemployed (22%) and students (20%). It is fourth power among farmers (9%) and third power among housewives (15%) and pensioners (11%). The latter not changing easily their electoral behaviour, both because of their age and their fear that a government of the Left would lead the country out from the Eurozone and they will lose their – already low – pensions, having apparently come to terms with the idea of living in poverty, with only the absolutely necessary ressources. Also, SYRIZA comes first among graduates of higher and secondary education, as well as in the age groups of 18-34 (33%) and 35-54 (34%), but second, with half the percentage of ND (20%), in 55+ age group. SYRIZA is first in most major urban areas and in many regions of the province, including the island of Crete where the political forces of the center (PASOK and its predecessors) have had traditionally been assembling their largest percentages since the first decades of the twentieth century. 

    One of the most remarkable features is the absolute class polarization that emerged in the elections, especially in the region of Attica, where 5.000.000 people live. SYRIZA came first in all the areas populated with people of lower incomes and belonging to proletarian strata, approaching 40% (ND got there percentages of 15%) and second or third in all regions whose inhabitants belong to middle class and higher strata.

    The conclusion is that the most dynamic parts of Greek society, whose lives and future prospects are strongly affected by the policies of the Memorandum, supported SYRIZA. This shows the huge success of SYRIZA and the vindication of its efforts to express their interests, as well as the enormous class polarization existing in Greek society and the great potential that SYRIZA has.

    The Next Day

    After the elections, SYRIZA announced firmly that the party respects the election results and will not participate in any government formation process, since there is a political chasm between it and the New Democracy. A government with the participation of SYRIZA, who supports the immediate cancellation of the Memorandum, along with ND and PASOK, whose leaders have guaranteed to sign that they will fulfil the terms of the Memorandum, may not have any luck and it would mean a cancellation of SYRIZA’s political agenda. SYRIZA pledged that it will use its position to finally have a real major opposition in the country, rather than the situation until now, where ND and PASOK had the same positions and pretended to disagree. The oppositional action of SYRIZA will be substantial and radical (as long as this government is in office). The party will be at the side of the people in their struggle against the policy of the Memorandum, which the new government will continue. And it will be calling on the government to use – although it estimates that it will not happen – the high percentage of the left opposition as an additional bargaining tool against the Troika.

    The tasks undertaken by SYRIZA are both important and difficult. Apart from the continuing demonstration of the real character of the new government and participating in organizing large political events and protests, the left coalition is asked to do basically three things.

    First, lead to greater awareness among even more of its voters. The vote in SYRIZA is of economic type, in the sense described before, the concentration of low income earners in SYRIZA and of the better earning in ND. But it is not a class vote, in the sense of consciousness of voters on the social division of labour, their own position within it and the need for collective organisation.

    Second, it has to establish organisational ties with the people who voted for SYRIZA, a significant part of which is fascinated by the idea of political participation. SYRIZA promised a more democratic and participatory governance model, “to return power to the people” as Alexis Tsipras said. This should apply in the interior of SYRIZA at first and the way leading to it passes through the transformation of the left coalition into a united, massive and modern Party of the Left, where all the people, who came to the open meetings of SYRIZA the previous times and discussed with the executives of the party and Tsipras the program of the left alliance, will be actively involved. This is the only way for SYRIZA to be even more effective at understanding the problems of people, the social processes taking place, to have more political and social visions to compose and thus to further strengthen the program with material that will make it more detailed, convincing and powerful.

     The third task of SYRIZA, as well as the previous two, is encapsulated in the phrase from the speech of Alexis Tsipras (http://www.left.gr/article.php?id=2812) at the election night in the central pavilion of SYRIZA in Athens, in front of hundreds of members and friends of SYRIZA, whose flags and songs gave the signal for the start of a new era:

    “Let us all give a promise. To continue giving all the power and vitality of our souls to support our fellow men in need. SYRIZA has to become a force that will support networks of social solidarity. To not leave any poor and unemployed people without electricity and healthcare. Together with our struggles to pave way for the democratization of political life and especially to give the promise that without conceit and arrogance, with the humidity that characterizes those who are fighting for the right of ordinary people, to transform our coalition into a great democratic, popular left-wing party that will unite the Greeks in the great struggle to regain our country’s sovereignty, independence and social justice and to get democracy back to its homeland and all over Europe. The future is ours and lasts long. We are determined to win.”

    The following slogans, flags pulsated with passion and the pride that shone in the eyes of the members of SYRIZA for the great struggle we give for the victory of the people were our commitment that we give this promise and will keep it to the end.


Related articles