Greek elections 06.2012

What follows is my take on the results of the Greek parliamentery elections that took place on May 6th 2012, as well as the behaviour of the major greek politicians before and after the elections:

Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative «New Democracy» (ND) party since November 2009, initially opposed strongly the handling of the debt/deficit crisis by PASOK, the center-left party that was in government at the time. He vehemently insisted that he, once he became Prime Minister, would «renegotiate» the terms of the MoU with the Troika to something significantly more favourable for our country. Then in November 2011 he made a U-turn, said he would respect all past agreements between the Greek government and the Troika and -two months later- entered a coalition government with PASOK and LAOS (at the time the most far-right mainstream party). This coalition government lasted less than 5 months mainly due to his insistence to go to elections in the hope that he would be able to form his own government. In fact, he threatened that if his party did not get enough votes to form an autonomous government, he would go back to elections again and again until they did!

Mr. Samaras campaigned on a platform promising growth that would come by (among others) increasing public investments in the private sector with money that would come from his renegotiating the MoU with the Troika. In the meantime, history has an odd way of punishing hubris: just like in 1992, when he caused the collapse of Mitsotakis’s government due to disagreements on a national issue (the naming of FYROM), in the 2012 elections he got 18.5% of the votes (compared with 33.5% in 2009) and failed to reach a sufficient number of MPs in order to form a government (also) due to the formation of the «Independent Greeks» party of ex-member of ND Panos Kammenos in March 2012, who got 10% of the votes. After the election, he complained about the unwillingness of other parties to collaborate in forming a coalition government that he previously made collapse.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical left coalition SYRIZA since February 2008, has also campaigned (like Samaras) on an anti-Memorandum platform, while at the same time promising several populist measures such as hiring 100.000 new people in the public sector, increasing salaries and pensions, etc. Tsipras claims to be pro-EU and pro-Euro, but other political forces in his coalition have no trouble openly talking about a return to the Drachma.

In the 2012 elections SYRIZA came in 2nd for the first time in history, gathering 16.5% of the votes. Since no party could form a government on their own, coalition negotiations began. However, Tsipras refused to collaborate with «the political forces that signed the MoU and which were rejected by the Greek people». Polls project that, if a new round of elections were to take place in June, SYRIZA would become the 1st party in parliament with >20% of the votes.

Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the (arguably) center-left PASOK party since March 2012 and Minister of Finance before that, is considered the main force that lead to the collapse of the PASOK government in November 2010 and of George Papandreou’s concession of the party’s presidency 4 months later. He too has masterfully flip-flopped on a number of issues, such as thereferendum proposed by Papandreou in December 2010. He is also widely criticised on a number of issues, including being the author of a 2003 law granting immunity to politicians for any unlawful activities they might have participated in.

Mr. Venizelos campaigned on a platform that simultaneously banished the previous PASOK leadership’s unwillingness to «fix the country», while at the same time insisting that PASOK was the only responsible political force that had the courage to take the tough measures in order to save the country. PASOK got 13.5% of the votes in the 2012 elections (compared to 44% in 2009), coming in 3rd. Shortly afterwards Venizelos disbanded all the internal structures of PASOK, leaving only his position as president.

Panos Kammenos, an MP formerly part of ND, formed his own party in March 2012 (2 months before the elections) that was the escalation of his rhetorics against the «traitors», the politicians who «handed over national sovereignty to the Troika». He campaigned on a platform of anti-Memorandum, nationalist, anti-EU and anti-establishment positions. He claimed he wouldn’t collaborate with the «traitors» even dead! In the 2012 elections he obtained 10% of the vote. His party was largely ignored in the negotiations that followed the election results.

Aleka Papariga, leader of the communist party (KKE) since 2001, campaigned on the usual anti-capitalist, anti-memorandum platform. She got 8.5% of the vote (slightly more than the 7.5% she got in 2009). Still, considering the people’s disenchantment with the two mainstream parties (PASOK and ND), her election result was not considered a success. She made it clear that she is not interested in participating in any coalition government, not even in a coalition of the parties of the left.

Nikos Michaloliakos, leader of the fascist party Xrissi Avgi (which is not illegal in Greece) since 1993, campaigned on a largely xenophobic, nationalist platform. He got 7% of the vote, a huge increase compared to 0.3% in 2009. He too was excluded from the negotiations to form a coalition government. Reportedly the party got a lot of votes from members of the police force.

Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the SocDem party DIMAR since the party split from SYRIZA in 2010, campaigned on a relatively low-tone, pro-Europe and anti-Memorandum platform. He got 6% of the vote and was included in negotiations to form a coalition government.

The Green Party only barely missed the 3% threshold needed to get into Parliament by getting 2.93% of the vote. George Karatzaferis‘s right-wing LAOS, which participated in the coalition government between January and May 2012 missed the 3% threshold and stayed out of Parliament with 2.9% of the vote, a major loss compared with 2009’s 5.6%. Three different liberal parties failed to get in Parliament: Dora Bakoyianni’s DISI with 2.55%, Thanos Tzimeros’s Dimiourgia Xana with 2.10% and Stefanos Manos’s Drassi with 1.8%.

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