Greece is headed into a new era of anti-austerity as the radical leftist Syriza successfully formed a government with the Independent Greeks party after falling short of an outright majority in Sunday’s landmark elections.
With nearly all of the votes counted in Sunday's poll, Syriza looks set to have 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority. The Greek Independents are projected to have 13 seats in the 300-seat parliament. The election result is expected to be one of the main issues at Monday's meeting of 19 eurozone finance ministers. Sunday's result means that a majority of voters in Greece have essentially rejected a core policy for dealing with the eurozone crisis as devised by Brussels and Germany, the BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Athens says.
The far-left Syriza party, which won Greece's general election on Sunday, has formed an anti-austerity governing coalition with the right-wing party Greek Independents. “I want to say, simply, that from this moment, there is a government,” the Independent Greeks leader, Panos Kammenos, told reporters after emerging from a meeting at Syriza’s headquarters. “The Independent Greeks party will give a vote of confidence to the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. The prime minister will go to the president and … the cabinet makeup will be announced by the prime minister. The aim for all Greeks is to embark on a new day, with full sovereignty.”
The landmark election result, the first time since the 1970s that neither the centre-left Pasok nor the conservative New Democracy has been returned to power, could set Athens on course for an imminent collision with international lenders, EU institutions and with Berlin, where the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has so far steadfastly refused to let up on demands for draconian belt-tightening and structural reforms by the bloc’s weaker economies.
Syriza’s financial planning official, Giorgos Stathakis, said the new government had no plans to meet with negotiators from the “troika” of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF, and would instead seek talks directly with governments.
Hours after Syriza’s victory, ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure said Greece had to pay its debts and warned Tsipras to play by the “European rules of the game”. “There is no room for unilateral action in Europe that doesn’t exclude a discussion, for example, on the rescheduling of this debt,” Coeure told Europe 1 radio.
Europe’s finance ministers were scheduled to meet on Monday for their first chance to discuss Syriza’s sweeping victory. The euro briefly sank to an 11-year low against the dollar and stock markets fell amid fears that Greece’s massive €240bn bailout could be in doubt and the battered country may be forced out of the eurozone.
“Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and suffering,” Tsipras told thousands of cheering, flag-waving supporters gathered in Klafthmonos Square in central Athens on Sunday night. Tsipras, born into a middle-class Athens family and trained as a civil engineer, reiterated his intention to renegotiate the bailout terms, but hinted that he may not quite be as forceful in government as during his campaign, when he pledged to light an “anti-austerity blaze” across Europe. “The new Greek government will be ready to cooperate and negotiate for the first time with our peers a just, mutually beneficial and viable solution,” he promised.
Tsipras’s fierce anti-austerity, anti-bailout message has found an enthusiastic audience across a visibly strung-out and worn-down country. Since 2009, Greece’s GDP has plummeted by a quarter, its household income by more than a third, and joblessness has trebled, to 26%.
Thousands of supporters turned out to watch Tsipras speak in central Athens after his opponents conceded. “The Greek people have written history,” he said, to cheers. “Greece is leaving behind catastrophic austerity, fear and autocratic government.” Outside the party’s campaign tent in central Athens, supporters hugged each other and danced in celebration. “It’s like we’ve been born again and finally feel some hope,” said Litsa Zarkada, a government cleaning worker who lost her job. “We were thrown into the street just before we could take our pension. We have been through so much.”
Swingeing spending cuts and soaring unemployment have seen about 3.1 million people, or a third of the population, lose their social security and health insurance. Almost third of Greece’s population lives below the poverty line, while 18% are unable to afford basic food needs.
The party’s victory could encourage other radical anti-austerity parties in southern Europe, including Spain’s Podemos, whose leader Pablo Iglesias told a rally in Valencia: “Hope is coming, fear is fleeing. Syriza, Podemos, we will win.”
by 99.80% of the votes counted.
1. SYRIZA 36.34% - 149 seats
2. NEA DIMOKRATIA 27.81% - 76 seats
3. GOLDEN DAWN 6.28% - 17 seats
4. POTAMI 6.04% - 17 seats
5. KKE 5.45% - 15 seats
6. INDEPENDENT GREEKS 4.72% - 13 seats
7. PASOK 4.68% - 13 seats
KINIMA (Party of Ex-Prime Minister Papandreou, did not enter parliament) 2.44%
Shift towards Syriza in %
“What the SYRIZA Government Will Do” – Government programme of SYRIZA announced at the Thessaloniki International Fair on 15 September 2014 by Alexis Tsipras.