New Democracy (ND) came first with 39,8%, a percentage close to ND’s usual electoral score before the Greek Crisis erupted in 2009. ND’s vote count is not that impressive (2.251.411 votes), it is almost the same number of votes as Syriza got at the January 2015 elections (2.246.064). The electoral law provides a 50-seat bonus to the first party, thus helping ND gain an absolute majority in parliament.
New Democracy won the elections on promises of reduced taxation for all incomes (with an emphasis on a vague definition of the “middle class”), of high growth of 4% and reforms that will make the country friendlier to business and allow investments and better paid jobs.
The narrative of “law and order” was also a vital part of ND discourse accompanied with vague promises of welfare “for Greeks only” –excluding Greek residents of foreign nationality and “gypsies” (that actually are Greek nationals). Accusations of Syriza “inviting” refugees and minding refugees and migrants more than Greeks were rampant among pro-ND social media and websites. “Syriza is taxing the middle class to feed foreigners and/or unworthy/lazy Greeks”along with “leftists sold out Macedonia” werethe main messages of the Right’s and the extreme Right’s (mostly unofficial) negative campaign against Syriza.Four years of relentless TV and “fake news” attacks against Syriza had also a deep and long-lasting effectamong the more conservative parts of the population.
Syriza gained 31,53% – much better than polls were predicting, and3,9 percentage points lower to the previous result in September 2015 (35,46%). In number of votes, Syriza lost 144.000 voters compared with the previous election.
KINAL with 8,1% seems to have gained from the absence or decline of other centrist parties (To Potami, Centrists’ Union).
Golden Dawn failed to enter parliament, most its voters moved tothe mainstream far-right of “Greek Solution” Party and New Democracy.
Because of the Prespes Agreement, Syriza suffered heavy losses at the Central Macedonia Region in Northern Greece. While losing 4% nationally, at this region Syriza declined by 7% to 10%, thus making the margin with ND reach 15% or 20%. The effect of nationalist mobilization by the Church and traditional right-wing local power structures (dating from the Post-Civil War period) was devastating. On the other hand, in Western Macedonia (northwestern Greece), Syriza had average losses, or almost no losses at all –probably having to do with a part of the local population being positive to the Agreement.
Social/class correlation of Syriza and ND vote is impressive. Syriza came first in most of the Greater Athens working class municipalities, sometimes with a wide margin and percentagesabove 40%. While in middle class and upper middle class municipalities, Syriza lost by a wide margin.
Syriza’s best results were among the young (38%), the unemployed (42%) and public sector workers (36%). Women tend to vote Syriza more than men (36% vs 28%). ND got 43% among self-employed professionals and 48% among pensioners above the age of 65 (a part of the population that is mostly informed from the TV).
The Syriza government had to implement austerity with further tax hikes and the abolition of the Pensioners’ Supplementary Income, that hurt low income pensioners. Tax hikes in indirect taxes hurt mostly popular strata and small-business owners and professionals (i.e. affecting consumption by making their products and services more expensive).
The Syriza government tried to counterbalance austerity and compensate the most vulnerable in two ways. By expanding the Welfare State and by redistributing upwards the burden of austerity.
New welfare institutions and allowances were introduced –the welfare budget was increased from 2014 to 2019 by more than 400% (!), while the various welfare institutions were merged into one organization so as to abolish fragmentation and clientelist interventions by the Right’s patronage networks. An end of year “social” bonus was distributed each year to around 10-20% of the population based on low income criteria. This bonus acted also as a vital stimulus to consumption. Universal healthcare was provided to 20% of the population that lacked health insurance along with large investments in new personnel, new hospitals, equipment and the limitation or abolition of outsourcing hospital services.
Expenditure on Research and Development was doubled during the Syriza government with a large expansion of doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships.
The minimum salary was raised by 11% by January 2019, the subminimum salary for those under 25 years old was abolished, collective agreements were restored at the second half of 2018. The Work Inspection Authority became a vital toolto reregulate the Labor Market. Undeclared work in sectors of high labour law violations dropped by half.The number of workers with declared and paid overtime had doubled by end of 2018.
Social security contributions were reduced for more than 80% of professionals –while being substantially increased for the top-earning 10%. A partial restoration of the “13th pension” (abolished during the 1st and 2nd bailout) was introduced in May 2019.
Crackdown on tax evasion and undeclared work (with an emphasis on certain sectors of the economy and famous tourist destinations) was indispensable for the government to achieve fiscal surpluses, partially redistribute the burden of taxation and raise revenue for the Social Security Fund. On the other hand, this policy infuriated business owners, especially small and medium business owners and professionals many of them already burdened by accumulated debt, and years of low business revenue.
Unemployment dropped by more than 9 percentage points. The ratio between full time and part time employment remained unchanged.
By January 1, 2018 population at a risk of poverty was reduced at the 2011 levels and inequality of incomes had dropped sharply at its lowest for at least 15 years (i.e. Data for 2018 and 2019 incomes that will include the effect of new welfare allowances will come out in 2020 and 2021).
Concerning the economy, 2017 and 2018 were years of a 12-year highest of Foreign Direct Investments, and a historical record of exports. Greek economy seems to be in the process of becoming more export-oriented. Greek 10year bond interest is at a historic low. However, Greece is still suffering from very high unemployment (17,6% in April), while the extreme loss of income(at least 30%) of the average wage-earner, professional and pensioner is far from having beenrecuperated.
In conclusion, Syriza remains the dominant force in the progressive camp in Greece anda major party among the left and progressive forces in Europe. Syrizais in place to assume a leading role in advancing the cooperation of progressive forces in Europe and the struggle for social justice, democracy, ecological sustainability and peace.
*Analysis provided by the European Affairs and International Relations Department of Syriza party.Author : Dimitris Rapidis