June 3, 2014
After the local and municipal elections in Greece, that coincided with European Parliament Elections on May 2014, a new political landscape has been formed. For the country that has been struggling the most among EU28, the re-balancing of political powers and their effect in the midst of economic recession can only provide positive signs for the years to come. The most striking conclusion that we can make in advance, is that the next government -whenever this might occur- will be formed under a broader coalition alliance with more than two parties participating. The major differences from 2012 national elections, when New Democracy, PASOK, and Democratic Left formed a coalition government, is that this time the core line of the government will be stemming from the Left, and that ideological fragmentation, that used to be so destructive for politics in Greece, seems to be soon abandoned and replaced by a spirit of mutual understanding.
The Horizontal Assessment
The outcome of the local elections in Greece is subject to various interpretations. The leading partner of the current coalition government, New Democracy, achieved to preserve an important electoral appeal despite the prolonged hardship and stagnation of the economy. New Democracy fell behind SYRIZA by almost 4%, a distance that can hardly be retrieved. On the other side, SYRIZA achieved to win the European Parliament Elections in Greece, being the first political party from the Left that renders such an accomplishment. The electoral margin from New Democracy could certainly be higher, but given the character of the elections, even if we did experience a calibrating and fragmenting rhetoric, SYRIZA’s electoral score shows some structural prerogatives, in the sense that its power is solidified and pertained.
The Olive Tree alliance, composed by PASOK and other minor centre-left formations, achieved to bring about some worth-mentioning developments and save the lost pride of the socialist realm in Greece. The newcomer, the River Party, while scoring lower than expected, can definitely find its place amongst the re-invigorating forces that can aspire for better outcomes in the future. Even the Communist Party’s performance can be seen positively by the party’s hardliners as despite its obsolete verbalism, it did maintain its position in the frontline of political developments.
Golden Dawn, the far-right party, is by itself a unique case. Having grew up in the times of crisis, the party proved to be extremely resilient against the odds. Even after its leader was kept into prison, allegations for criminal action by its MEPs were seeing the light, and bias were imposed against its media presence, Golden Dawn managed to survive, increased its electoral power, and finally send 3 MEPs in Strasbourg. The message is clear: as long as austerity is prevailing, alternative pathways are not eloquently discussed, and access to media is blocked, Golden Dawn will still be a safe shelter ( and stronghold) for protest.
The Vertical Assessment
Seemingly complex to formulate it, the political landscape in Greece is now focused around centre-left. SYRIZA, Olive Tree, the River, Democratic Left, as well as a wide range of active and inactive citizens are now placed along this spectrum. It is a tug of war that goes back and forth, eventually ending up in something bigger: the creation of a broader coalition government with more than three parties. Why more than three parties? Because none of them in unitary or dual formation could achieve to elect at least 151 deputies in order to attain increased majority in the Greek Parliament. And if we are to endorse a sting of pro-growth policies, while maintaining some elements of consolidation, more than 151 are needed.
SYRIZA is the big winner of the local and European Parliament elections. Notwithstanding, it did not increase its electoral rate to such a degree that would leave space for a “carte blanche“. SYRIZA is in need of other centre-leftist forces in order to ameliorate its proposals, improve its performance, and unleash additional negotiation and ideological narratives. On the other hand, the other three (i.e. Olive Tree, the River, Democratic Left) have to redeem the wrongdoings of the past and decide to move ahead with fresh political personnel, ideas, and programs. In this respect, the leading parties of the new political landscape have to engage the youth, the civil society, young professionals and scholars that have a saying and work hard to create new platforms of policy-making.
At the end of the day, we need to stress out that Greece and the Greek society have shown some positive signs in terms of political developments. Nonetheless, it goes without saying that economic conditions have not been ameliorated nor even stabilized to an extent that optimism can start gaining ground. The current economic situation and the prospects for recovery and growth cannot be met with the ongoing mixture of policy planning. But here lies the most crucial challenge in the aftermath of the elections: how to shift political developments into broader social and economic developments in the long run without losing -again- significant pace.Dimitris Rapidis