Election Preview: Greece 2009
Greece goes to the polls today in a snap election to elect its 300-seat unicameral legislature, the Hellenic Parliament. Despite the current right-wing government winning a majority in the 2007 election (and the current term expiring only in 2011), Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis decided to call snap elections due to his government’s unpopularity after a poor handling of the economic crisis, major scandals within his party and cabinet, and a general political discontent in Greece as evidenced by riots in Athens and other cities in 2008.
The current government is formed by the conservative New Democracy (ND) party, formed by Konstantinos Karamanlis, the uncle of the current Prime Minister, in 1974 following the fall of the Colonel’s Junta (1967-1974). Karamanlis had previously served as Prime Minister under the monarchy in the 1960s. While Karamanlis led a rather left-wing economic policy in power after 1974, with numerous nationalizations, later ND Prime Ministers such as Constantine Mitsotakis and Kostas Karamanlis have led more traditional right-wing economic policies. ND is also strongly pro-European, Konstantinos having been a major architect of Greece’s adhesion to political Europe. The current government has been involved in a number of scandals.
The opposition is led by the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). The party, whose dominant dynasty is the Papandreou family, is a mix between old Greek centrism (or Venzielism, republican-protectionist irredentism) and old left politics. Andreas Papandreou, who led PASOK to victory in the 1981 elections, held rather radical left-wing views in both economic and foreign policy when younger, though he moderated that in power (no NATO withdrawal, no massive anti-Americanism, and rather Keynesian-turned-centrist economics) though PASOK had a tough quasi-nationalist line in relations with Macedonia in the past. PASOK turned to the right under Prime Minister Costas Smitis, who succeeded Andreas Papandreou in 1996. Smitis led more centrist economic policies, but his tenure was also marked by scandals, which are more and more endemic in Greek politics. Its current leader, George Papandreou, son of Andreas, is seen a social democratic pro-European reformer (and also favouring ‘softer’ foreign policy); but there remains a strong archaic wing in the party opposed to party reform.
There are three other parties with parliamentary representation, the largest of which is the Communist Party (KKE), which is the only party which predates the Republic of 1974 (the KKE was founded in 1918). The KKE remains a hardline Marxist-Leninist party, having never distanced itself from the CPSU like most European communists did. It also purged its moderate elements at numerous times, most recently following the fall of the Berlin Wall. It still publishes proclamations and manifestos against imperialists, the bourgeois state, colonialists and the like.
The other major force on the far-left is the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), whose largest component is the old coaliti0n-party Synaspismos, founded in 1989 as a coalition between the KKE and the KKE’s eurocommunist-reformist split, the KKE (Interior). While the KKE left the coalition in 1990, the KKE (Interior) and various other eurocommunist and ecosocialist groups remained the base of the movement. SYRIZA was born in 2004 as a coalition beween Synaspismos and various other communist joke outfits but also the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI), a small left-wing spinoff of PASOK which had some early electoral successes on its own. The Greek public holds the party responsible for the violence by hooligans in the 2008 Greek riots, being the only party not to condemn the rioters (the KKE, like the PCF in France in 1968, condemned the violence and the protestors [mainly New Left type people, as opposed to Old Left Stalinists] and said that the bourgeois regime was using the violence for its political gain).
The Greek far-right has never achieved any large successes since 1974, and, if it even existed, it was very radical (like Hrisi Avgi) or connected with the Orthodox Church. The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) was founded in 2000 and won 4.1% in the 2004 Euro elections (after winning 2.2% in the 2004 elections). The party is strongly Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, staunchly nationalist (and opposed to Macedonian independence under the name Macedonia). It is often cited to be far-right, populist, socially conservative and accused of anti-semitism, xenophobia and radicalism by some.
The Ecologist Greens won 1 seat and 3.5% in this year’s European election. However, the party has made various unpopular statements concerning Macedonia, ethnic Slavic minorities in Greece and the celebration of the memory of Ataturk in his hometown of Thessaloniki. For this reason, it has been accused of holding treasonous and unpatriotic views. For this reason, the party’s future isn’t as bright as once thought.
The Hellenic Parliament has 300 seats, but 40 of those seats are automatically awarded to the first-place party as a bonus and the remaining 260 seats are awarded to the other parties based on proportional representation, though the seat allocation is done by dividing the party’s raw vote by the total raw vote for all parties eligible for parliamentary representation (the threshold is 3%). For this reason, a party only needs 41.5% or so to win an outright majority. This electoral law was adopted by PASOK in 2004, and used in the 2004 and 2007 elections as well as this one. In the next election, a ND electoral law which effectively reduces the majority ‘threshold’ to 39%. Past electoral laws had set the threshold at 47% or in any situation. Except for massive instability in 1989-1990 caused by the application of a effective 47% threshold for a majority, there have been no coalition governments in Greece.
The results of 2007:
ND 41.83% (-3.52%) winning 152 seats (-13)
PASOK 38.1% (-2.45%) winning 102 seats (-15)
KKE 8.15% (+2.26%) winning 22 seats (+10)
SYRIZA 5.04% (+1.78%) winning 14 seats (+8)
LAOS 3.8% (+1.61%) winning 10 seats (+10)
The government, as mentioned above, has grown unpopular due to the economic crisis, scandals and a general discontent with politics in Greece. The obvious outcome is a PASOK victory, but it will be more of a vote against ND than a vote for PASOK – as the results of small parties will probably show. Talking of which, exit polls!:
A common exit poll between various sources say:
PASOK 41-44% winning 151-159 seats
ND 34.3-37.3% winning 94-100 seats
KKE 7.3-8.3% winning 20-22 seats
LAOS 5-6% winning 14-16 seats
SYRIZA 3.9-4.9% winning 11-13 seats
EcoGreens 2-3% winning 0 seats
A PASOK majority on those numbers, though very narrow if it’s 151. However, Public Issue says that the PASOK’s majority or lack thereof depends on the Greens making it in or not…
PASOK 39.5-42.5% winning 149 or 152 seats
ND 34-37% winning 94 or 97 seats
KKE 7.9% winning 21 or 23 seats
LAOS 5.7% winning 16 seats
SYRIZA 3.5-5.5% winning 12 seats
EcoGreens 2.5-3.5% winning 0 or 8 seats
Basically, if the Greenies break 3%, they get 8 seats or so and prevent a PASOK majority (149 is two short of an outright majority, which is 151).