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Greece: SYRIZA’s win -- the numbers behind the victory

SYRIZA: 149 seats, 36.5%; New Democracy: 76 seats, 27.8%; Golden Dawn: 17 seats, 6.3%; To Potami: 17 seats, 6.1%; KKE: 15 seats, 5.5%; Independent Greeks (ANEL): 13 seats, 4.7%; PASOK: 13 seats, 4.7%; others not elected: 8.6%.

By Dick Nichols, Athens

January 27, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The victory of SYRIZA, Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, in the January 25, 2015, general election caused enormous outpouring of joy on the streets of Athens and confirmed general expectations.The final result was 36.49% and 149 seats. SYRIZA will now form government in alliance with the socially conservative, but anti-Brussels, Independent Greeks.

The “poll of polls” done just the day before the election had SYRIZA winning 37.5% and 146 seats. Exit polls taken after voting closed had SYRIZA at between 36.5% and 38.5% (146-158 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament). In the end, the radical coalition fell two seats short of an absolute majority.

That majority would most likely have been achieved if the outgoing, right-wing New Democracy (ND) government had not stopped about 100,000 18 year olds from voting. Electoral rolls are updated every February in Greece and the ND government voted down a proposal to have them updated for this poll.

Before being assigned the extra 50 seats that goes to the party that wins the most votes under Greek election law, SYRIZA won 99 seats, 28 more than in the June 2012 election. With the 50 seats awarded for topping the poll, and distributed regionally, SYRIZA's gain was 78 seats. Where did they come from?

Electoral system

Greece is divided into 56 electorates, of which 48 are multi-member seats and eight single-member seats, according to population size. These 56 electorates return 288 MPs, with the remaining 12 elected on a national basis.

Those seats are shared proportionately among the parties that have passed the 3% threshold for representation (with six seats guaranteed), using the vote of the parties falling short of the threshold.

In this election the combined vote won by groups that did not pass the 3% threshold, and so won’t enter parliament, was 8.62%. This includes the 2.44% won by the Movement of Democratic Socialists (MDS), the vehicle set up by former prime minister George Papandreou in a vain attempt to remain a national political figure.

(Papandreou had headed a government of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), traditionally a social democratic party and one of Greece’s two main parties with conservative ND, but which has dramatically crashed in the polls due to its support for austerity.)

The national swing to SYRIZA was 9.45%, yet reached its highest points in the regions. The swing ranged as high as 28.7% in Rhodope (in Western Thrace, bordering on Bulgaria). There, the PASOK vote fell from 20.5% to 3.3% and the vote for the Democratic Left (DIMAR, a right-wing split from SYRIZA) from 17.7% to 0.3%, as the region’s Muslim people (Greece’s one recognised minority) swung to the radical coalition. Rhodope was where SYRIZA obtained its highest vote — 48.45%.

Other regions where the swing to SYRIZA exceeded 13% were Evrytania and Trikalon in central Greece (16.4% and 13.3%), the regions of Lasithi (16.4%) and Heraklion (14.2%) on the island of Crete, and Arta in the Epirus region on the Ionian coast, where the swing was 15%.

SYRIZA came first in 42 of the 56 electorates, compared with 16 in the June 2012 poll.

Centre collapses

The result in Rhodope expressed the general trend in the election in an extreme way: the vote for the right (ND) and the far right (Golden Dawn) fell only marginally, but “left” forces PASOK and DIMAR paid heavily for their participation in the ND-led government implementing the policies imposed on Greece by the “Troika” of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The PASOK vote fell from 12.3% to 4.7% (33 seats to 13), while DIMAR was annihilated, collapsing from 6.25% to 0.5% and losing all its 17 seats. This was less than the far-left ANTARSYA (Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow, which won 0.64%).

Some of the vote deserting PASOK and DIMAR went to Papandreou’s MDS (2.4%), while The River, a trendy, millionaire-funded “hipster” party led by a TV presenter, won 6.04%.

The swing against PASOK, which spared no electorate, reached 17.3% in Lasithi. Greece’s traditional social democratic party, which had still managed to come second in four electorates in June 2012, could only manage a best result of third at this poll (in 11 electorates).

As for the MDS, the highest score it could manage was in Papandreou’s home region of Achaea, at 5.9%, with scores of only 1% and 2% in the main metropolitan areas.

The right

New Democracy, which ran a terrorist fear-mongering campaign against SYRIZA, won’t be unhappy with its result. The worst swing it suffered was 6.6% (in Rhodope), while in 11 electorates it managed a swing in its favour.

This reached a high of 4.7% on the island of Chios, close to the Turkish coast. There, its rhetoric about SYRIZA leaving Greece “defenceless” probably had the greatest impact. Its next greatest success was in Thesprotia, an electorate bordering on Albania on the Ionian coast (3.4%gain).

In the main urban centres, the ND vote hardly suffered, with no change to speak of in the two Piraeus electorates, a very slight fall in the two Athens electorates and a 2.65% and 2.9% fall in Thessalonica’s two electorates.

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn also suffered only a slight decline. Its vote fell in 43 of the 56 electorates, but the greatest swing against it was only 2.7% (in Corinthia). Its best result was 10.5% (in rural Laconia, where immigrant workers working on the farms are painted as a “threat to Greek jobs”).

This result indicates that Golden Dawn, despite the “legal decapitation” of its parliamentary caucus, has consolidated its social base for the time being.

Left shift

While the SYRIZA victory has dominated the headlines, the election also produced a broader shift to the left. In June 2012, the sum of the SYRIZA, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and ANTARYSA vote was 31.7%. On January 25, it was 42.5%.

The KKE has increased its vote by 1% and three seats, with those gains concentrated in the greater Athens region. The KKE lost votes in only four electorates (most notably on its stronghold Samos, close to the Turkish coast), but gained seats on Lesbos and Crete.

SYRIZA’s gains in seats were broadly spread across urban and rural Greece, as well as the islands. It won its 78 extra seats in 40 electorates.

Of these, 19 in the greater Athens area (including Attica), Piraeus and Thessalonica, 14 on the islands on all sides of the mainland (including Crete), 22 in the northern regions along the Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian and Turkish borders, 13 in central Greece (including the island of Euboea) and 10 on the southern mainland.

The even spread of SYRIZA’s gains, some in regions without a left majority in decades, showed the overwhelming nature of its victory.

[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly's and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. He is part of Green Left’s team in Athens reporting on the election. Read the full coverage of the election HERE and HERE.]

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From GLW issue 1038

Comments

On the deal between Syriza and ANEL

Greece has a new Government. After the euphoria of Syriza’s stunning victory yesterday, came the disappointing realisation that they had to form a coalition to govern, and that that coalition would be with the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL). Kevin Ovenden, who has covered the election in depth, offers some immediate thoughts.

http://rs21.org.uk/2015/01/26/on-the-deal-between-syriza-and-anel/

Photo: greekreporter.com

Photo: greekreporter.com

1) Do not cry, do not wax indignant, understand. The great enlightenment philosopher Spinoza’s advice is pertinent. Let’s understand the logic (of which I am critical). This is not a time for absolutism. But neither for being mealymouthed.

2) This is not a surprise. The meeting lasted an hour between Alexis and Kammenos. It was finalising things. Discussions have been underway for some time. It will not do to say this is an emergency measure caused by falling short of 151 seats. And it certainly will not do to blame the Left – in or outside Syriza. Why?

3) As I explained in running commentary – seeking a coalition partner was never a matter of parliamentary arithmetic. It is about political logic.

4) The argument for including ANEL goes like this: we face a national humanitarian disaster. Greece faces international foes. Just as it did under the Mussolini invasion and the Third Reich occupation. We cannot face up to that with 36 percent support. The Left must broaden its base. To Potami and Pasok would weaken the anti-memorandum position. ANEL will have to stick with an anti-memorandum line. So we will strengthen the anti-memorandum hand in the negotiations with the Troika by having them in the tent. Additionally, this will discombobulate the Right. For the moderates in Syriza it also gives a counterweight to the Left.

5) (I am trying to do justice to the argument above. I do not agree with it.) This is not just tactics. It is a product of strategy. The theory of how to win hegemony this works from looks to the building of political blocs (resting on class blocs). That finds intellectual resource in a variety of traditions – Communist, eurocommunist, Maoist, even variants of the Trotskyist. I can justify those claims, but not right now. Put the ideological tradition to one side. The issue is political strategy. Consider that and then you can make sense of the ideological justification which, like mathematics to the natural sciences, comes in as handmaiden.

6) How can a party of the radical Left be in alliance with that Greek Ukip? Well – the memorandum cuts through politics in Greece orthogonally (at right angles) to the Left/Right divide. It is possible to be Right wing on all the social questions and against the memorandum. ANEL may loosely be compared with Ukip. But it was formed out of a split from New Democracy on an anti-memorandum basis. Ukip in Britain is Thatcherite and struggles to articulate the mood against austerity.

7) What is ANEL. It is a nationalist, xenophobic, anti-German party. But it has not built its support – unlike GD – on the basis of popular racism. It has built it by not being part of the coalitions which implemented austerity. That is an important distinction. But it is racist. Kammenos voted against the Pasok (when in government alone) law to grant citizenship rights to children of immigrants. Syriza supported the law. It has opposed the concentration camps for immigrants.

8) How does that pan out? Some on the Left of Syriza – many – are saying that with 149 MPs to ANEL’s 13, Syriza will “hegemonize” Kammenos. Friends from the internationalist wing of formal majority of Syriza – 70 percent of the Congress – say that. But they are worried by the move and do not like it.

9) The position of the Left Platform? Most of the Left Platform – led by Panayiotis Lafazanis – were privately more against a deal with To Potami or Pasok than with ANEL. Why? Because they share the strategy of building broad “popular alliances” shaped by what they frame as a “national struggle” against the Troika. Alexis Tsipras played with that language a lot in his victory speech last night. He spoke of sovereignty and national dignity. He did not describe the election as a victory for the Left. But it was a Left victory.

10) The anti-racist mobilisations and demands to do better than Pasok immigration, human rights, police brutality and jailing GD therefore become even more important in providing a counter pole to the presence of ANEL in the government. Kammenos – a poster boy of the shipping magnates – is pitching for shipping minister. That ministry has been in the hands of the maritime oligarchs for the last 40 years whoever is office. People voted for a break with the old corruption, not for tolerating it under a Left government born of hope.

11) The KKE? Its leader did not stick the boot into ANEL in his speech last night (but rightly attacked the GD as neo-Nazis). It will lambast the government as “more of the same”.

12) The anti-capitalist Left is in a position to make a clear political explanation of what is wrong with the forming of the coalition. The clarity and strength of that argument is immediately bound up with the movements, against racism and for migrant rights especially.

13) Was there an alternative? Yes. Syriza could have formed a minority government. But that would mean being very clear that the strategy was of using all positions of strength of the Left, inside and outside government, to conduct a fight with the Right, the oligarchs and the Troika. It is perfectly constitutionally possible to form a minority government. And politically. An aggressive challenge to the minor parties to vote against the government would put them under enormous pressure. In fact, with ANEL in the coalition, the government will have to rely on this tactic anyway. For example, if it wants to propose decent measures over migrants, racism, police behaviour, LGBT equality, it will have to challenge the likes of Pasok and the liberal modernising To Potami to dare vote against them, while facing down objections from ANEL. Either that or, despite the 149 to 13 balance of the coalition, the tail will wag the dog.

14) We are at the beginnings of this process. Not the end. There will be much more of this kind of thing. We must prepare for it and calmly understand and explain. Tout comprendre c’est tout pardoner: to understand all is to excuse all, goes another maxim. It can lead to that. But it should not. There is a debate. Some genuinely believe this to be a correct policy. I am one of those who does not. There is nothing wrong in friends of the Greek movement and Left saying so. And if you do think so, you should say so.

15) But we don’t want to demoralise people? No, we must not. The Left depends on hope and we must approach this – as all the future questions – from the standpoint of how we develop hope. That rests on deepening the impact of the electoral success in Greece and the breach it opens up over austerity and, whatever the political machinations here, over racism too.

16) So we should make our case from the standpoint of

a) developing the resistance and movements of hope where we are
b) seriously and acknowledging that these are major questions of strategy. That means debating them through and not foreclosing the argument with outraged indignation. It also requires talking to those from other traditions – with other viewpoints – an not just the comfort of those who agree with us.
c) placing a premium upon fraternal and intelligent political arguments. The aim is to convince, not to denounce.
d) taking account of the big lines of division – with the right and with the elites imposing austerity. The argument against putting ANEL in government is that it weakened the front on those battle lines. That has to be shown.

Concretely – a massive and unified display of opposition on the international day of action on 21 March, which originated in Greece, against racism and fascism and for migrant and Muslim rights is now a date which all on the Left should bookmark and take action on.

There will be much more too. But we should approach it all in this spirit.

The real winners of Greece's elections: refugees

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has pledged to support refugees

http://www.irinnews.org/printreport.aspx?reportid=101047

ATHENS, 26 January 2015 (IRIN) - Beyond all the talk of debt, austerity and welfare payments lies a less-hyped but far-reaching consequence of Greece’s election bombshell: a dramatically more welcoming policy to migrants and asylum seekers.

The left-wing Syriza party, which trounced the anti-immigration New Democracy party in yesterday’s elections and holds 149 seats in the 300-seat parliament, has pledged to open Greece’s borders and increase support for migrants already inside the country.

"Syriza takes a strong stand against the demonizing of immigrants and undemocratic measures like concentration camps and border walls,” the party’s head of migration policy, Vasiliki Katrivanou, said after the vote.

“We will take steps to improve so called “ghetto areas” in benefit of everyone living there: Greeks and immigrants," she added. “We consider our win at the polls a victory for all Greeks and all migrants.”

Matthaios Tsimitakis, a Greek journalist and political analyst, said he expected a major shift in government policy.

“The previous government was based on the right-wing ideology that dominated politics…Syriza is moving in a different direction. Immigrants are not a threat to national security; they are victims of international wars. They need integration to become productive members of society and not a burden."

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are currently nearly 44,000 asylum-seekers in Greece, in addition to 3,500 recognized refugees. According to the Greek Council of Refugees, the total number of Syrians entering Greece surpassed 30,000 in 2014.

The influx is growing rapidly: UNHCR said 43,500 people were apprehended by Greek authorities at the Greek-Turkish borders in 2014, a 300 percent increase compared to the previous year.

The country had a 19 percent acceptance rate for asylum seekers in the final quarter of 2014, far lower than the European Union (EU) of 48 percent.

Syriza is set to immediately address the backlog of asylum cases while providing protection for the most vulnerable of asylum seekers.

Pushing back on ‘pushbacks’

The Syriza government has also vowed to curb security forces’ alleged practice of forcing migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey back across the land and marine borders.

The previous administration denied such claims, but UNHCR has recorded asylum seekers being sent back to Turkey, boats of migrants ignored by the Greek coastguard despite distress calls, and physical violence by law enforcement personnel.

A Greek tragedy
 

Ahmed, a refugee from Syria, has made numerous unenviable decisions since fleeing Damascus, including taking a treacherous journey by sea to Europe.

His four children, aged between four and 11, were shaped by the civil war destroying their country. “I used to pretend it was a game, when the bombs were falling, instead of crying. Soon we began to know the difference between the different types of weapons,” explains eight-year-old Rusul.

Their story is far too common - according to Save the Children, one in three Syrian children who have fled the conflict have endured physical harm by being “hit, kicked, or shot at.”

After fleeing Syria, the family travelled to Egypt via Lebanon but found themselves unwelcome. With few options left, they fled to Libya, opting for the dangerous sea voyage to Italy. But when their boat was close to Malta, a commercial vessel discovered them stranded at sea and dropped them off in Greece. It was their third attempt at reaching Europe.

“Of course I never want[ed] to risk the life of my children. My entire struggle has been for their future. But how can I leave them behind on their own when bombs are falling?”

Having finally arrived in Greece to apply for asylum, Ahmed said he received almost no support due to tightening anti-migration policies. Stranded in Athens for over a year, he and his family live an almost invisible existence, confined to a clandestine location due to constant police raids and in a crime-riddled community of Athens that has been grappling with its own socio-economic woes.

As their six-month deportation order has expired, they are now in an even more precarious situation in terms of their rights to apply for asylum. With meagre finances, Ahmed awaits an opportunity to leave Greece through Macedonia by foot.

 
Tighter border controls have pushed smugglers to take ever more extreme measures. According to the International Organization for Migration, last year at least 4,077 refugees died crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe – many heading for Greece.

Syriza MPs have been at the forefront of questioning coastguard authorities alleged to be pushing back migrants at sea, with the party’s leadership publicly accusing Greek border patrol of being culpable for the boat tragedies on the Aegean Sea and frequently calling for investigations.

When asylum seekers and migrants arrive in Greece, the majority are taken to detention centers. Upon their release, the majority are given a deportation order giving them only a limited amount of time to return to their home countries.

Elektra Koutra, an immigration and human rights lawyer based in the capital Athens, has helped secure protection and asylum for such families with minors, especially from Syria in recent years. She says asylum seekers do not understand the legal repercussions of their deportation orders and often stay beyond the expiration.

“One of the children I represented saw someone die during his journey and experienced high levels of stress while on his own, yet he was given a deportation order and no support," she explained.

Dublin trouble

One other key issue is the Dublin agreement, which Syriza has called to be renegotiated.

The agreement, signed in 1990, stipulates that asylum seekers in the EU must claim asylum in the first country they arrive in – rather than being able to travel to other European states first. As such, a disproportionate percentage of cases fall upon the shoulders of southern European countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain that are natural frontiers to migration.

Greek politicians have long claimed that the country, which has seen its economy shrink by nearly a quarter in five years, cannot cope with the asylum seekers.

“The problem with the EU system of asylum, especially the Dublin agreement, is that it is based on a flawed notion that all member states are able to provide the same level of protection to refugees,” Koutra said.

While Syriza may want to reform the Dublin agreement, there appears to be little appetite in northern Europe. As such, the party may well seek to galvanise political support in neighbouring southern European states.

Koutra warned that such changes were unlikely in the short-term. “It will require calling for special support in processing asylum cases and relocating asylum seekers to other member states based on the 2001 EU Directive on Displacement,” she said. The directive allows for the voluntary transfer of refugees between EU states.

Syriza’s task appears mammoth. With the Greek economy still in tatters, addressing the needs of thousands of refugees, while at the same garnering support from EU members who are already lending the country its economic lifeline, will certainly test the prowess of the coming government.

Yet for thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, their election might just be a chink in fortress Europe.

pn/jd/am

Theme(s): Refugees/IDPs,

New period for the left in Europe

January 27, 2015

Socialist Resistance, Britain

(http://socialistresistance.org/7107/new-period-for-the-left-in-europe)

It’s not every day that passers-by in London’s Camden Town can hear the strains of the socialist anthem ‘The Internationale’ drifting across the street on a Sunday evening, reports Harry Blackwell. Dozens of members of Britain’s Greece Solidarity Campaign (GSC) [1] were celebrating after watching with rapt attention the results come in from Greece’s historic general election. The visibly shaken reporter in Athens on the BBC’s 10 O’clock News aptly summed it up: “Far left win General Election … historic development … shockwaves through Europe … anti-austerity government”.

The victory of Syriza was widely expected but the margin of victory surpassed most expectations. Greece’s party of the radical left won 36.3% of the vote, eight-and-a-half percentage points above their conservative opponents, the former governing ‘New Democracy’ party. Under Greece’s undemocratic parliamentary system, designed to entrench two party rule as in Britain and the USA, the winner gets an extra 50 seats in the 300 member parliament. Syriza’s 149 seats put them within a whisker of an absolute majority in the parliament. It’s true that they will have to rule in coalition but it did not take long for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to take office and set up a government with the small anti-austerity ‘Independent Greeks’ party, who have immediately agreed to support all the terms of Syriza’s economic programme against austerity and against the strait jacket imposed on Greece by the Troika of the EU, IMF and European Central Bank.

Syriza’s victory represented a massive improvement on their then sensational vote in the June 2012 General Election. Syriza won 2,246,064 votes, a massive increase on their vote of 1,655,022 back in 2012. It’s hard to believe that in 2009 Syriza won less than 5% of the vote, only 315,627 votes! It was Syriza’s hard line anti-austerity message that attracted massive support from the working class and young people, fed up with years of austerity. It won high votes in working class areas across the country, nearly winning a majority of votes, 48.5%, in the eastern mainland area of Rhodope.

The real loser was of course the social-democratic PASOK, sister party of the British Labour Party. It has ruled Greece for the majority of the 40+ years since the overthrow of the military dictatorship, winning over 47% of the vote during the 1990s. PASOK’s humiliation was completed as it slumped to seventh place with only 289,482 votes (4.8%) of the vote and 13 seats, just over a third of its vote in 2012 when it won over 750,000 votes (12.3%) and 33 seats. PASOK had been the junior partner in the conservative coalition of New Democracy since 2012 where it had enthusiastically implemented an austerity package that decimated the Greek economy with a 25% reduction in national wealth (GDP). PASOK had begun to fragment gradually losing MPs in parliament and at the dissolution in January former PASOK leader George Papandreou, former Prime Minister and son of PASOK’s founder, launched a split – Kidiso/Kinima, the ‘Movement of Democratic Socialists’. Kidiso/Kinima only won 2.5% of the vote and Papandreou failed to win any seats in the new parliament due to the 3% national threshold for representation. A new ‘liberal’ right wing party To Potami (‘The River’) had also taken votes from the corrupt and discredited PASOK winning 6% of the vote and 17 seats. Potami was formed in 2014 and won seats in the European Elections in Greece, surprising some by joining the ‘Socialist’ grouping in the European Parliament rather than the Liberals (in Britain the nearest political comparison to Potami would be the short-lived right wing SDP, Social Democratic Party, of the 1980s).

For the social democratic parties of Europe, including the British Labour Party, the collapse and fragmentation of PASOK creates a crisis that has been long in the making. Social Democracy has embraced the right wing austerity agenda but will now face a crisis in the ranks of its traditional supporters looking for radical alternatives along the lines of Syriza. In Denmark, Spain and Portugal there will be general elections in 2015 and the radical left parties of the Red-Green Alliance (Denmark), Podemos (Spain) and Left Bloc (Portugal) will be well placed to make gains in the movement against austerity. Sadly in Britain there is no significant left wing alternative yet, but the Green Parties in Scotland, England and Wales have moved significantly to the left and endorsed Syriza in the Greek elections. Left Unity, as the ‘sister party’ of Syriza and now taking a seat within the European Left Party, will be the most encouraged and have the most opportunity to put forward solidarity with the new Greek anti-austerity government. The crisis in Greece will set up ripples of discontent within the Labour Party – MP Peter Hain notably endorsed Syriza on the Andrew Marr show on BBC Television as the election was taking place – but more importantly within the trade unions. The rally called by the Greece Solidarity Campaign to offer support to the new Syriza-led government on Wednesday 28th January has been notably sponsored by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) whose President will address the meeting. TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady has endorsed Syriza’s anti-austerity programme and a group of Labour MPs will be supporting a motion in the House of Commons welcoming Syriza’s election.

The vast majority of the left and working class in Greece endorsed Syriza, whose central message put forward a programme for government rather than mere vocal opposition to austerity. The highly sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE) is still an important part of the anti-austerity movement and its vote increased slightly on its vote in 2012 as it gained one percent to win 5.5% of the vote and increase its seats from 12 to 15. However this is still a long way from its electoral high point in Greece in the 1970s and 1980s when it regularly won around 10% of the vote. The KKE embraces what used to be called ‘Third Period Stalinism’ (after the period in the late 1920 when communist parties described social democratic parties as worse than fascists) and refuses to countenance deals with Syriza. It puts forward a programme of nationalism, calling for immediate exit from the Euro and EU and reinstatement of the Drachma as Greece’s currency. So sectarian is the KKE that their MEPs refuse to sit in the United European Left group in the European Parliament, alongside Syriza (and their ‘sister’ Communist Parties of France, Portugal and Cyprus), and instead sit with the far right French National Front in the so-called ‘Non-Attached’ group. The left wing grouping within Syriza, the ‘Left Platform’, have repeatedly called upon the KKE to support Syriza in Government to no avail. The KKE has a short memory of course, as it has previously served in a Greek government led by New Democracy with four ministers. This is creating turbulence within CPs across the world, not least within Britain’s Morning Star daily newspaper where old-time Stalinists continually invoke support for the KKE alongside the more obvious enthusiasm of its readership for Syriza.

While a number of revolutionary left groups are active within Syriza’s Left Platform and have MPs in the new government, some of the revolutionary groups are organised in the Antarsya coalition which also stood in the election. However they are not only tainted with an ultra-left tinge towards Syriza, their electoral coalition was in conjunction with a group led by the former Syriza leader, Alvanos, who also puts forward immediate exit from the Euro and the reinstatement of the Drachma. Their vote marginally increased to 0.6% (from 0.3% in June 2012) but one has to ask whether this was a useful vote – if this vote had gone to Syriza, as happened with the Ecologist Green party, it may have made sufficient difference to enable Syriza to have an absolute majority programme in parliament and not rely on the votes of other parties to legislate. The Ecologist Greens won one seat within the Syriza platform and will now have a direct voice inside parliament and government. Hopefully there will be some soul-searching over electoral tactics and governmental programme within Antarsya as there needs to be an active revolutionary left in the current situation.

The wooden spoon of the election went to DIMAR – the ‘Democratic Left’ – a splinter from Syriza which had previously gained some support from former PASOK supporters. This party had stood in 2012 and joined the New Democracy coalition to help implement austerity. While it eventually left the coalition over the scale of job and wage losses, it tried to put a ‘left’ list together with a splinter from the Ecologist Greens that slumped to less than 0.5% of the vote and is now confined to the dustbin of history.

Despite the rightful euphoria over Syriza’s victory, the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party retained a significant number of seats in parliament falling slightly from 6.9% to 6.3% and from 18 seats to 17. At points over the recent years of hard austerity, opinion polls showed it growing to 10-15%. While its growth has been curtailed by the rise of a left wing alternative (and there’s nothing wrong with saying that some people who had been thinking of voting for the neo-fascists swung to Syriza), it remains a potent racist threat particularly in its violent acts towards immigrants, black people, and other minorities. There will be a continuing need to mobilise against its actions on the streets and taking strong governmental action to undermine the material basis of its support among the working class.

The central focus facing the government will be the economic crisis and the negotiations on debt with the Troika. However it is to be hoped that the new government will also raise the centrality of the ecological crisis and give official backing to the protests around the climate summit in Paris in December 2015 by for example providing state trains and paid time off for public employees to travel there. But for Europe’s only left government at present, it should also be able to put forward governmental level solutions to the climate crisis and stimulate the need for global action on the crisis facing ours and all the other species of the world.
And so we enter a new period in Europe. We must redouble our efforts to build anti-austerity action and new left parties across Europe. Social Democracy must be confronted for its complicity in the impoverishment of working people. There will be some who will sit on the sidelines and watch for any ‘backtracking’ by the Tsipras government and rush to say ‘I told you so …’. But the real task is to build the movement of solidarity, anti austerity and new left parties. In Britain that means redoubling efforts to build Left Unity and making 2015 the year that we can begin to turn the corner.

[1] The Greece Solidarity Campaign website is greecesolidarity.org and its Facebook page is www.facebook.com/GreeceSolidarityCampaign. Please encourage your Trade Union, Left Unity, anti-cuts campaign etc to affiliate and invite a speaker.

 

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