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Published on June 15th, 2012 | by Harry Evans
Image © [caption id="attachment_10361" align="alignnone" width="568"] © Konstantinos Stampoulis[/caption]

The Greek elections this Sunday are pegged to be the most important for the country in years. The emphasis in the media has been on how important these elections will be to the Eurozone. However, the importance to the Greek people should not be underestimated, and the polls are an opportunity to return a damning referendum on politicians. Politicians that are, at least in the Mediterranean areas, hugely out of favour. Public unrest at austerity measures have rumbled throughout Southern Europe. Though the result of Sunday's election could show the public distaste for credible parties, current signs seem to signal pragmatism over protestation.

The elections in May saw shock gains for the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, which saw their seats in Parliament rapidly escalate from zero to 21. This was the result that grabbed the headlines, but the nuance wasn't captured accurately. The importance of the election results can be found in the sudden influx of smaller parties with a sudden nationwide profile. The Democratic Alliance (a New Democracy break-off party) picked up 2.55% of the vote in May. Though the threshold for seats in parliament is 3% of the national vote, it was a staggeringly successful debut election for a party that wants to reinvent the civil service and tax systems from the ground up. A similarly powerful showing was from a very interesting group called 'Recreate Greece'.

Recreate picked up over 2% of the vote on what was, again, their first electoral appearance. The impressive aspect of Recreate's immediate success was that the central tenet of their manifesto is a complete rejection of politicians in favour of a citizen-based candidate body. Those standing for election were 'ordinary' people, completely disengaged from the political insiders that the Greeks see as having driven the country into the ground—not just those of the previous PASOK government, but al in the political establishment. Recreate's election results showed that new parties with fresh ideas could do incredibly well. May was Greece's rebellious election, and it's not clear they have another such protest in them. The main loser in May was PASOK, which lost an unprecedented 30% of national voters. The winners were overwhelmingly anti-establishment parties. As well as Recreate and Democratic Alliance, the newly-formed 'Democratic Left' gained nearly as many seats as Golden Dawn. The other big loser was New Democracy, the centre-right party of Greece. Whether it be the far-left, or far-right, the May elections saw voters fleeing the main two parties, and this sent a stern message to Greece's politicians, and the rest of Europe. This, of course, led to the main parties being unable to form a government. However, with the increasing hype about a possible Greek exit, it is not clear that this anti-political message will be maintained. Voters perceive a choice between the main parties and the Drachma, and they would rather keep their Euros. This is hardly surprising. The spoils of the last election went to the charismatic SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. SYRIZA made gains of 12% on the previous elections, and promises to reject austerity measures on entering government, but accepting Europe's money all the same. The movement of electors to SYRIZA shows the true intentions of the more practical voters. Those who didn't vote for SYRIZA last time round, but registered a radical vote instead, will be changing their minds now they see the government floundering for cohesion. A vote for SYRIZA is a safe vote, not the radical change that was suggested by the May elections. There are no polls for the last fifteen days of Greek elections, that much is set in stone. Instead, we have to make do with conflicting polls that varyingly support either New Democracy or SYRIZA. Whichever it is, Greece's opportunity for real reform has seemingly passed as smaller parties will lose the gains of May to the bigger, more credible parties. The most up-to-date polls don't make clear which of the parties will win, but it seems likely a government will be formed. Political change has been taken off the menu in exchange for the same old dish, as we see the Greek people's fear overtake their anger. The opportunity for fundamentally changing the political system has given way to the fear of being without government. Recreate goes into Sunday's elections allied with 'Action'--a party formed by an ex-New Democracy member, that is in favour of austerity measures and 'common sense' policies. Policies that are seemingly juxtaposed to the original vision of Recreate. This alliance is paradigmatic of the move from the May election fervour to this week's sobriety. The smaller parties are scrapping to shore up their support, but the ideology of the May elections has been lost. Recreate's alliance with Action is an act of desperation that demonstrates that these new parties are just the same as the old ones. The people of Greece have no idealistic option, but it seems they would not go for it even if there was one. The irony of the Recreate-Action coalition may be lost in Greek, but in English the collapse of these parties into one another spells a re-action of Greek opinion. If you enjoyed this blog, why not follow Harry on Twitter : @hevans567

2

Greek Elections: Voter Intention

© Konstantinos Stampoulis

The Greek elections this Sunday are pegged to be the most important for the country in years. The emphasis in the media has been on how important these elections will be to the Eurozone. However, the importance to the Greek people should not be underestimated, and the polls are an opportunity to return a damning referendum on politicians. Politicians that are, at least in the Mediterranean areas, hugely out of favour. Public unrest at austerity measures have rumbled throughout Southern Europe. Though the result of Sunday’s election could show the public distaste for credible parties, current signs seem to signal pragmatism over protestation.

The elections in May saw shock gains for the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, which saw their seats in Parliament rapidly escalate from zero to 21. This was the result that grabbed the headlines, but the nuance wasn’t captured accurately. The importance of the election results can be found in the sudden influx of smaller parties with a sudden nationwide profile. The Democratic Alliance (a New Democracy break-off party) picked up 2.55% of the vote in May. Though the threshold for seats in parliament is 3% of the national vote, it was a staggeringly successful debut election for a party that wants to reinvent the civil service and tax systems from the ground up. A similarly powerful showing was from a very interesting group called ‘Recreate Greece’.

Recreate picked up over 2% of the vote on what was, again, their first electoral appearance. The impressive aspect of Recreate’s immediate success was that the central tenet of their manifesto is a complete rejection of politicians in favour of a citizen-based candidate body. Those standing for election were ‘ordinary’ people, completely disengaged from the political insiders that the Greeks see as having driven the country into the ground—not just those of the previous PASOK government, but al in the political establishment. Recreate’s election results showed that new parties with fresh ideas could do incredibly well. May was Greece’s rebellious election, and it’s not clear they have another such protest in them.

The main loser in May was PASOK, which lost an unprecedented 30% of national voters. The winners were overwhelmingly anti-establishment parties. As well as Recreate and Democratic Alliance, the newly-formed ‘Democratic Left’ gained nearly as many seats as Golden Dawn. The other big loser was New Democracy, the centre-right party of Greece. Whether it be the far-left, or far-right, the May elections saw voters fleeing the main two parties, and this sent a stern message to Greece’s politicians, and the rest of Europe. This, of course, led to the main parties being unable to form a government. However, with the increasing hype about a possible Greek exit, it is not clear that this anti-political message will be maintained. Voters perceive a choice between the main parties and the Drachma, and they would rather keep their Euros.

This is hardly surprising. The spoils of the last election went to the charismatic SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. SYRIZA made gains of 12% on the previous elections, and promises to reject austerity measures on entering government, but accepting Europe’s money all the same. The movement of electors to SYRIZA shows the true intentions of the more practical voters. Those who didn’t vote for SYRIZA last time round, but registered a radical vote instead, will be changing their minds now they see the government floundering for cohesion. A vote for SYRIZA is a safe vote, not the radical change that was suggested by the May elections.

There are no polls for the last fifteen days of Greek elections, that much is set in stone. Instead, we have to make do with conflicting polls that varyingly support either New Democracy or SYRIZA. Whichever it is, Greece’s opportunity for real reform has seemingly passed as smaller parties will lose the gains of May to the bigger, more credible parties. The most up-to-date polls don’t make clear which of the parties will win, but it seems likely a government will be formed. Political change has been taken off the menu in exchange for the same old dish, as we see the Greek people’s fear overtake their anger. The opportunity for fundamentally changing the political system has given way to the fear of being without government.

Recreate goes into Sunday’s elections allied with ‘Action’–a party formed by an ex-New Democracy member, that is in favour of austerity measures and ‘common sense’ policies. Policies that are seemingly juxtaposed to the original vision of Recreate. This alliance is paradigmatic of the move from the May election fervour to this week’s sobriety. The smaller parties are scrapping to shore up their support, but the ideology of the May elections has been lost. Recreate’s alliance with Action is an act of desperation that demonstrates that these new parties are just the same as the old ones. The people of Greece have no idealistic option, but it seems they would not go for it even if there was one. The irony of the Recreate-Action coalition may be lost in Greek, but in English the collapse of these parties into one another spells a re-action of Greek opinion.

If you enjoyed this blog, why not follow Harry on Twitter : @hevans567

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About the Author

Harry Evans

Harry is a recent Philosophy graduate from the University of York. He is taking a Master’s in European Studies next year at UCL and has a particular interest in Scandinavian politics and economy. His time is currently spent undertaking an internship, researching and writing a history of the University of York Philosophy department. At University, he was editor of the student Philosophy journal, and has been published by the Club of PEP journal. Harry is hoping to make a career in International Relations and Journalism, and writes for Catch21 in this capacity. For more information and updates follow @hevans567 or find him on LinkedIn. You can also read more from this author on their personal blog.



  • I think that the Greek predicament will just be magnified all over the EU if there is eventually a closer form of unification. Let's not kid ourself that a closer EU means more democracy and freedom. At present each Greek has a 1 in 11 million stake in their country, if Europe incorporates its voting system then that stake is diluted to 1 in 500 million !

    This means that the smaller the country, the bigger the reduction in democratic power each citizen wields.

    The problem isn't with the Greeks, the problem is the corruption within the EU organisation.

    • I agree. The veil that surrounds the EU is a huge obstacle to any kind of political union. Decisions are made in secret, around a dinner table in Brussels (or Davos).

      However, let's not get caught up in the democratic issues too early. The problem with the euro zone (as opposed to the EU) is that decision-making is too balanced in favour of the people who contribute the most money (ie, Germany) to the fiscal union. The Germans have a lot invested in this, it's true. But currently Greek issues are being decided by German policy. The Germans justify this by saying that they take most of the risk into their economy. This is not fair. Just as the people in a democracy with the most money, shouldn't get to make policies for the rest of the country (though they often do). The German people, and Angela Merkel, often forget that they need the Eurozone to prosper, as much as the Eurozone needs them. So they can't beat everybody with the austerity stick, and claim that it's 'their money'. It's just not.

      I suppose the point to take away from this is that the democratic problem, needs to be very clearly separated from the fiscal problem. Just as the EU is very clearly separated from the Eurozone. After all, more democracy for the Greeks (and a separation of Greece from the EU) would not solve the economic problems. That doesn't mean I don't agree with you, Colin, but I think that we need to deal with the problems at hand. And that doesn't, yet, include a dilution of democracy.

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