• European Election in Greece

  • Danai Koltsida | 29 May 19 | Posted under: Greece , Elections , European Union
  • The recent EU election (2019) was a purely internal battle for Greece, in terms not only of electoral campaigns but also of electoral results.

    Political climate

    ·      Being the first electoral procedure held in Greece since the national election of September 2015, after four highly controversial and undoubtedly difficult years, due to the austerity programme that the SYRIZA government signed in July 2015, this election took place in an unusually polarized (for EU elections) political climate. All the parties, including the governing party of SYRIZA (GUE/NGL) and the main opposition party of New Democracy/ND (EPP), focused their campaigns to the internal debate around the governance of the country and issues such as the economy, the state of the labour market, the pensions, but also the issues of the so-called “law-and-order” agenda, with regard to the parliamentary elections (originally planned for October 2019), leaving the debate about the present and the future of Europe outside the scope of this election.

    ·      The – unexpected, at least for many people[1] – result and the defeat of SYRIZA by ND by almost 10% (see below) lead the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, to call for an early national election in the next month or so (most probably on the 7th of July). Consequently, the results of the EP Elections at the European level, that are a negative omen for the future of the EU and the left and progressive forces in it, most likely won’t be object of public evaluation in Greece, since the pre-election period has already informally begun.

    Electoral system – Results

    In more detail, the results of the election of the 21 Greek MEPs – for which 40 parties/coalitions presented lists, according to a proportional electoral system with a threshold of 3% – are the following (based on the 98% of the counted votes):

     

     

    EP Election 2019

    EP Election 2014

    Turnout

    58.60%

    59.33%

    Party results

    %

    Seats

    %

    Seats

    New Democracy (ND) – EPP

    33.13

    8

    22.72

    5

    SYRIZA – GUE/NGL

    23.77

    6

    26.56

    6

    Kinima Allagis (KINAL – former PASOK) – S&D

    7.71

    2

    8.02

    2

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE)

    5.34

    2

    6.11

    2

    Xrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn)

    4.88

    2

    9.39

    3

    Elliniki Lysi (new party of the populist right)

    4.18

    1

    -

    -

    Other parties with no MEP

    20.99

    -

    17.12

    -

     

    Apart from SYRIZA, whose share of the vote dropped by 2,79% compared to 2014, smaller parties of the Greek parliament also suffered significant losses:

    ·         Independent Greeks (ANEL), the former governmental right-wing partner of SYRIZA, only gathered 0,80%, whereas in 2014 it gained 3,46% of the vote and one seat.

    ·         Potami (S&D) gained 1.52% of the vote and elected no MEPs, which is a very poor performance, compared to 2014, when the party gained 6.61% and 2 seats, and

    ·         Enosi Kentroon, a party represented in the current national parliament after gaining 3.43% of the vote in September 2015, only gathered 1.45%.

     

    On the contrary, one of the winners of this election was Mera25 (the Greek branch of Diem25 of Gianis Varoufakis), that gained 2.99% of the vote – only a few votes below the threshold of 3% in order to elect an MEP – replacing Laiki Enotita (LAE) as the  biggest[2] party of the extra-parliamentarian Left.

    Finally, the coalition of the former PASOK (Kinima Allagis) remained largely stable, whereas the Greens, after an internal split, gained together a 1,2% (0,87% and 0,45%), not playing an actual role in the balance of forces in Greece.

    3+1 (initial) remarks

    Inevitably, the biggest question of this election is the reasons of this large-scale defeat of SYRIZA by ND, especially given the openly and extreme neoliberal views of its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, that the electoral campaign of ND – full of “fake news” and in complete alignment to the mainstream media – failed to hide. In order though to correctly answer this question, one has to seek beyond any communicational issues and closely look to the results.

    1st remark: The Left, in total, lost. In the EP election of 2014, 1.977.159 voters opted for leftist parties, whereas last Sunday only around 1.916.000 people voted for the Left, meaning that the Left lost in total 60.000 voters. Given the fact that SYRIZA lost between 2014 and 2019 196.000 voters, this means that the electoral losses of SYRIZA didn’t exclusively move to the rest of the Left, but a part of them either turned to the Right or chose to abstain.

    2nd remark: The class cleavage that was clear in previous electoral results between SYRIZA and ND voters faded. In the popular/working class suburbs of Athens (B2’ Electoral District of Western Athens), SYRIZA won only by 2,2% and 6.000 votes (27,55% against 25,33% for ND), whereas in 2014 SYRIZA had won by 17,8% and 39.700 votes (33,18%-15,34%). This means that SYRIZA paid the price of the continuous austerity and that the undoubtedly positive measures[3] adopted by the government in favour of the popular classes after the end of the last memorandum in August 2018 proved to be inadequate to persuade these voters to participate to the election and support SYRIZA, or at least were implemented too late (especially those announced only a few days before the election) and were not obvious to the available income of the households.

    3rd remark: Despite what is largely said, the Prespes Agreement between Greece and Northern Macedonia was not the decisive factor for the current negative result for SYRIZA. In the 3 regions of Northern Greece, SYRIZA lost only 3% in Central Macedonia, but also increased its share of the vote both in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace by 1,1% and in Western Macedonia by 1,2%. Of course, these were also the regions where the new populistic party of the right (Elliniki Lysi) gained its highest percentages, but still the scenarios about a massive destruction of SYRIZA in Northern Greece on nationalistic grounds were not verified.

    Additional remark: The successful presence of Mera25, as well as the fact that, even after a serious defeat SYRIZA remains by far the bigger party of the left spectrum of the Greek political system, shows that the left electorate remains in favour of pro-European solutions, seeking an alternative economic proposal and questioning the current architecture of the Eurozone, but not the project of the European integration in total.

     


    [1]For an analysis of the political landscape in Greece at the beginning of the pre-electoral period see: https://www.transform-network.net/focus/overview/article/ep-2019-the-european-left-one-mouth-many-voices/the-greek-left-before-2019-eu-election/

    [2] Electorally, at least. LAE and ANTARSYA have still a stronger social and organisational presence across the country. For example, unlike Mera25, they were able to participate to the regional and municipal elections with their own lists in many cases (at least the big regions and cities).


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