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(Updated May 8) Greece: Austerity parties smashed, radical left makes big gains

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is calling on the non-PASOK left to unite to form government and abolish austerity policies.

By Yiorgos Vassalos

May 7, 2012 -- Ypsilo's Weblog -- The parties that have ruled the country since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 -- New Democracy (Nea Dimokratia) and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) -- have collapsed in the May 6 parliamentary elections. In all elections since 1974 (except 1990-91) one of these two parties was able to gain a clear majority in the parliament and form governement, jointly scoring from 70% to 90% of the vote. On May 6, their combined vote was 33%.

New Democracy has fallen from 33% in 2009  to 19%, and from 2.3 million votes to 1.2 million. PASOK has fallen from 44% to 13%, from 3 million votes to 800,000.

LAOS, the extreme right party that also supported the eurozone loan agreements and the anti-social memorandums, fell from 5.6% to 2.9% and from 386,000 to 182,000.

More than two-thirds of the population have declared that they are against the austerity memorandums in opinion polls, yet this majority has been ignored by the political forces that support the Eurozone loan agreements (Nea Dimokratia, PASOK, LAOS and extra-parliamentary liberal parties Action and Democratic Alliance). In the election, a clear majority of the vote was won by parties that campaigned in favour of the immediate cancellation of the loan agreements: 44% for SYRIZA, Independent Greeks, Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Parties that asked only for the renegotiation of the loan agreements or don’t have a clear position (Democratic Left, Greens, Creation) scored around 7.5%.

Parties that didn’t cross the 3% threshold to enter the parliament gathered 18% of the vote.

SYRIZA, the Coalition of Radical Left, scored an extraordinary vote, jumping from 4.6% to 17% and from 316,000 votes to 1 million. SYRIZA was by far the first in all big cities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras) and to all working-class neighbourhoods. SYRIZA campaigned for an immediate abolition of the loan agreements and the anti-social memorandums but also for Greece staying in the eurozone. New Democracy came first almost everywhere in the countryside.

The radical left won a more important score than the far right (27% vs 20%). The three radical left parties all together won 27% (SYRIZA 17%, KKE 8.5%, Antarsya 1.2%). The two latter parties campaigned for the exit of Greece from the eurozone and the European Union.

Shockwaves have also been sent by the tremendous vote of the anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi criminal gang Golden Dawn, which scored 7% of the vote and jumped from 20,000 votes to 438,000. It is ironic that these racists got their best results in small cities with little immigration. Independent Greeks, a split from New Democracy, also focused on opposition to immigration and raised nationalist slogans. It won 11%. The extreme right LAOS, got 2.9% and didn’t enter the parliament. That makes a 21% for far right, up from around 6% in 2009. We have to take note though that New Democracy also campaigned under the slogan ”re-occupy our neighbourhoods from the immigrant ghettos”.

None of the far-right parties has an expressed position in favour of leaving the European Union.

The electoral law in Greece demonstrated its absurdity; it grants the party that cames first with a bonus 50 more seats. New Democracy thus gained 108 seats, SYRIZA 52, PASOK 41, Independent Greeks 33, KKE 26, Golden Dawn 21 and the Democratic Left 19.

New Democracy has a three days to form government. If it fails the mandate goes to the second party for the next three days, then to the third one and so on.

New Democracy and PASOK are calling for a broad pro-EU coalition. SYRIZA calls for a left-of-PASOK government. The leader of the Independent Greeks said his party won’t cooperate with PASOK and New Democracy and – quite speculatively – said he has common positions with SYRIZA on the debt and economy (however Independent Greeks' program supports privatisation whereas SYRIZA wants public control of the banks, energy and other industries). The Democratic Left said it would support a government that would change current policies and support a process of disengagement from the austerity memorandums. The leader of the KKE, Aleka Papariga has ruled out any possibility for cooperating with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which it describes as "new social democrats", who "spread illusions" among the people.

It is therefore probable that PASOK, New Democracy and the Democratic Left may form a government when the mandate goes to the third party, PASOK. Such a government would have 168 of the 300 seats but it will be politically very weak because the backbone will be formed by parties spectacularly punished by the popular vote. It would also imply a huge political cost for the third partner whether it is Democratic Left (which is the only one that leaves some openings for cooperation) or anybody else. SYRIZA still hopes to convince the Democratic Left and KKE to support it -- and then some MPs would quit the New Democracy and PASOK parliamentary groups.

The way that SYRIZA deals with these processes, but also whether the KKE abandons its failed tactic [of refusing to work with the radical left], which lost it thousands of votes in working-class municipalities of the big cities, will define the programmatic perspectives of the Greek left and whether a front for people’s power will be formed. Antarsya, which tripled its votes from 25,000 to 75,000, has also an important political role to play in this.

Results

1.  New Democracy 18.87%

2. SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left) 16.76%

3. PASOK (Socialdemocrats) 13.19%

4. Independent Greeks 10.6%

5. KKE (Communist Party) 8.48%

6. Golden Dawn (neo-Nazis) 6.97%

7. Democratic Left 6.1o%

8. Greens 2.93%

9. LAOS (Popular Orthodox Alarm) 2.9%

10. Democratic Alliance (Liberals) 2.6%

11. Creation Again! (Liberals) 2.15%

12. Action (Liberals) 1.8%

13. Antarsya (Anticapitalist Left Cooperation) 1.2%

Results from the website of the Ministry of Interior

[Slightly abridged fromYpsilo's Weblog. Yiorgos Vassalos is an activist and researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory.]

 

Tsipras lays out five points of coalition talks

May 8, 2012 -- Ekathimerini.com -- Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), runner-up in the May 6 general elections, presented the five points along which his discussions with minority party leaders will develop as he tries to form a coalition government after frontrunner New Democracy failed at the task on Monday.

Following a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, who delivered the mandate to Tsipras, the 38-year-old politician said that "this is a historic moment for the left and a great challenge for me".

Addressing the press from parliament later and before embarking on a string of meetings with party and union leaders, Tsipras rejected the efforts of New Democracy and third-placed PASOK for a so-called "national salvation government", saying that a coalition of conservative and centrist forces would be a government "for the salvation of the memorandum" and would violate the mandate of the people, who have, "rejected the bailout agreement with their vote".

Tsipras challenged the two parties, who have ruled Greece for the past three decades but suffered a crushing defeat at the May 6 polls, to rescind their letters of guarantee to creditors saying that Greece would abide in full to the terms of the bailout deal, "if they truly regret what they have done to the Greek people".

On his upcoming talks to explore whether he will be able to form a majority coalition with parties of the left and parties representing environmental concerns, the head of SYRIZA -- which gleaned 16.78 per cent at the ballot box and won 52 seats in the 300-seat parliament -- laid out the five points that will be the focus of discussions:

  • The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that will impoverish Greeks further, such as cuts to pensions and salaries.
  • The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that undermine fundamental workers' rights, such as the abolition of collective labour agreements.
  • The immediate abolition of a law granting MPs immunity from prosecution, reform of the electoral law and a general overhaul of the political system.
  • An investigation into Greek banks, and the immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking sector by BlackRock.
  • The setting up of an international auditing committee to investigate the causes of Greece's public deficit, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the findings of the audit are published.

"We are not indifferent to whether the country will be governed or not, but we are primarily concerned with the direction in which the country will be governed and whether the people's mandate will be respected", Tsipras said.

The SYRIZA leader is expected to meet first with Fotis Kouvelis from Democratic Left (which received 6.1 per cent of the vote and 19 seats) and then with Ecologist Greens (2.93 per cent; no seats) representative Ioanna Kontouli and Social Pact (0.96 per cent; no seats) president Louka Katseli.

Earlier he spoke on the telephone with Greek Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga who rejected a face-to-face meeting. The Ecologist Greens, whose leader met with Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on May 8, also said they would not back SYRIZA in its attempt to form a government and "hide behind an anti-memorandum" banner.

However, Louka Katseli, the PASOK rebel who heads the Social Pact party, that gleaned less than 1 per cent of the vote, said on May 8 that she would be open to the idea of cooperation with SYRIZA and the Democratic Left.

Tsipras has indicated that he will use the full three days at his disposal to talk with all the party leaders, including those of New Democracy and PASOK, but barring Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn). 

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