Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.

More info ×

Greek election: The austerity parties have collapsed. This is the moment of truth for the left

Yiorgos Vassalos looks at the extraordinary results of the Greek elections

May 7, 2012
5 min read

Syriza supporters celebrate on the streets of Athens. Photo: Adolfo Indignado Cuartero/Flickr

The parties that have ruled Greece since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974, the conservative New Democracy and centre-left Pasok, have collapsed. And the radical left in the form of Syriza has become the new second party in Greece.

This is unprecedented. There has only been one election since 1974 where one of the two main parties wasn’t able to gain a clear majority and form a one-party government. Between them, New Democracy and Pasok were polling between 70 and 90 per cent.

Now they have only got 33 per cent between them.

New Democracy has fallen from 33 per cent of the vote in 2009 to 19 per cent—from 2.3 million votes to 1.2 million.

And Pasok has collapsed even further, from 44 per cent to 13 per cent. It has gone from three million votes to just 800,000.

Two thirds of the Greek population now say in opinion polls that they oppose the eurozone loan agreements, and the austerity packages that come with them.

The political forces that support the agreements still get a bigger vote than this would suggest—40 per cent between New Democracy, Pasok, the extreme right Laos and extra-parliamentary liberal parties Action and Democratic Alliance.

There is a clear majority, though, for parties that campaigned in favour of the immediate cancellation of the loan agreements: a total of 44 per cent for radical left coalition Syriza, the right wing Independent Greeks, the communists of the KKE—and the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn.

Parties that only say they want to renegotiate the loan agreements, or don’t have a clear position—Democratic Left, the Greens, the liberal party Creation—scored around 7.5 per cent.

The rise of Syriza

Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, saw an extraordinary rise in its vote, from 4.6 per cent to 17 per cent.

It topped the poll by far in all the big cities—Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras—and in working class neighbourhoods elsewhere.

The party campaigned for the immediate cancellation of the austerity agreements, but also for Greece to stay in the eurozone. (It remains to be seen how it will pursue these contradictory objectives.)

The three radical left parties—Syriza, KKE and the anti-capitalist Antarsya—gathered 27 per cent of the vote between them.

The shock of Golden Dawn

At the same time, shockwaves were created by the huge jump in the vote of out-and-out neo-Nazi criminal gang Golden Dawn. They got 7 per cent—enough to enter parliament for the first time.

Meanwhile Independent Greeks, a split from New Democracy focused on opposition to immigration, got 11 per cent. The third extreme right party, Laos, got 2.9 per cent. That makes a total of 21 per cent for the far right, up from around 9 per cent in 2009.

We should also take note that New Democracy campaigned under the slogan “re-occupy our neighborhoods from the immigrant ghettos”—and Pasok supported the building of detention centres for immigrants.

Now what?

Greece’s electoral laws have demonstrated their absurdity by awarding the first party a bonus of 50 extra seats. New Democracy won 108 seats, Syriza 52, Pasok 41, Independent Greeks 33, KKE 26, Golden Dawn 21 and Democratic Left 19.

Each party, in order of size, has three days’ mandate to form a government. If it fails, the mandate passes to the next party for three days, and so on.

New Democracy and Pasok are calling for a broad, pro-EU coalition. Syriza insists on an unworkable left coalition without Pasok. Independent Greeks say they won’t cooperate with the ‘traitors’ of Pasok and New Democracy. And the KKE says it won’t cooperate with the ‘new social democrats’ of Syriza, who it says ‘spread illusions’. Meanwhile Democratic Left says it will support a government that begins a process of disengagement from the loan agreements.

The most likely outcome looks like Pasok, New Democracy and Democratic Left attempting to form a government when the mandate passes to the third party, Pasok.

Such a government would have a majority—168 out of 300 seats in parliament. But it would be politically very weak, because its backbone would be parties that were spectacularly punished by the popular vote. It would also mean a huge political cost for the third party in the coalition, whether that was Democratic Left or anyone else.

Syriza still hopes to convince Democratic Left and the KKE to support it, together with MPs willing to quit the New Democracy and Pasok parliamentary groups.

How Syriza deals with this process, and whether the KKE will abandon the failed tactics that cost it thousands of working class votes, will decide whether a front for people’s power can be formed—and the fate of the Greek left.

Antarsya, the anti-capitalist party which tripled its vote from 25,000 to 75,000, also has an important political role to play in this respect.

Yiorgos Vassalos is an activist and researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe


54