ISSN 2330-717X

Greek Voters Punish Ruling Parties For Austerity

By

By Andy Dabilis

Enraged by pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions demanded by international lenders in return for 239 billion euros in bailouts to prop up the country’s failed economy, Greek voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the two ruling parties that have dominated politics for four decades.

Seven parties won seats in the 300-member parliament during Sunday’s (May 6th) polls — which the New Democracy Conservatives won, but with only 18.88% of the vote. Their bitter rival, the PASOK Socialists slid to third with just 13.1% of the vote, a stunning fall from the 44% the party won in 2009.

Even with a 50-seat bonus awarded to New Democracy for finishing first, the two top parties won only 149 seats, unable to create another coalition. That has unleased a wave of uncertainty whether a new government could be formed — and whether Greece would adhere to the austerity measures insisted upon by the EU-IMF-ECB Troika, or the country would default or be forced out of the eurozone.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose country is footing much of the bailout bill, warned before the vote that if Greece’s new government veered from its commitments, the country will “bear the consequences.”

Despite the rising anger, the results surprised many. “Most of the people and political leaders are in shock right now,” Antonis Klapsis, head of research for the Konstantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy, told SETimes. “It was anger over austerity,” he said.

As in fellow EU member France, where voters ousted Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday over austerity measures, furious Greeks turned on their traditional rulers with a vengeance while looking elsewhere for new leadership.

The Leftist SYRIZA party, led by 38-year-old Alexis Tsipras, a former Communist Youth leader, stunned many with a close second-place finish at 16.7%. “After two years of barbarism, democracy is coming home,” Tsipras said.

That includes the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party — that wants all immigrants forced out of the country — which rocketed from .29% of the votes two years ago to a sixth-place finish with nearly 7% on Sunday. The self-styled Fascists will hold 21 seats in the parliament.

The new Independent Greeks party formed by New Democracy outcast Panos Kammenos, who is opposed to austerity, took fourth with 10.5% of the votes. The Communists came in fifth with 8.47% and the Democratic Left seventh with 6.1%.

The far Right-Wing LAOS party, which briefly served in the coalition, paid for it by failing to gain the 3% threshold needed to enter parliament.

“People expressed their anti-austerity feeling loud and clear,” Alex Afouxenidis, a researcher at the Institute of Political Sociology, National Centre for Social Research in Athens, told SETimes. “The result indicates a major shift in Greek politics with PASOK, which governed almost continuously since 1981, in total disarray. Expect new elections in about a month’s time.”

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras — who opposed austerity when former PASOK leader George Papandreou was prime minister before resigning six months ago — has three days to form a government, but is left with almost nowhere to turn.

“I understand the rage of the people, but our party will not leave Greece ungoverned,” Samaras said. He now supports austerity but said he wanted to renegotiate the terms, although the Troika warned any attempt to tinker with reforms could lead to a second bailout of 139 billion euros being stopped. Greece is surviving on a first series of 109 billion euros in rescue loans.

Samaras said he would try to find a partner to form a pro-European government, but Tsipras is an anti-capitalist and vehement opponent of austerity.

Greece’s electoral law mandates that in case of a hung parliament, the first party has three days to form a government, followed by the second and the third. If no government can be formed, Greece could fall into further political chaos and new elections would have to be held.

Greek media has already speculated on June 17th as the date for the new elections.

Samaras said he would try to form a “national salvation government” to keep the country in the eurozone. He said the election results showed “the disappointment of the Greek people for dead-end policies that have pushed them to the limits.”

“I can’t imagine how Samaras can co-operate with a political leader who is against austerity. It looks bizarre,” George Tzogopoulos, a research fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy in Athens, told SETimes.

He said the election result “is not only anti-austerity, it’s punishing the politicians who led Greece into default. People know austerity is required, but they require the burden for the crisis to be shared in a fair way and that hasn’t happened.”

Surveys showed as many as 70% of Greeks want to stay in the eurozone but as many were opposed to austerity.

Thomas Maloutas, director of the National Centre of Social Research, told SETimes the results were astonishing.

“It was unimaginable a few months ago,” he said, saying the two-party system had collapsed. “It’s the end of an era absolutely, but if we slip into a period of uncertainty I’m afraid the restoration of the old regime cannot be very far away.”

Click here to have Eurasia Review's newsletter delivered via RSS, as an email newsletter, via mobile or on your personal news page.

SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

2 thoughts on “Greek Voters Punish Ruling Parties For Austerity

  • May 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm
    Permalink

    The Greek election is over, but there is no “happily ever after” ahead for Greeks! The politicians made every foolish promise to the voters during the campaign, but Greece is in a deep financial hole, financially broke, saddled with tons of foreign debt, and unable to climb out by itself!

    The highly fragmented election results certainly won’t produce a viable Greek government. Worse yet, the smaller Greek parties that have no chance of governing are making the situation worse by ranting against the European bailout program, hoping their ranting will give them a bigger slice of the Greek vote in the next elections that won’t be far away – if not very soon! But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that there won’t be any renegotiation of the existing bailout package, and foreign lenders who lost $ 103 billion of their investments to “Greek bailout haircuts” won’t accept more losses.

    The Greek austerity measures are like “the boulder of Sissiphus.” The Greeks won’t be able to push it over the top, and get out of their austerity cave, either now or in the near future, no matter whom they vote for. The Greek elections, therefore, was not the end of the Greek problems – as many Greeks have hoped for, but the beginning of new ones inside their current misery! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

    Reply
    • May 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm
      Permalink

      I agree with professor Retsos on the voting issue.Professor Retsos does not touch the real problem of Greek politiking.
      First,I must point out to one of the founding fathers of the USA John Adams.President Adams stated right in characterizing the Greeks(politicians).John Adams,one of the founding fathers,in a statement written back on July 14th 1783 to the first US State Secretary Robert Livingston,clearly states he wanted to see Macedonia as well as Greece independent from Ottoman rule.Adams then goes to describe the Greeks as people…230 years later they are still described in the same way,”corrupted in their morals to such a degree,as to be faithless,perfidious race,destitute of courage…”
      Greek politicians have been playing the Macedonian question like a football.They cannot win an election without this question on their agenda.They cannot keep an agreement made in 1913,nor 1925 nor 1995.ICJ has proven in 2011,and what Adams had said in 1783.
      Just few days ago,the Greek politicians agreed to play the Macedonian question.
      The truth is,Greece does not want to recognize the indigenouse Macedonian minority,Mitsotakis spelled it out in 1995 durring the interview for the T.Skinalis book”For the name of Macedonia”In short;”it is not the name that bothers me,it is how to add a second minority after the muslims”.
      These same politicians are the ones who have been milking the Greek people to keep their cronies in their pockets for support.
      Was it not in 1995 Samaras paid newsmedia in Macedonia as well as Greece 130 million dollars in a black garbage bags?Adams words”corrupt”is well fitted.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.