Greece has been the centre of the world’s attention, again, over the past couple of weeks. The June 17 elections and their fallout has attracted interest from around the globe and I was lucky enough to be asked to write some articles about all this for The Guardian and Businessweek. I provide links to these stories below in the hope they will act as an election diary, of sorts (I was never very good at keeping diaries).
Wednesday, June 13
Greece faces an agonising election choice (The Guardian)
The fear factor in Greek elections (Businessweek)
Monday, June 17
The Greek election may yet prove a victory for SYRIZA (The Guardian)
For Greek politicians, election doesn’t make governing any easier (Businessweek)
Tuesday, June 18
Greece’s anti-bailout brigade is here to stay (Businessweek)
Wednesday, June 19
Greece nears a coalition that seeks space to fix the economy (Businessweek)
Thursday, June 20
Tourism in Greece may rebound with new government (Businessweek)
Friday, June 21
Greece vs Germany, the real fireworks come after the soccer match (Businessweek)
Sunday, June 24
Finance minister of Greece: the world’s worst job? (Businessweek)
It’s not often that the losing party in an election can declare that “a new day is dawning.” Yet, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras felt that his party’s phenomenal rise, which narrowly lacked the momentum to carry the leftists to first place in Sunday’s Greek elections, justified a feeling of optimism.
“The future does not belong to the terrorised but those who bring hope,” he told supporters at a small post-election rally in central Athens on Sunday night.
Tsipras is right to feel emboldened by his party’s upward trajectory from 4.6 percent in the 2009 election to almost 27 percent in yesterday’s vote but the immediate future belongs to those who pledge something much less ambitious than hope. Sunday’s result, which saw New Democracy’s conservatives gain 29.6 percent, provides a mandate for those who pledge plain old stability.
Trying to predict how Greeks will vote on June 17 in the midst of the turmoil created by the country’s grueling economic crisis and the disorientating political transition is a thankless task, but the latest Public Issue poll for Kathimerini indicates we might get a clear result.
More so than at any other point over the last few weeks, Public Issue suggests that SYRIZA has built a commanding — although not decisive or unassailable — lead over New Democracy. The survey shows a rise of 1.5 percent for the leftists since last week, so they now stand at 31.5 percent. New Democracy suffered a marginal decline and sits at 25.5 percent.
They are followed by a struggling PASOK on 13.5 percent, a resurgent Democratic Left (DIMAR) on 7.5 percent, a static Communist Party (KKE) on 5.5 percent, the declining Independent Greeks on 5.5 percent and a shrinking Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) on 4.5 percent. The liberal alliance of Dimiourgia Xana (Recreate Greece) and Drasi falls short of entering Parliament with 2.5 percent.
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis for Cartoon Movement
Several hours of discussions, a few dozen pages of minutes, thousands of words spoken and there are probably only a couple of lasting observations one can take away from the recent talks held between party leaders and President Karolos Papoulias in a vain attempt to form a unity government.
The first is the clear impression, which one can sense from the first meeting in which just New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras and PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos took part, that these three men had no intention of making the slightest effort to form a government.
The second telling aspect of the discussions is that for all the talk of austerity, memoranda, bank withdrawals and delegitimization, reforms were not discussed until the debate had almost concluded. Venizelos was the only one of a total of seven party leaders that took part in the talks with Papoulias to make anything more than a passing reference to structural reforms. The PASOK leader devoted five or six sentences to the issue, which barely registered on the Venizelos verbose-ometer but nevertheless meant that one of the key issues dogging Greece and its economy at least got a mention at the negotiating table. It only just made it though: Venizelos’s comment on reforms came on page 34 of the minutes of the very last meeting between party leaders. The discussion ends on page 47.
Posted in Greece, Greek politics
Tagged Alexis Tsipras, Antonis Samaras, Evangelos Venizelos, Greece, Greek crisis, Greek elections, Greek politics, New Democracy, PASOK, SYRIZA
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis
Greece is trying to complete a multiple-choice test in which all the answers are wrong. Sunday’s elections could have hardly produced a more fragmented result, one from which you can add up the numbers any way you want but not get the response you’re looking for. Efforts to form a unity government are due to fall flat — barring a last-minute successful intervention from President Karolos Papoulias. They seemed doomed to failure because none of the parties are taking on board constructive messages from the election result.
Representatives of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Independent Greeks, as well as others, have suggested that Sunday’s outcome is proof that 68 percent of voters reject the terms of the EU-IMF bailout. In fact, so emboldened by his party’s remarkable surge to 16.78 percent, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is poised to write to EU officials to declare the loan deal null and void because of the way people voted on Sunday. This is presumptuous on behalf of the leftist leader.
We expected the two parties that have ruled Greece since 1974 to go through a staggered collapse, possibly over the course of two or three elections, but we are already surveying the debris today: The wrecking ball came in one fell swoop and left New Democracy and PASOK in ruins from which they will find it difficult to rebuild themselves.
ND and PASOK had been in gradual decline since 2000 but the economic crisis sent them tumbling over the edge of the cliff. Their worst combined showing in a general election since 1981 was in 2009, before the crisis struck, when they gained 79 percent of the vote. Today, they hold only about 40 percent of that. In 2009, New Democracy had its worst-ever election performance, drawing just 33 percent. Today, it can’t even muster that together with PASOK. Rarely in European politics has such a dramatic collapse been seen in such a short period of time.