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Greek Election: A Vote of No Confidence in Past Leaderships but Not a Defection

Posted on the 09 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Greek election: A vote of no confidence in past leaderships but not a defection

Greek flag flying. Photo credit: Mario's Planet

Sunday saw the first election in Greece since the Troika austerity measures came in to effect from Europe. At face value, the electing public have voted against them. However the story is not that simple. The wrong sentiment has come out of this election. It is not that people are really anti-Europe, the eurozone or even anti Troika; this is not a vote for defection from the eurozone. They have decided to be anti-establishment and punish the traditional two parties and now just don’t know where to look for guidance and security.

Greece has slowly being heading toward this election result for the past 37 years, primarily as a result of the way the two ruling parties, PASOK (socialist) and New Democracy or ND (conservative), have run the country between them. This duopoly is responsible for plunging Greece in to debt and, as a result, having to agree to the Troika austerity measures laid down so as to prevent the state going bankrupt and defaulting. Consequently, on Sunday, ND received close to 19 percent of the vote and 108 seats, PASOK 13.2 percent of the vote and 41 seats. Together they have got close to 32 percent of the vote and are missing the two seats required to hold a majority in parliament.

For the first time ever the second biggest vote went to Syriza, a left wing socialist coalition which gained 16.8 percent of the votes giving them 52 seats. They are the biggest of the anti-austerity parties that were on the ballot.

Under the Greek system, the party with the largest vote is requested to form a government within three days, in this case ND, and, as was expected, would try to do so with PASOK. However, they still need the two extra seats so they must negotiate with a third party. Syriza would be the most likely, but being that they have come in on the back of the promise to be anti-austerity, this is an unlikely outcome. If ND cannot create a government it will be in the hands of Syriza and then PASOK. But no two parties can create a government and in all cases they will need ND in support as they have the biggest seat allocation. The disparity in the number of seats is the result of a law which awards a bonus of 50 seats to the first party.

Interestingly, 34 percent of the populations abstained from voting on Sunday, as they had no trust in the two parties but yet could not get themselves to vote for any of the other extreme parties on the ballot. I re-emphasise that the Greek voter’s apparent distrust of the two parties is not a direct stab at eurozone but also at themselves. Greece will have to put up with a weak government and further scorn from the rest of Europe and the world. If they manage to form a government together, the problems don’t end here. They will have to sit down with the Europeans and prove that they are continuing with the program set, or else there will be grounds for Greece to default.

In all likelihood there will be no formation of government and Greece will have to go back to the ballot box within a month. This is preferable as it is more likely to secure a stronger coalition. Effectively, a third voted for the old duopoly, a third for the new parties from extreme to fractional from center parties, and, finally, a third abstained completely. This last third is the key to the next election, should it take place next month.

Another election would not be a bad thing as it could deliver a stronger coalition.

A second election is likely to get the general public to go back to the two main parties, especially the abstainers. Perhaps one or two of the fractional parties that did not make it in to parliament this time – and were not anti-austerity – will get a better chance. Examples who fall in to this category would be Dora Bakoyannis (Democratic Alliance) and Stefanos Manos (Drasi). Both are former ministers in ND, who left a few years ago and started fractional independent centrist parties. They received the vote from many disheartened traditional conservative voters and would probably do well to find a way to work closer together in the future.  Interestingly, 19 percent of the Greek vote went to parties like these two but, due to the electoral system, they have remained outside parliament this time around.  Extremist votes will hopefully be quashed in the next election and the arch right and left will not get the representation they got this time. Factors that have helped such parties as the extreme right Golden Dawn is the unmanaged growth of illegal immigrants that are causing ghetto zones to develop in our city centres. Unfortunately this is making people anti-immigration, allowing racism to rear its unfamiliar face in Greece.

Factors that have helped such parties as the extreme right Golden Dawn, is the unmanaged growth of illegal immigrants that are causing ghetto zones to develop in our city centres. Unfortunately this is making people anti-immigration, allowing racism to rear its unfamiliar face in Greece.

As I write this, it has just been announced that Antonis Samaras was unable to create a coalition with any of the leading parties and as such has handed the gauntlet to Syriza. It is now the turn of Alexi Tsipras to try and stitch a coalition together and he will be given three days to attempt this. Should he fail it will be up to PASOK under the stewardship of Evangelos Venizelos to make his attempt.  I am not confident that any of these mandates will be achieved.  In about six days it will be up to the President of the Republic to appoint an interim government and await the next election that will be about a month away (close to 17 June).

Greece has always had a strong-minded population that liked to work hard and was proud of its history. Sadly we do not have too much to be proud of at the moment. This was the chance to get some change and new blood in to the government, but unfortunately the extremist mentality of some of the parties will make it near on impossible to structure a viable coalition. A second election has a good chance of keeping the traditional duopoly intact but with hopefully a reasonable third party for balance. We may even see an outright victory, which would be good because we need stability more than anything else right now.

We have the ability to work together so let’s put our misgivings and pride aside and let’s get Hellas back on track.

The lesson to be learnt here is that most of the party leaders gave everything for a chance at the PM position – but did so without a real appreciation of the country’s and its citizens’ needs. I hope that we will see some leadership with responsibility towards Greece, all members of the population and, of course, our place in Europe. Long term corruption and tax evasion has brought Greece to her knees. All this led to the vote – or lack of vote – on Sunday by Greek citizens that made it look like an attempt for defection, but in actual fact it’s simply a vote of no confidence in past leadership. The future leaders need to work for the country first and then their personal glory. The people have spoken and the politicians need to listen. We have the ability to work together so let’s put our misgivings and pride aside and let’s get Hellas back on track.


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