What the hell happened at the Greek election?

Photo from Getty Images: Alexis Tsipras and Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Contributed by Joe Montero

Greece’s 7 July election result was described by most of the usual media, as a landslide triumph for the traditional conservative party and the demise of era of alternative politics. This description is clouded by the wish, rather than the fact.

Undoubtedly, the result was not good for the ant-austerity party SYRIZA. It lost hold of government, suffering a 3.93 percent swing against it. Alexis Tsipras is no longer the prime minister. This was no surprise here. Everyone was expecting this result.

Other significant outcomes came along with this. A proper interpretation of the election must take these into account.

In truth, no political party did really well. The turnout for the vote was a mere 58 percent of electors. In a country where its politics is charged, this is a really low turnout, and it continues a trend seen in the recent European election. The turnout there was 59 percent for the first round and only 42 percent for the second.

On 7 July SYRIZA won 31.53 of the votes. The conservative New Democracy won 39.6 percent. It is a mistake to read too much into this. What lay behind the numbers is more important.

Whichever way it’s cut, the apparent increase in support for New Democracy is not as it looks. A bit more than a third of not much more than half of the electorate is hardly overwhelming support. There is good reason to suggest that most Greeks are against this government. And the increased vote is good is far from stable.

Before going further on these points, it’s useful to suggest why the election went pear shaped for Tsipras and SYRIZA.  

Mostly, the problem was having become trapped in the vice of the European Union headquarters in Brussels and the major European banks. SYRIZA held government, but lacked the power to deliver on the promise made to end the path of austerity. Although some improvements were still made.

Unemployment was brought down a little, the debt owed to the bankers was cleared and the economy improved a little. This was not enough to meet the expectations of Greeks and Brussels remained firmly in control.

At the end of the day, Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA found themselves managing a system that is not controlled by the Greek parliament. It is driven from outside it.  There is an immense lesson in this. One that SYRIZA and Greece must come to terms with.

Tsipras was also dogged by a dirty media campaign, manufacturing a scandal that painted him as being close to a major Greek shipowner and therefore in with the elite.

The inability to step out of a trap in government and the scandal resulted in the disillusionment and loss of a part of the electoral base. The vote for SYRIZA went down by 3.93 percent since the last election.

Much of this is likely to have gone to the new political party MeRA25, led by former SYRIZA minister Yanis Varoufakis. It gained 3.44 percent of the vote.

Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images: Yanis Varoufakis

New Democracy has benefited from the poor showing of the traditional social democratic party, now rebranded as the Movement for Change. Its vote only went up by 1.71 percent to 8.1 percent. It is clear that New Democracy is capturing much of the so-called middle ground.

In effect, the traditional political establishment united to get rid of SYRIZA.

It remains that many Greeks felt that they couldn’t support any of the contenders. The expectations are high, and this means that the political system is likely to continue to be unstable. Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his new government are going to have a bumpy ride.  

SYRIZA retains a formidable political base and cannot be written off. It will remain a key factor in Greek politics and is placed well to make a comeback.

What happens within Greek society and the political movement on the ground are going to be decisive to to developments over the coming period.

Another outcome has been the route of the pro-Nazi Golden Dawn. It saw its vote fall to 2.93 percent. Down from the 6.99 percent it got in 2015. Much of it has now gone to the newcomer and less outwardly fascist Greek Solution. It got 3.7 percent.

Photo from Milos Bicanski/Getty Images: Golden Dawn supporter carryingparty’s modified Swastika flag

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