Interpreting the results of Greek elections (June 2012)

The overwhelming predominance of the anti-memorandum/anti-bail-out parties and the lead of the conservative New Democracy signalled the end of the parliamentary elections in Greece. According to the final results, a 29,66% voted for New Democracy, 26,89% for the radical left-wing SY.RIZ.A [1] (which in comparison to the parliamentary elections of 2009 has multiplied its votes sevefold), 12,28% voted for the social-democrats of PA.SO.K [2] (and this is the worst performance of the major Greek “center-left” party since its foundation). A 7,51% went for the populist right-wing nationalist party of Independent Greeks, and 6,92% for the neo-fascist Golden Dawn [3] -  which in a way replaces the unsuccessful right-wing party of G. Karatzaferis, Orthodox Popular Rally (LA.O.S), a party which suffered heavy defeat (1.58%) and failed to enter the Parliament as it didn’t reach the required minimum threshold of 3%. Furthermore, 6,26% chose the newly formed Democratic Left (social democrats/social liberals) – also called DIM.AR -, and 4,50% the Leninist Communist Party (KKE). 0,58% of the total votes were invalid, the 0,40% voted blank, while abstention amounts to 37,53%. (The percentage of abstention increased by 2.43% since the last elections in May).

Nonetheless, despite that ND came first, it won only 129 seats in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, 21 below the (150) minimum required for a party to form a government alone. This means that the conservative leader Antonis Samaras will need to start talks most likely with Evangelos Venizelos (current president of PA.SO.K) and DIM.AR in order to set up a coalition government. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA, has said he will not join a coalition led by ND as he insists in his party’s hard anti-austerity line while Samaras precludes any collaboration with Golden Dawn and Independent Greeks.

Since the night of the elections we have been bombarded by several misleading, one sided, and deliberately inaccurate interpretations from politicians, journalists, and pollsters. Most of the debates, both those which appear on the TV broadcasts and the rest of the Media (press and radio broadcasts) attempted to convince the audience that this was a “victory of the Euro”, that “the Greek people gave a chance to European Union and  Eurozone” or that “Greeks support the austerity measures and desire only a renegotiation on the terms of bailouts, in order to implement milder austerity policies”.

Undoubtedly the technocrats, the Eurocrats, and all the conservative forces of Brussels together with their sold-out media such like the German Bild, Focus, Spiegel, and the German Financial Times, the British Chanel 4 and all the Neoliberal clowns can boast that their brute intervention in the internal affairs of the country was successful, that their propaganda of terror worked, and the “undisciplined Greeks” (a favorite phrase of euroconservatives) “obeyed to the commands of the markets”. Nevertheless, a deeper analysis on both the results and the political messages that emerge through these elections leads us to a completely different conclusion. Despite the inane celebrations of many supporters of ND, and the fact that the Greek and German political elites and all the Neoliberal parrots around the world welcomed the results with a great relief, one should have in mind the following parametres:

  1. The Conservatives (with the exception of the very peculiar elections of May 2012), despite their preeminence, experienced a heavy loss of votes, the heaviest since the fall of the military junta in 1974 and the restoration of liberal democracy,
  2. The total of the percentages of the anti-bail out parties, SY.RIZ.A, Communist Party, Independent Greeks, Democratic Left, and Golden Down is 52.08% while the pro-memorandum ones (New Democracy and PASOK) hardly reached 41.94% of the total votes. This clearly shows that the the Neoliberal monetarist austerity policies imposed by the EU, the ECB, and the IMF were fully disapproved (especially by the young people according to the exit polls: SY.RIZ.A has a significant lead in the ages between 18 and 54 whilst the majority of 55 and over voted for ND and PA.SO.K. In particular, in the age group 18-34 the percentage of SY.RIZ.A reaches 33%, ND 20%, and PA.SO.K the 6%. In the group of 35-54 years, SY.RIZ.A gathers 34%, ND 24%, and of PA.SO.K 8%. Finally, in the group of 55 years and over SY.RIZ.A gathers 20%, ND 39% and PA.SO.K 17%).

Hence, the undeniable political assumption that emerges is that Greek society cannot tolerate anymore the old failed brutal “solutions”, neither desires to discipline itself according to extreme capitalist values.

It should also be noted that: 1) a percentage of 2-3% from the total number of ND is due to the ally of Democratic Alience (a new-formed center-right party by Dora Bakoyiani) which in the elections of May 6th reached 2,56 % of the total votes. 2) The most prominent MPs of LA.O.S (such like Adonis Georgiadis, Makis Voridis, and Thanos Plevris) moved to ND (thus the major conservative party was strengthened even more), and, also, 3) the Neoliberal coalition of Thanos Tzimeros Re-create Greece and of Stefanos Manos Drasi was polling between the 2,5-3,5% before the elections. Its final performance, however, on Sunday was very poor (only a 1,59 % voted for these two small parties), hence, another 1-2% (approximately) moved to ND.

Regarding DIM.AR; it is not clear if its leader Fotis Kouvelis will collaborate in a coalition government that will impose harsh austerity measures (that both Antonis Samaras and Evagelos Venizelos have already signed). But even if Kouvelis will refuse to join a ND-led coalition, still DIM.AR’s possibilities to survive in the distant future are very few as a big percentage of its voters could move to SY.RIZ.A given the fact that 1) as the crisis deepens, the old moderate political ideas are loosing ground to the favour of a mass radicalization, and 2) SY.RIZ.A is a radical, progressive voice with strong presence in the social movements, in comparison with DIM.AR and PA.SO.K which are only TV images and have negligible presence in the massive protests that very often take place in Greece.

The neo-fascist Golden Dawn seems to have a significant resonance in Greek society. Sunday’s exit polls revealed that in the large urban regions of Greece (mainly Athens, and Thessaloniki) almost 50% of the various police divisions declared having voted for G.D. It is well documented that G.D has close relationships with some parts of the Greek police force as the party’s general-secretary Nikolaos Michaloliakos has been accused of collaborating with the Greek Central Intelligence Agency (KYP). Nonetheless, despite the allegations of G.D with the Greek police forces, there is a big portion of its voters who are not keen to any sort of fascist ideology. They are either ultra-conservative individuals who disapprove mass immigration, or belong to those who are unable to acquire a rational explanation on the political impasses of Neoliberalism. But how did G.D, a fringe party that never before won a percentage higher than 0,5% suddenly climbed to 6,9%? The answer is simple: During the past three years (since 2009) many of its members achieved to take over squares and streets of various deprived neighborhoods of Athens (such like Agios Panteleimonas) that were flooded by refugees who are blamed for rising the levels of crime. Then, G.D recruited inhabitants that resent with the presence of foreigners, and created, thus, a radical anti-immigrant nationalist movement which with the help of armed skinheads and paramilitary vigilantes who are always present in these areas day and night, gives the impression that law and order is safeguarded. Also, with the widespread use of violence against immigrants, and by terrorizing their political opponents G.D achieved to fully control the affected by mass immigration neighborhoods. On the contrary, the previous right-wing party LA.O.S was much more moderate, more populist in character, and most of the time absent from the streets. It’s political action was limited only in joining various debates on broadcasts or in tabloid TV shows. Its stance in the financial crisis was also destructive as Karatzaferis embraced and supported the policies of IMF, which highly contradicts with the ultra-nationalist and xenophobic policies of LA.O.S’s platform. Thus, he lost most of his supporters who either found G.D as a good alternative to LA.O.S while a percentage of his voters moved to N.D together with Georgiadis and Voridis.

The Independent Greeks (AN.EL) led by Panos Kammenos, is a typical ethnic nationalist populist right-wing party which bases its political agenda upon various conspiracy theories regarding a New World Order, and that behind everything there is a secret anti-Hellenic society aiming to destroy Greece… However, the future will show whether AN.EL will insist in their anti-memorandum line, or will end up a party that reflects irrational expressions of nationalistic fear/anger. The decay of the KKE should not surprise because:

  1. its ideological platform is overwhelmed by an inexplicable and somehow metaphysical adherence to Stalinism that no longer inspires the masses, given the fact that historically this hard-core dogmatic world-view contributed to the emergence of brutal horror regimes.
  2. It is a highly isolationist party that despite its strong presence in the workplaces (it, also, leads powerful trade unions in the primary and secondary sectors) organises separate protests and refuses to collaborate with other anti-capitalist forces. Its divisive policies drove away nearly half its voters (the vast majority moved to SY.RIZ.A). KKE is not a progressive party, as its ideological platform is clearly conservative in issues like immigration and same sex relationships.

Other parties like the Ecologists-Greens, the far-left ANT.AR.SY.A. the libertarian-socialist I Don’t Pay Movement, and the Pirates which attempt to keep a revolutionary, progressive and ground-breaking profile by avoiding to join forces with other related (extra)parliamentary organizations suffered great losses and, thus, paid the price of their wrong choices.

While a large part of Greek society has placed its hopes to SY.RIZ.A. the fact that many left-wing and democratic-socialist parties – either the radical ones like the Chilean Partido Socialista and the Sandistas of Nicaragua, or the more moderates as the German Sozialdemokratische Partei – betrayed their promises, and more or less followed strict Neoliberal policies, is largely ignored. Similarly, SY.RIZ.A as a party entrapped within parliamentary values could very easily become in the future another bourgeois power that will contribute very little (or not at all) to the revolutionization of Greek society, especially if we take into account the fact that Tsipras does not intend to withdraw Greece from European Union and the Eurozone, and does not threaten the aristocracy of the Orthodox Church (which exercises great power in political life, and despite that it possesses enormous wealth, is a subject of tax exemption). Tsipras also talks about economic growth. Given that economic growth is the essence of capitalism Tsipras promises little more than social democracy, and SY.RIZ.A is probably another capitalist (reformist) party.

Under these circumstances, where most of the Greeks are exhausted by the cuts, the “solutions” proposed by SY.RIZ.A. could benefit temporarily the majority of the Greek citizens, but in no way should be considered as permanent answers for all the problems of Greek society. The principles we need to follow in order to pursue a radical social transformation, are the ones that contribute to the formation of a truly democratic political consciousness. Hence, in the long (but not very distant) future the ideological and political hegemony of the central leadership of  SY.RIZ.A. upon the movements will not allow them to become a grate revolutionary force, able to pursue deep changes and to overcome the lack of democracy, cronyism and corruption that plagues the country. Therefore, all libertarian forces of society must take the game in their hands instead of laying their hopes on a party which the stronger it gets the higher is the risk to become bureaucratized, and to rescind from the most innovative and radical trends. At this stage, the role of the social movements is to contribute to a further radicalization of the rest of society based on truly democratic values to the greatest extent possible, and secondly, to become independent from the idea that only through a central leadership social emancipation can be achieved. Consequently, if we want to talk about the birth of a new political force organized from below, truly democratic, with horizontal structures and libertarian projects, able to set the foundations for a society of equality, egalitarianism, and transparency, we must not let ourselves to the hands of a party which despite the fact that seems much more promising than other parliamentary monstrosities, it can demobilize the movements as did Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a populist Argentinian social democrat who used “radical rhetoric to ride a wave of popular unrest” according to Leonidas Oikonomakis.

______________________________________
[1] SY.RIZ.A is the largest left-wing democratic socialist anti-austerity party in Greece originally founded as a coalition of anti-capitalist and radical left political parties. SY.RIZ.A opposes the policies of IMF claiming that all austerity packages hurt the Greek economy, and will result to catastrophe not only for Greece but for the whole EU. Contrary to other far left parties, like ANT.AR.SY.A and KKE, which are eurosceptic SY.RIZ.A is not against the membership of Greece in the European Union, but on the contrary suggests that abandoning the Eurozone will be destructive for the Greek economy. SY.RIZ.A seeks to replace the IMF Memorandum with a National Economic Plan that may bring economic growth and stability. Its economic programme includes: tackling the ‘black economy as a “structural problem”, re-examination of all the special tax regimes and creation of a modern tax revenue system, tax relief for low incomes, removing tax avoidance for ship-owners, increase taxations for wealthy individuals and zero tolerance for evasion. SY.RIZ.A wants to create the conditions for the emergence and establishment of new forms of social control. It, also, campaigns against racism, against the Dublin II treaty, and supports global cooperation and interaction, but together opposes the negative effects of economic globalization.

[2] The Panhellenic Socialist Movement began as a democratic socialist party during Andreas Papandreou’s leadership. After Papandreou’s death, Kostas Simitis was elected president of PA.SO.K making it a purely social democratic/social liberal party. In the elections of 2009 ND was massively defeated, and PA.SO.K came to government under the leadership of Giorgos Papandreou. A few weeks after its victory, in exchange for further loans from the ECB and IMF, PA.SO.K abandoned its original principles and ideas and adopted strict neoliberal austerity policies, including further privatization of state enterprises, further salary cuts, and heavier taxation of working and middle class citizens, voiced support for the IMF and accepted the concession of national sovereignty of Greece to her lenders. The social disruption flowing from the austerity policies sparked major demonstrations across the country.

[3] Golden Dawn is a far-right neo-fascist party which opposes democracy, immigration, multiculturalism, Marxism, globalization, liberalism, anti-militarism, anarchism, Judaism and Islam. It supports the regeneration of the Greek nation and the establishment of a culturally homogeneous Greece.


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