Greece after the elections
Updated: Apr 10
Syriza goes, the right returns
The parliamentary elections of July 7th 2019 was a foretold victory for the right wing party New Democracy, which scored almost 40% of the vote, getting 158 seats in a parliament of 300. This happened thanks to the unjust electoral law, which gives a bonus of 50 seats to the first party, so now New Democracy has formed a government on their own.
Syriza received 31.5%, nevertheless doing better than the meagre 23% they had scored in the European elections and refuting poll surveys which wanted New Democracy to be 15 units ahead. This “survival” happened not because Alexis Tsipras managed to restore the trust of the left supporters who had been severely disillusioned by his right wing policies1 but rather because thousands of people rushed to vote for Syriza in a desperate and bitter effort to stop the return of the right in office. The figures speak for themselves: Syriza received its highest numbers in the working class districts of Athens (western Athens), Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Crete. The most obvious example is Patra, which one month earlier elected a communist mayor and it is clear from the numbers that the people who voted Peletidis (40% in the first round), voted Syriza in July.
Golden Dawn down and out (of the parliament)
The most positive election fact was not who was elected, but who was NOT elected. Neonazi Golden Dawn lost further to its bad European election result and this time with 2.93% failed to meet the threshold of 3% and were forced out of the parliament. This is a victory that should not be underestimated. GD loses all the political and financial privileges that they enjoyed before, at a moment when the trial of 68 of its leaders and members over criminal offences has reached the stage of apologies. Six days after the elections, European parliament MP Yiannis Lagos left the party, initiating a split of several members and depriving GD of the financial support it would receive by his being an MEP. The nazi organization is now facing disintegration.
The small success (3.7%) of a new far-right formation “Greek solution” is not good news, but this presents likely a group of reactionary personas and fascists “in suits and ties” and in no way a party with the potential to organize squads in the streets.
The anti-racist and anti-fascist movements in Greece are to congratulate for the failure of Golden Dawn. It was crucially important that since the rise of GD antifascists did not underestimate the menace and confronted nazi batallions in the streets, neighborhoods, city councils and unions, challenging their effort to dominate and build on the frustration and anger caused by the memoranda.
History has shown that disillusionment turned into fascism is a threat but there is nothing deterministic about it, it’s not an automatic procedure. Individuals and movements which intervene can influence the outcome. At times when GD met electoral success (they had even reached 13% in 2012) it was important not to let them normalize themselves as legitimate partners in mainstream politics but insist on calling them Nazis and try break the relation between the hard core of the organization and its overall electoral influence. Today the struggle for the sentence of GD in court and for its disappearing from the streets is a major task of the movement and has to continue in the next period.
On July 17th and 18th court hearings, the apologies of the instigator (Patelis) and the murderer (Roupakias) of antiracist rapper singer Pavlos Fyssas are planned to take place. Antifascists are planning mobilizations outside and inside the court, to remind that no indulgence towards the nazi murderers will be tolerated.
The radical left and the prospects of resisting the right wing government
The left did not manage to gain from Syriza’s defeat. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) retained its 5%, while both the anticapitalist front ANTARSYA and Syriza’s split Popular Unity performed poorly with less than 0.5%. DiEM 25 made over 3% and is represented in parliament, mostly because it managed to pose itself as the consciousness of the “good old Syriza”, as its leader Yiannis Varoufakis was sacked in July 2015 for not being loyal to the EU and to the “institutions” which were pushing Syriza’s government to capitulation. Despite DiEM’s weaknesses and ambiguities, the votes it received mostly express a left punishment for Syriza.
Turnout in the election was just 57 percent—one of the lowest in years. It’s a sign that after years of austerity and maneuvers many people feel there is no one to represent them.
As a whole, the left in the broad sense retains significant appeal. The problem is not in numbers but in the demoralization caused by Syriza’s government, which broke its promises and by imposing neoliberal measures paved the way to the “original” neoliberal political agents of “TINA”.
New Democracy came to power with an arrogant speech of harsh measures for the poor, support for capitalist investors and pure hate for the immigrants. So far they have bared their teeth by announcing a freeze in the procedure of immigrants’ attaining a social security number (AMKA) and declaring that all refugees in the country should not have the freedom of move but will be kept locked in the horrible camps the previous government set for them.
In the coming week they will bring a law to abolish “University asylum”, an achievement of the student movement which since the fall of the military regime in 1974 has kept universities free of any police control. New Democracy’s open racism and screams for “law and order” have caused anger among young people and in the movement that supports refugees.
At the same time, their financial ambitions will have to overcome the unstable situation in the world economy, the crisis of the “Deutsche Bank” and the conflicts inside the Eurozone. The last meeting of the Eurogroup rejected any idea of reducing the surplus targets of the following years. So despite a lot of talking about development, a “digital revolution”, making Greece a base for “startup” companies, what they really mean is cuts in public services, layoffs and privatizations.
From that point of view, it is absolutely crucial that they face resistance from their first day in office. While this text was being written, the student organization affiliated to the anticapitalist left (namely EAAK) have denounced the abolishment of the asylum and call for a demonstration outside the parliament on the day of its voting, the 23d of July. This is very encouraging, since the left is strong on the campuses and shows that it can mobilize even in the middle of the summer. But more is needed to be done in the workers’ movement, to overcome the paralysis of the trade union bureaucracy and to organize struggles against the politics of the government.
The Greek working class has shown that it can resist and fight. Between 2010 and 2013 there were 32 general strikes and hundreds of big and small struggles, movement of the squares, riots, which challenged the memoranda and shook the political establishment. Militant workers have been disappointed as they placed their hopes in electing Syriza, which failed to deliver, but they are alive, they have collective experience and they are here:
They are fed up with blood surplus targets, they demand an end to austerity and the retrieving back of all that was taken from them by the memoranda and the “stabilization programmes”. Far from being lured by conservative policies, they don’t really trust New Democracy and its cynical policies. There is a strong memory of what a right wing government means.
If these workers start to organize and fight, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will face serious problems. The left should focus in supporting and organizing the resistance and, at the same time discuss in a comradely manner how to provide a political alternative that the next time will be victorious.