June 15, 2012
Just two days before of the Parliamentary Elections in Greece it is very difficult to predict the results of the Sunday’s ballot. In either case, the situation remains rather uncertain in Greece and the possibility of having a stable and credible government remains in the sphere of wishful thinking.
Anything can happen
Just two days before of the Parliamentary Elections in Greece it is very difficult to predict the results of the Sunday’s ballot. Therefore rather than speculating about who the possible winner might be, it is more reasonable to take a snapshot view of the current developments on the Greek political scene.
The elections of May 6, 2012 left the Greek political scene highly fragmented with deep cleavages running across the diversity of political parties in Greece. Although the winner of the elections, the centre-right Nea Democratia won 18.85% of votes and 108 seats (out of 300) in the Parliament, it was impossible for ND to form a government. The mission to form the government was automatically ceded to the radical left Syriza (16.78% and 52 seats). Also this was impossible as either the Democratic Left (6.1% and 19 seats) or the Communist Party of Greece (8.48% and 26 seats) agreed to form a coalition with SYRIZA. Finally, it proved unmanageable for PASOK (13.18% and 41 seats) to build a viable coalition either. As a result of the gridlock an interim government was formed under the leadership of Mr. P.Pikramenos. The objective of this government was to prepare the elections of June 17. In order to get an insight into the meaning of the pre-electoral debate shaping the Greek political scene these days, it is necessary to consider the following.
The centre-right Nea Democratia is being punished by the voters – undeservingly so – for two reasons. On the one hand, ND, along with PASOK, is kept liable for the economic and political situation in Greece that led to the sovereign debt crisis in the first place. On the other hand, ND is blamed, in the same way as PASOK is, for consenting to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Greek government and the Troika in May 2010. The truth is, however, that ND rejected the first MoU of May 2010 criticizing the economic policy-mix agreed at that time. ND consented to the debt-restructuring programme from November 2011 that implied another financial facility of the value of €130 bn linked mostly to structural reforms of the economy.
Overall, the Greek voters seem to have turned away from the two major political parties in Greece conceiving of them as liable for the desolate economic condition of the country and for the creation of a clientelist system of power. Today, the paradox is that SYRIZA with less than 17% of votes assumed the role of the self-proclaimed representative of the Greek society. With all its promises impossible to fulfil, SYRIZA attracts young, inexperienced voters who have no clue of how the economy works and what the European integration process is about. In the same way, SYRIZA attracts many of those that used to form the same clientelist system of power. SYRIZA also claims that they ‘pave the way for hope’. How can that be however if SYRIZA’s success – as evidenced by some opinion polls – seems to be driven by the remnants of the dysfunctional system that growing slowly since 1981 has led to a total paralysis of Greek politics and economy today.
From a different perspective, many young people of those who are inclined to learn and understand, as opposed to those that uncritically accept Mr.Tsipras’ populist rhetoric, when faced with the question of whom to vote for, feel that there is no alternative. That is, on the one hand, these young people, mostly due to their age and lack of historical memory of the political life in Greece, do not feel compelled to vote for either of the traditional parties in Greece, ND or PASOK. At the same time, they despise of SYRIZA. This means that many of the young people are likely to vote for the small parties. The problem here is that given the enduring fragmentation of the Greek political scene a vote cast in favour of small party, say a liberal party, will not necessary support the liberal stand in the Parliament. That is, if that small party does not succeed to enter the Parliament the votes cast its favour will be automatically added to the winning party’s overall electoral score. If the small party succeeds in passing the 3% parliamentary threshold, it will only work to the detriment of the bigger like-minded party. In either case, another political gridlock is in sight.
Finally, on the wave of positive outcomes of the trading sessions on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday and on Friday, there was some speculation in Athens that – irrespective of the downgrading of the banks in Cyprus and in Spain – one of the reasons for these positive development was a rumour that ND is likely to win the elections on Sunday. The challenge here is that even if ND wins the elections, SYRIZA will most likely take people to the streets. In this way, it will be very difficult for ND to govern. Should SYRIZA win, the situation is even more complicated, particularly in view of Mr.Tsipras’ claims that he would cancel the MoU and that “Europe will keep Greece in Eurozone no matter what” (FT, 12.06.2012 op-ed). Well, either Mr.Tsipras will be forced to relax his populist claims once he is elected or will not be able to form a government. In either case, the situation remains rather uncertain in Greece and the possibility of having a stable and credible government remains in the sphere of wishful thinking.
Dr Anna Visvizi, political and economic analyst, associate professor at DEREE – The American College of Greece