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These Greek national elections have probably been the quietest in recent years with an “eloquent silence” of the electorate. Everyone should have expected this though after so many surprises and twists that have taken place in Greece in recent months. Throughout the electoral campaign people were calm and smiling, courteous and helpful to refugees in the streets and in the squares in the big cities (despite rumours to the contrary), while solidarity surpassed expectations in the islands (despite some negative and inhuman behaviour that was the exception) and everyone has been making preparations for autumn and winter with the necessary, even if financially limited, visits to shops, at almost all hours of the day despite the high prevailing temperatures. In other words, there has been no change in social behaviour to justify any shift in political preferences compared to the previous elections in January 2015.
However, it is interesting to examine (and certainly in the near future there will be many analyses and discussions) some distinct aspects of this election campaign regarding the parties’ leaders, their followers and the intraparty opponents and how they all ultimately contributed to the reaffirmation of January’s election results.
New Democracy under Mr. Meimarakis failed to substantially strengthen their profile, maintaining near constant polling rates despite losing many votes in absolute figures. Their campaign’s incorrect strategy regarding future governmental coalitions raised doubts about the sincerity of their intentions and reduced the effectiveness of their central message. As a result, the extreme right wing of the party took the chance either to abstain en masse or to vote for other, smaller parties (perhaps even Golden Dawn) aiming for a profound comeback in the post-election period.
Developments, however, will probably be rapid in this party, even with possible splits, but Meimarakis (in the absence of any other charismatic personality) has established his command over this party for the next few years.
In the area of Social Democracy, PASOK and Potami did not convince with their intentions. Although Europeanists and pro-memorandum at any cost, they said that they would prefer a coalition with Syriza that made it clear in every possible way that they do not agree with the terms and obligations of the new 3rd Memorandum. They caused incredible confusion in their potential audience while their leaders looked to have it both ways.
Ms. Genimmata (leader of PASOK), for unknown reasons, focused on family and maternity issues in the last week of the campaign which was a source of imaginative comments in various discussions, especially among middle-aged voters. While Mr. Theodorakis (leader of Potami) failed to reverse the suspicion that he serves the interests of big capital, although in the party lists across the country very reputable candidates participated.
The lost votes of these two parties moved -almost in their entirety- towards “New Democracy”. Although there also appears to be a transfer from Potami to PASOK, this new shrinkage of both percentages and absolute numbers of votes leads to a de facto loss of future leadership in the centre regardless of any developments in their leaderships.
Regarding the parties of Left claiming to be the defenders of a national currency outside the European Union, the elections resulted in: a) the newly-founded “Popular Unity” failing to get into parliament despite the coherence of both words and deeds of their candidates being strongly promoted. However, due to Zoi Kostantopoulou’s personality, they did win a significant proportion of the most turned on and radicalized part of the new generation in a way that was purely positive while b) the Communist Party, simply held onto their support, receiving a protest vote for the most part.
Focus will remain on “Popular Unity” but mostly because of Zoi Konstantopoulou who has claimed for herself a leadership role in the Left.
There are two additional results of this electoral battle worth nothing. One is the entry into parliament of “Centrists Unity” who have been unable (even while writing these lines) to provide any ideological or political platform. Certainly they have benefited from a protest vote.
On the other hand, there is an increase of abstention (rising by about 8%). These people were heavily targeted, conscious citizens (especially youth) who abstained for political reasons and could almost be considered to be a “new party”.
Finally, we now know that in Greece 7% of the population are both aware and committed Nazis. The assumption of political responsibility for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by the leadership of “Golden Dawn”, three days before the elections, established their voters as the instigators of this crime along with all the other killings, beatings and violence.
The winners are of course Alexis Tsipras and Panos Kamenos, leaders of Syriza and the Independent Greeks respectively, who managed to dominate and create a new coalition.
Kamenos defied opinion polls that placed him, once more, outside parliament (the pollsters are faced with a scandal) by targeting frustrated voters of the traditional right party. At the beginning of the election period he was the only one shaking up the generally indifferent environment and he managed to get himself in the spotlight with references to scandals and illegalities of opponents.
Tsipras entered the campaign, clearly stressed and overworked, with a most unfortunate moment in the first debate between all political leaders. But then he bounced back strongly, with his morale uplifted by the confessed love of the people and he reversed the situation. His best moments were the final debate with Meimarakis, which Tsipras clearly won, and the last pre-election rally in Syntagma Square, in Athens during which he very comfortably laid out his entire argument for the need to restructure Europe. The Greek people obviously accepted Tsipras’ apologies for any errors and inexperience, credited him for his hard work, entrusted to him their future for equity and for fair sharing of the country’s obligations, as well as put their hopes on him to play a leading role in shaping a new Europe of People.
The grandiose NO
The big winner, however, is the magnificent NO of the Greek people in July’s referendum. Based on the percentages of parties during the September elections, we realize that the Greek NO was not a one-off; on the contrary it constitutes the dominant majority in Greek society after having surpassed the 50% mark once again. Although discussions about its importance and interpretation are often chaotic, if not misleading, it remains the case that elections in September reaffirmed its class essence: 1) NO to austerity and 2) NO to unfair measures upon the working classes.
Closing this short report, I would like to give my general view that the people of Greece did not change their intention and will – despite the impressive facts during the last nine months – and believe that the people of Europe will follow suit in the next few months with their national preferences. More than half of Greeks resisted and voted while looking forwards to future national elections in Portugal, Spain and Ireland and hoping that the voices of Romano Prodi, Joshka Fischer, Jeremy Corbyn and François Hollande (among others) will have an audience.