Greece is heading towards national elections on 7 July. What, as a result, will the future of Greece, the Greek working-class, and the left look like? – Much is at stake.
On Sunday, Greece will undergo one more electoral process after the ’electoral marathon‘ of 26 May that left Syriza almost ten percentage points behind the main opposition right-wing party, f New Democracy (ND); this prompted Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to anticipate the parliamentary elections by three months, moving them from October to next Sunday.
Whatever its result, it is more than certain that this election will be a milestone for Greek politics, and most importantly for the Greek society. After four and a half years of the Syriza government – the first time a party of the Radical Left rose to power in exceptional circumstances – many important issues are at stake during this election.
First of all, major backtracking on all the positive – pro working-class and petty-bourgeoisie – measures adopted by the Syriza government is to be expected, since they are already openly contested by ND. If ND wins, measures likely to be repealed include free access of more than 2.5 million people, who are not covered by health-insurance, to the public health system, the rise of the minimum wage and the abolition of the sub-minimum wage for young employees, the reform of the pensions system that transferred much of the social security cost to those having the higher income, the restoration of the collective bargaining and other labour rights, the empowerment of the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE), the reversal of pension cuts, etc. The same applies to all the progressive, democratic reforms realised during the past four and a half years, such as the reform of the local government (‘Kleisthenis’), that established a proportional electoral system for municipalities and regions, enhanced the role of municipal and regional councils, and introduced participatory procedures, local and regional referenda etc., or the law on prisons that guaranteed basic rights of prisoners, in accordance with modern views on law enforcement and punishment.
Whether one sees these measures as important or inadequate – there is no doubt that they stopped the humanitarian crisis, tackled the democratic deficit in the country, and reduced extreme inequalities resulting from the harsh austerity programmes. Of course, much is yet to be done, but backtracking on these measures will definitely move Greek society back to a very dark and difficult period.
Secondly – and perhaps most importantly – what is also at stake is the development model that will prevail in the post-Memoranda era. It is clear that two different plans for the future of Greece are combatting on the 7th of July: Taxation of the wealth, modern social welfare state, support of scientific research and investment in innovation, support of the Social and solidary economy – in a few words an environmentally and socially sustainable and fair growth – is what Syriza proposes. On the other hand, ND is already openly proposing the implementation of the entire neoliberal agenda: privatisation not only of infrastructure but even of major parts of the public sector, including the pension system, tax cuts for the upper strata, the abolition of labour rights and ’flexible‘ employees are at the core of its programme.
During the Memoranda, the economic and social structure in Greece suffered a violent transformation, increasing inequalities and undermining any possibility of a different development path in the future. However – despite the compromise of 2015 – during SYRIZA’s years in government serious efforts were made to slow down and even reverse this transformation. Today, after the end of the last Memorandum programme and the subsequent increase of the national government’s degrees of freedom (of course within the limits of the EU and the Eurozone) the development model that will prevail will prove crucial in the long run.
Last, but not least, what is also at stake on 7 July is the present and the future of the left in Greece, and even in Europe. The last four and a half years has been an unprecedented experiment in left government under the extraordinary conditions of austerity programmes. As the path of SYRIZA to power filled with hope the leftists across Europe, in the exact same way its defeat and the defamation of its achievements will be a serious defeat for all the left in Greece and abroad. No one denies the inadequacies of SYRIZA or even its serious mistakes. However, right now the right in Greece is trying to convince people that ’there is no alternative’, in order to put an end once and for all to the attempt of a leftist government.
So one question is whether Syriza – regardless if it wins or loses this election – will remain a party big enough in order to maintain its position as the dominant pole on the left side of the political spectrum. All the available polls show that Syriza will gain the same or, most probably, higher share of the vote that it gained in the EU election, remaining thus one of the two poles of Greek party system.
Another question, equally if not more, important, is the character of Syriza after the elections: How will its successes and its failures be explained and what will be its answer be the day after the elections? This remains an open question that will undoubtedly occupy the leftists not only in Greece but in Europe as well after 7 July.
Vote intention (%)
KINAL (former PASOK)
KKE (Communist Party)
Union of Centrists
Plefsi Eleftherias (Zoe Konstantopoulou)
source: Metron Analysis(Greek), 3 July;
GUE/NGL: European United Left/ Nordic Green Left (radical left); EPP: European People’s Party (conservative); NI: non-affiliated; ECR: European Conservatives and Reformists (right wing); S&D: Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (social democrats); ALDE: Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe;
 Apart from the European election, on the same day were also held elections for Regions, Municipalities and Local Councils.