Nενικήκαμεν (We have won!) After a short but intense electoral period SYRIZA won a milestone victory. According to official results, ‘SYRIZA’ won 36.34% of the votes compared to 27.81% for the outgoing government coalition leader ‘New Democracy’, 6.28% for Golden Dawn, 6.05% for ‘To Potami’ party, 5.47% for the Communist party ‘KKE’, 4.75% for the right wing ‘Independent Greeks’ and 4.68% for the centre-left ‘PASOK’ party.
According to the Greek electoral law, in an effort to ensure a stable government, the party to win first place in the general elections receives a fixed number of seats in the Parliament. This explains why ‘SYRIZA’ managed to gather 149 seats compared to 76 for ‘New Democracy’. Nonetheless, absolute majority would have required 151 seats, forcing Mr. Tsipras, the youngest Greek Prime Minister in recent Greek history, to go on the hunt for a coalition partner.
As agreed this morning, SYRIZA will cooperate with the Independent Greeks, an anti-austerity offshoot of New Democracy that has been extremely critical of austerity policies. It is the second time in 30 years that Greece will be led by a right-left wing coalition, only this time the radical left is the leader. As expected popular sentiment against austerity won over the usual left-right ideological differences. It also raises questions on the Ministries that will be allocated to the Independent Greeks given it has held conservative views on social policies.
New Democracy and PASOK: Farewell to the old
Even before exit polls were announced ‘New Democracy’ officials came off as defeatist on Greek television. Over the past days, outgoing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his allies in the party had received criticism over the increase their right-wing rhetoric, when the majority of undecided voters identified with the centre. Today, while no one openly voices doubt over Samaras’ leadership of the party, it is likely that the liberals will begin discussing on the direction the party should take to become an efficient opposition force and not lose its appeal to its voters in order to avoid what happened to ‘PASOK’ (socialist party).
Also of note, for the first time in 93 years, there will not be a Papandreou in the Greek Parliament. Talking about one of Greece’s largest political dynasties, this is a big deal! Contrary to analysts’ expectations, Papandreou’s party, ‘KI.DI.SO’, did not manage to go beyond the 3 per cent threshold that is required to elect representatives. Going forward, the centre-left will have to change both its leadership to a younger more inspiring one and its agenda in order to re-claim the space owned by Tsipras in latest elections.
Golden Dawn: The far right becomes mainstream
With the decline of the centre-left also came the rise of the far-right. Golden Dawn scored 3rd and maintained a similar share of votes with the one won in the European elections. It is worrying to notice that despite voters having outlets to express their right-wing anti-austerity sentiment, such as the ‘Independent Greeks’, Golden Dawn’s scores show that being from the far-right and xenophobic has become relatively mainstream in Greece today. The challenge for SYRIZA? Address key issues, such as immigration in a productive way in order to prevent further shift to the extremes.
What’s coming up from now on?
Once sworn Prime Minister, Tsipras will have to put his priorities in order. While SYRIZA officials negotiate their position in the new government – it is rumoured that MEP Papadimoulis will lead the Ministry of Interior – Tsipras is to nominate a successor for Mr. Papoulias, the outgoing President, before the next Parliament Plenary on 5 February 2015. After all, this is the reason why elections were called in the first place. Latest rumours suggest that he will nominate a centre-right President in order to ensure the opposition’s support. Names discussed include Commissioner Avramopoulos and former Prime Minister Karamanlis.
All eyes on Brussels
Even though things happen to run smoothly in Athens all eyes have shifted to Brussels and Berlin. The elections’ results will likely dominate the discussions at today’s Eurogroup.
In Berlin, Angela Merkel indicated what everyone expected: Germany will cooperate with the new government only if agreements are honoured and the debt is repaid – a position which does not seem to fully acknowledge the meaning of yesterday’s vote. The Kanzlerin has no other choice. She is trying to balance a potential anti-Euro sentiment from her voters while acknowledging impact of the Greek vote other countries such as Spain or Portugal. Ms. Merkel will hope to find support across Europe to further prevent the ruins of her austerity politics crumbling down on her.
Looking West, Paris might be a first pillar of support .In Paris, François Hollande is also in a delicate position, seeking to strike a balance between, on the one hand, upholding France’s European commitments and preserving the Franco-German duo, and on the one hand, fighting the rise of the extreme-right fuelled by social disgruntlement and calming the rising voices within the left fringe of his own party.
Tsipras’ actions will have an impact on other Southern European countries as well. If he abides to the Troika’s requirements the shift in the European austerity paradigm will have merely been wishful thinking. Either decisions will also strongly impact the performance of parties such as Podemos in Spain, in light of the December 2015 general elections.
This leaves us to wonder whether Tsipras will come back on his word to re-negotiate Greece’s debt, thus creating a crisis within both his party and his coalition partner or will decline the Troika’s offer and lead Greece out of the Eurozone. This becomes even more pressing considering Greece may face a liquidity problem as soon as early February.
As we have predicted Tsipra’s decision to make a U-turn will be the beginning of both a crisis in his party and of political instability in Greece. We’ve only gone from the fights of the Iliad to the unchartered waters of the Odyssey and there’s quite some manoeuvring to do, before we’re safely ashore.
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November 7, 2017