In its meeting the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) has decided to withdraw its MEPs from the left group in the European Parliament. The two MEPs will now be non affiliated members of the Parliament. In its statement the KKE argues that the “confederal character of GUE/NGL has been altered, as the ELP parties operate with a single line, grouped together, and speak in the committees and sessions on the basis of a common platform, promoting the political positions of the ELP as positions of GUE/NGL. The situation is deteriorating as the EU, in the framework of the deepening of its reactionary character, is prioritizing the functioning of EU parties that safeguard the further strengthening of the Commission and its multi-tentacled mechanisms.” Find the full text of the statement here
The result of the European elections in Greece must be read and interpreted against the backdrop of the ongoing harsh austerity measures imposed by the Troika and successive Greek governments post 2009. Hence, the victory of the radical left was not particularly surprising, although it is undeniably historical. SYRIZA is now the biggest party in Greece, having received 26.56% of the votes, whereas the leading governmental right-wing New Democracy party has received 22.73%. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is now the third biggest party in Greece (9.40%), gaining 3 MEP seats for the first time in modern Greek political history. The second governmental party (Socialist Party, running under the brand Elia) received 8.03% of the vote, and the newly founded Potami (which means river in Greek) party managed to secure 6.60% of the vote, electing 2 MEPs, closely followed by the Communist Party which received 6.09% of votes cast. The last party to win a seat in the European Parliament was Independent Greeks (right-wing, anti-austerity) with 3.45%. It is worth noting that Democratic Left, a former governmental party that withdrew its support almost a year ago, scored exceptionally low (1.20%). The total sum of the parties that did not manage to be represented in the European Parliament was almost 15%, with the extreme‑right LAOS party scoring an unexpected 2.70%. Voter turnout was slightly above 60%, which is comparable to the 2010 turnout. In any case, it is also worth reflecting on the qualitative characteristics of these figures, since it is believed that younger voters might have abstained more than older voters, who tend to support traditional right-wing or centrist parties (New Democracy and Elia).
In order to fully grasp the significance of this result, we need to factor in the successes of the radical left, represented by SYRIZA, in the municipal and provincial elections that took place on 18 and 25 May. SYRIZA managed to secure a victory in the country’s largest province (Attiki), where Rena Dourou marginally yet decisively beat the government-backed candidate who had previously held the post for 12 years. Perhaps even more impressively, Gabriel Sakellarides, a young radical economist supported by SYRIZA, secured an unprecedented 48.60% in the municipality of Athens, a traditionally conservative constituency. Furthermore, candidates supported by SYRIZA managed to come first in the second round of the municipal elections in a number of working-class neighbourhoods.
Crucially, it is the first time in Greek political history that a left-wing party wins by such a clear margin in the European elections. Given that the political debate prior to the elections was heated and polarised, it is fair to argue that this was not a peculiar protest vote specifically targeted at the European elections. The result accurately reflects the domestic balance of political power and constitutes a vocal message of disapproval of the current government and its aggressive austerity policies. The victory of SYRIZA acquires added political and symbolic value given that it constitutes an anti-austerity vote with clearly left-wing characteristics within a wider European context of increasing support for the extreme-right. That said, there are two elements that need further consideration. First, the neoliberal political centre is undergoing a transformation, with the entrance of Potami onto the political scene, the collapse of the Democratic Left and the fact that the Socialist Party, despite its sharp decline, still retains some of its influence. The role of the mass media here has been crucial, given that the leader of Potami was a leading journalist in one of the most notoriously pro-government TV stations. Secondly, it became evident that the far-right, including the neo-Nazi far-right, is stabilising at around 15%, exerting considerable influence upon traditional working-class areas.
In any case, the victory of SYRIZA must be understood as a victory not simply against New Democracy, but a victory against a powerful nexus of pro-austerity, pro-establishment actors ranging from an implicit coalition between most political parties to mass media and corporate interests. SYRIZA managed to gain extensive support despite the generalised sense of fear that was being cultivated by the media, and the current government that has steadily been claiming that the rise of the Left will lead to “destabilisation”. Thus, we can reasonably assume that SYRIZA has laid down deep, veritable roots in those parts of the Greek society most influenced by the crisis (the unemployed, traditional working-class neighbourhoods, the youth) that constitute the nucleus capable of bringing about radical political and social transformations.
Ntina Tzouvala, PhD Candidate Durham Law School
IN POWER: Coalition between the conservative right of “New Democracy” and the socialists of PASOK
Radical left party in the EP: 3 seats of 22
With its breakthrough in the general elections of June 2012, when Syriza reached 27% of the vote and 71 seats in the Greek Parliament, the Greek radical left has established itself as the second biggest party in Greece. The EL, the European Left, has chosen Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras as its candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which fell back to 4.5% in June 2012, is not a member of the EL.