Greek Snap Elections – Stability Instead of Progress

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The Greeks have voted and widely approved the course of Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA-party (35,5%, -0,8). It is noteworthy that the decision for the left-wing alliance reveals a deeply conservative understanding of politics. The Greek voters predominantly want to stick to traditional values and their societal structures, rather than giving a chance to reform-orientated powers.

One has to assert that the old and new Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, has done almost everything right: His strategy to push the reforms demanded by the creditors through parliament with the help of major opposition parties has proven right. The continued financial solvency of Greece – and the prevention of a Grexit – did not redound to the advantage of the parties involved, namely Nea Dimokratia (28,1%, +0,3) and PASOK (6,3%, +1,6). In the case of social-liberal To Potami (4,1%, -1,9), their parliamentary support of the measures even caused harm. In addition, Alexis Tsipras was able to get rid of is internal critics who even failed to get into parliament with their newly founded party Popular Unity” (2,9%).

Besides confirming the government’s course, the election strikingly demonstrated the political apathy of the Greek people. It did so through the historical low turnout of 56,1%, but also because ill-defined emotions like “pride” and “dignity” seemed to be more important than actual political recipes against the crisis. “The Greek people have given us a clear mandate to fight for our pride nationally as well as internationally”, Tsipras confirmed on election eve. During the election campaign, not a single party provided answers to the ongoing refugee crisis in the Aegean or presented ways of how to stimulate the economy. SYRIZA had promised a “more gentle” austerity program, thus focusing again on the battle against “external powers” rather than domestic problems.

Only a couple of hours after his electoral win, Tsipras opted for a continuation of the coalition government with Panos Kammenos and his right-wing populist party, the “Independent Greeks” (3,7%, -1,1). The party harshly rejected the “European austerity and reform diktat” in the beginning, but agreed to it in the end. The prolongation of this coalition can be interpreted as a sign to continue with a rather confrontational stance towards Greece’s European partners. For the formation of a more progressive and constructive government, PASOK and To Potami would have indubitably been more fitting partners. Kammenos and the “Independent Greeks” however offer Tsipras a blank cheque and will not cause any real trouble within government, so Tsipras will probably be able to govern with only a small majority of four seats in parliament.

When it comes to defeated Nea Dimokratia (ND), it is obvious that the strategy of its interim chairman Vangelis Meimarakis to go after a „grand coalition” with SYRIZA badly failed. Analyses of the voting decisions will show that many voters did not vote for ND if, in the end, a participation of SYRIZA in government was impossible for them to prevent. The struggle within the party to find a new chairman – and a new direction – will now pick up the pace. Already several groups have brought themselves into position; Meimarakis will not play a major role in this game.

Markus Kaiser