By Henry Ridgwell
The leader of Greek’s leftist Syriza party is beginning talks with other parties on forming a coalition government to reject what he calls “barbaric” austerity measures imposed by the European Union. Voters failed to give any party a majority in Sunday’s election, plunging Greece into more uncertainty. The result is part of a wave of anti-austerity feeling that is building momentum in Europe.
At Syntagma Square in front of parliament, the epicenter of so many anti-government protests in recent years, Greeks gathered to read the newspaper headlines that point to a future once more filled with uncertainty.
If none of the elected parties can form a coalition, the country will have to go to the polls once more. Athens resident Dimitros Gletzakos voiced the fears of many Greeks.
He says he believes that new elections will again bring a mix, a contradictory and reactionary result. He says Greeks can no longer take such a result – either emotionally, economically or practically.
Greece’s two main parties saw their share of the vote plummet in Sunday’s election — to the benefit of rivals on the far left and right.
Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos, an specialist on Greek politics at Birkbeck College University of London, says there is “wisdom” in the election result. “It punishes the two parties that have brought the country on its knees, basically, so there’s a clear distribution of blame. Secondly, it offers a chance to parts of the left like Syriza to articulate a clear alternative and possibly put it into practice,” he said.
Germany, the main driver of the austerity program mandated in return for EU bailouts, has already said that Greece must adhere to the terms of the deals struck by the previous government.
Dimitrakopoulos says it is the first move in what could be a protracted renegotiation between Greece and the EU. “Part of the problems that exist in Greece now have to do with the recipe that has been partially implemented between 2009 or 2010 and now. It’s not only down to Greeks,” he said.
In France at the weekend, socialist Francois Hollande won the presidency on an anti-austerity platform. U.S. economist Paul Krugman claims that as many European countries slip back into recession, there is a growing belief that policymakers got it wrong. “The notion that cutting spending, which depresses the economy, doesn’t actually depress the economy, because somehow it improves confidence and leads to more spending,” he said.
Polls have delivered a sudden shock to the continent’s austerity program. Analysts say voters appear to have pushed Europe’s economic path further into unknown territory.