A deeper analysis of the electoral results in Greece

The elections that took place the last two months the first at the 6th of May and the second at the 17th of June in Greece comprise a constellation of unprecedented events. For the first time after the restoration of democracy in 1974 and the constitution of the Third Hellenic Republic 2/3 of the electorate voted something else rather than what it used to vote for, while, after just 41 days at the 17th of June, 30% of the electorate changed its vote again[1]. These two election rallies constitute a major turning point for the future political system of Greece. The two-party system, as we used to know it the last 38 years, collapsed while the power dynamics within the left have completely been overturned. But these elections were also invested with symbolic meanings characteristic of the very character that the country and its citizens have acquired throughout the history of the formation and re-formulation of the national narrative.

The ultimate promise or at least implicit desire, since 1981 when Greece entered the EEC as a formal member state, has been the integration of Greece in the EEC structures and the transformation of the country into a developed modern state. These desires were totally reasonable since the ultimate goal of the EEC was to further collaboration between the European states in a constructive and peaceful manner while closing the economic gap separating the north-south divide in the EU. There seems to be that this is no longer the case. Greece was willing to surrender some of its so called national independence to the EU central authorities under the promise of further modernization. But now that the carrot went away what remains is the stick. Greece has been progressively transformed in the par excellence post-national formulation where transnational flows of capital from above, represented by the Troika, and from below that is, the tremendous intensification of the undocumented migrant flows have deprived the state from both its executive function and its ability to exert the authority needed in order to safeguard and control its territory. The dream of the post-national community under the reign of the EU has been transformed in some sort of nightmare experienced first and foremost by Greeks, the first post-nationalized community of the EU. Indeed, one might claim, as a lot do claim, that Greece is going to be the first ‘failed state’ on the geopolitical imaginary map of the west; and certainly the first ‘failed state’ within the European Union.

The basic argument of Konstantinos Karamanlis, the architect of our initial acceptance in the EEC, for our accession to the European Community was one that was predominantly directed by political and cultural aspirations rather than economic ones. After a dictatorial regime that lasted seven years (1967-1974) he believed that the participation of the country in the EC would bring stability to Greece and further his vision of Greece’s European destiny. His famous proclamation that ‘we belong to the West’ echoes in the ears of the majority of Greeks as some sort of normative axiom that cannot be breached and goes back to the very constitution of the nation-state. Since the inception of the Greek nation-state in 1821 the ethnic origin of the greek citizens has never been put in question what has rather been questioned quite a lot of times is the country’s ability to participate actively and become part of the modern western world and its ideology of development.

Eurocentricism had already its roots firm when the Greek nation-state got formed; the superiority of western Europe and its links with the ancient greek world were taken for granted. Greece as a newly formed entity had to follow the western paradigm in order to find its ancient self. From the very first moment the road to progress was interrelated with the road to the renaissance of the ancient greek world. But the revival of the ancient Greek spirit went through Europe. The pattern was designated as ‘antiquity-Europe-Greece[2] . In this process of reconciliation with the past, modern European civilization became accepted as one’s own, as if Greece was the very source of its existence, rather than critically engage with it. Standing in a disproportionate relation between the ancient ideal and neohellenic realities the Greek nation made the historic choice to enunciate the role of a living monument, of some sort of souvenir you take for granted when you think of Europe; the living monument of modernity. In effect, Hellenism and the historical experience of our very past was once and for all filtered out through the Western microscope. For, ‘After all, the love of Greece is the love of the West’ (1996: 139)[3]. I would like to suggest that such a cultural colonization by the west is the ideological Trojan horse that has also brought the country under political and economic colonization.

The Yalta Conference and the 6th of May

The Yalta Conference has been well-known for the agreement reached between the ‘Big Three’, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin upon the redrafting of the nation state frontiers and the spheres of influence created under the superpowers. Greece was given to the sphere of influence of the capitalist front after the insistence of Churchill who had special interests in Greece. The arrangement was something like 90% Great Britain (U.S.A), 10% USSR. And the arrangement was kept valid religiously even though it forced Greece into a civil war. The electoral system up until now has kept the Yalta agreement as the letter of the law, the bourgeois-capitalist oriented parties usually gathered 90% of the electorate[4] while the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) used to have a percentage close to 10% or less. Even though, USSR progressively dissolved in the 1980s and finally collapsed in 1991 this agreement was kept intact in the case of Greece up until the elections of the 6th of May 2012. The two-party system, comprised by the parties PASOK and ND, literally collapsed receiving 32,35% of the electoral votes while the KKE remained stable only to collapse at the 17th of June election. The biggest of all surprise was that of the emergence of SYRIZA, a radical left coalition which gathered coupled with another social democrat party the ‘Democratic Left’22, 76% of the votes. It should be noted that Syriza’s electoral results in 2009 were 4,5% of the total votes. Last but not least, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party also managed to enter for the first time in Greek history the national parliament with considerable power reaching 6,95% of the population.

The second and final election held on the 17th of June did not reverse the pattern but consolidated ND (the right-wing party) in the first place after an unprecedented campaign of fear and terror directed both by internal but also external, mainly European, centers of power. These direct interventions in the internal affairs of the country coupled by the electoral campaign of ND more or less addressed the issue blatantly ‘you either stay in Europe and thus support the memorandum or exit’. For the Greek social imaginary such a threat is directed towards the fundamentals upon which greek national identity has been constructed since after all ‘the love of Greece is the love of the West’. What is more, such a love has ultimately excluded from its ideological horizon the left, or to put it properly communism, as something non-Hellenic (usually communism was equated with the Slavic element and USSR). The right wing party of ND with its electoral campaign tried to provoke such feelings of resentment towards its main opponent, the left wing coalition of SYRIZA, thus polarizing the electorate and bringing forth the left/right wing divide. While, such a strategy was not as successful as it would have been in the past resulted in a pro-memorandum vote reaching 48.1% of the electorate . It seems that the polarization intended by ND, given the widespread unpopularity of the memorandum in Greek society, bore fruits. New Democracy has won the elections pulling upon the strings of painful memories going back to the civil war period. This process activated negative votes directed to ND who actually addressed their distaste for the left wing SYRIZA rather than their preference for ND. This negative vote was directed by the fear of complete breakdown, translated as bankruptcy, and the dissolution of what has hitherto being defined as Greek identity.

Nevertheless, the electoral outcome seems uncertain if we consider that people more and more do not vote according to such preconceptions. Although, SYRIZA sets preconditions on the participation of Greece in the EU thus disturbing the usual imaginaries concerning identitarian issues, the left coalition has managed to collect at the 17th of June 26, 89% of the votes, the highest percentage since its formulation. People appear to value high the party’s appeal to self-determination versus the servile attitude of the Greek elites towards foreign interests in the past. The crisis has brought to the fore a tremendous social breakdown that directs people towards alternative political solutions which start to seem all the more appealing while at the same time reconstitute the meaning of being Greek. This battle of reimagining Greekness will be given between the left and the right since the so-called liberal centre has vanished from the political scenery. Polarization and arrest seems to be on the road.

[1] Most of the figures are taken by the seminar organized by the ‘Initiative for the Defense of Society and Democracy’ (19/06/2012)

[2] Elli Skopetea, ‘To protypo vasileio’
[3] Gourgouris Stathis, ‘Dream Nation. Enlightenment, Colonization and the Institution of Modern Greece’, Stanford University Press 1996
[4] This given the support of DH.MAR (Democratic Left) in the new pro-memorandum coalition government.

Ioulia Giovani
Phd Candidate at the Centre for Cultural Studies
Goldsmiths College
University of London

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