Category Archives: Greece
EU 2014: Germany to Hungary
After France, this post looks at the EP election results in some of the most important member-states in EU affairs today – Germany and Greece (as well as Hungary, important in its own way).
These posts do not include, generally, descriptions of each party’s ideology and nature. For more information on parties, please refer to older posts I may have written on these countries on this blog or some excellent pre-election guides by Chris Terry on DemSoc.
Note to readers: I am aware of the terrible backlog, but covering the EP elections in 28 countries in detail takes quite some time. I promise to cover, with significant delay, the results of recent/upcoming elections in Colombia (May 25-June 15), Ontario (June 12), Canadian federal by-elections (June 30), Indonesia (July 9), Slovenia (July 13) and additional elections which may have been missed. I still welcome any guest posts with open arms :)
Turnout: 48.12% (+4.85%)
MEPs: 96 (-3)
Electoral system: Closed list PR, no threshold (effectively 0.58%)
CDU (EPP) 30.02% (-0.7%) winning 29 seats (-5)
SPD (S&D) 27.27% (+6.5%) winning 27 seats (+4)
Greens (G-EFA) 10.7% (-1.4%) winning 11 seats (-3)
Die Linke (GUE/NGL) 7.39% (-0.1%) winning 7 seats (-1)
AfD (ECR) 7.04% (+7.04%) winning 7 seats (+7)
CSU (EPP) 5.34% (-1.9%) winning 5 seats (-3)
FDP (ALDE) 3.36% (-7.6%) winning 3 seats (-9)
FW (ALDE) 1.46% (-0.2%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Pirates (G-EFA) 1.45% (+0.5%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Tierschutzpartei (GUE/NGL) 1.25% (+0.1%) winning 1 seat (+1)
NPD (NI) 1.03% (+1%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Family (ECR) 0.69% (-0.3%) winning 1 seat (+1)
ÖDP (G-EFA) 0.64% (+0.1%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Die PARTEI 0.63% (+0.6%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Others 1.76% winning 0 seats (nc)
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, Horst Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU), won the EP elections in Germany with 35.4% of the vote. Germany is widely seen as an ‘island of stability’ (and economic prosperity) in the midst of the EU, having managed to weather the economic doldrums which have hit most of the EU fairly well. With a population of nearly 82 million people, Germany is the most populous member-state of the EU and it has always been one of the key ‘engines’ of the EU, often in tandem with France. This has been particularly true in the last five or so years, for a variety of reasons. Politically, Germany’s leadership has been remarkable stable for nearly ten years – Angela Merkel, who took office as Chancellor in November 2005, is now the EU’s longest-serving head of government (after Estonia’s Andrus Ansip resigned early this year) and the country’s party system, despite minor but relevant shakeups since 2009, has not experienced the dramatic ups-and-downs, shifts or realignments seen in Greece, Italy, Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Ireland and even the UK. Economically, Germany has the EU’s largest economy – and also one of the healthier economies in the EU. Since 2010, Germany’s unemployment rate has declined from 8% to 5.3% (a feat which many of Germany’s neighbors and partners, notably France and Italy, can only dream about). Although economic growth has been unremarkable, Germany has a balanced budget and its public debt (77%) is declining. As the economic and political powerhouse of the EU and Eurozone, therefore, Germany has come to assume a leading role in the Eurozone crisis.
Merkel, with the Eurozone debt crisis, has gained an image as a tough and inflexible advocate of austerity policies, debt/deficit reduction in Europe’s most heavily indebted countries (Greece, Italy, Spain etc), enforcing strict fiscal rules in the EU (the European Fiscal Compact) and steadfast opposition to the idea of ‘Eurobonds’. Germany has been at the forefront, furthermore, of negotiations related to bailout packages for Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus. As a result, Merkel has become perhaps the most important European head of government – though also one of the most divisive/polarizing. In Germany, Merkel’s Eurozone crisis policy has been relatively popular, despite substantial opposition to the idea of German taxpayers ‘bailing out’ countries such as Greece and Spain. The European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which allows for loans up to €500 billion for member states of the eurozone in financial difficulty and in which Germany is the single largest contributor (27.1%), recently survived a judicial challenge and was confirmed by the Constitutional Court.
Between the 2009 federal election, which saw Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU form a black-yellow coalition with the free-market liberal Free Democrats (FDP), and the 2013 federal election last September in which Merkel’s CDU/CSU won a landslide result (41.5%) and formed a Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), Angela Merkel’s popularity increased dramatically while that of the FDP collapsed just as dramatically. In the 2013 election, polls showed that Germans were particularly optimistic and upbeat about their country’s economic future.
Germany’s strong economic conditions are a result of structural factors (strong export market in Asia for German cars, machinery and equipment; specific demographic factors; Germany’s geographic location etc) and, Merkel’s critics point out, economic reforms undertaken by the red-green cabinet before 2005 (labour market reforms with Agenda 2010, cuts in welfare/unemployment benefits with Hartz IV). Some analysts worry that Germany’s current economic climate is not sustainable in the long term and warn that certain reforms must be undertaken if Germany’s economic health is to remain so strong in the next years. For example, Germany has a very low birthrate and skills shortage is a particularly big issue. The OECD has said that Germany will need to recruit 5.4 million qualified immigrants between now and 2025, and in August the government published a list of skilled job positions to recruit non-EU foreign labour. With the economic crisis, Germany has already welcomed thousands of southern European immigrants, particularly younger and educated citizens, fleeing huge levels of youth unemployment in Spain, Italy, Greece and so forth. Regardless, in the eyes of most voters, Merkel (and, by extension, her party) have come to stand for economic stability and growth in chaotic and uncertain times; a steady and reliable hand at the helm. Fairly or unfairly, the widespread perception in Germany is that Merkel is a strong and capable leader who has been a steady hand in turbulent waters, who has successfully protected Germany from European economic turmoils. In 2013, Merkel’s CDU played on her personal popularity, and ran a very ‘presidential’ campaign which heavily emphasized Merkel, and campaign posters drove the above ideas home: Merkel’s face with the words ‘stability’/’security’/’continuity’. Exit polls in 2013 showed that many of the Union’s voters said that their top motivator in voting for the CDU/CSU was Merkel alone (in contrast, only 8% of SPD voters said that their top motivator was the SPD’s disastrous top candidate in 2013, foot-in-mouth victim Peer Steinbrück).
Domestically, Merkel’s political longevity and her ability to destroy her junior coalition partners (the SPD from 2005 to 2009 and the FDP from 2009 to 2013) owes a lot to her local reputation for legendary fence-sitting and pragmatism. Merkel has often been perceived as lacking any ideological direction of her own, instead she has run things on the basis of shifting her policies and adapting herself to what was popular. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, which reopened Germany’s very contentious nuclear energy debate, Merkel made a monumental U-turn and announced that Germany would shut down all nuclear reactors by 2022. Just a year before, her government had overturned a red-green decision to shut all reactors down by 2022. Strongly anti-nuclear public opinion, which threatened the CDU’s standings in crucial state elections in 2011, strongly pushed Merkel to do a 180 on the issue. Since then, Merkel and the CDU have promoted renewable energy, which is off to a tough start. A government renewable energy surcharge, which will increase electricity bills by about 20%, is unpopular (see this article in Der Spiegel for more on Germany’s energy transformation). In the 2013 election, there were few differences between the SPD and the CDU/CSU’s platforms, because the Union effectively blurred major policy differences between them on the SPD – the few differences concerned tax increases (the SPD and Greens supported tax increases for the wealthy, the Union rejected tax increases) and the universal minimum wage (the Union opposed it in the 2013 campaign, but didn’t care much about it in the end) – while they agreed on matters such as gender quotas in management positions, freezing rent, renewable energies and the bulk of EU policy (although Merkel reiterated her tough anti-Eurobond stance and strict application of the Fiscal Compact).
Already between 2005 and 2009, Merkel’s first Grand Coalition cabinet, the government’s policies had been quite moderate and even leaned towards the SPD on some issues (Keynesian-style deficit spending, healthcare reforms in a pro-public healthcare direction, VAT increase for infrastructure development, introducing legal minimum wages in some industries). The SPD did very poorly in the 2009 European elections, and a few months later it won a record low 23% of the vote in the 2009 federal elections. The SPD was unable to campaign on its significant achievements in influencing policy and tempering the CDU/CSU’s more right-wing policies while in the Grand Coalition; it bled votes to all sides (non-voters, Greens and the Linke being the top beneficiaries) as a result of strong voter discontent with Agenda 2010/Hartz IV. The SPD was badly hurt by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s highly controversial welfare reforms, and it has torn between a desire to continue appealing to the centre as Schröder successfully did in 1998 and 2002 and an urge to move back towards the left following left-wing backlash to Agenda 2010 after 2004. The SPD’s platform in 2013 was quite left-wing – emblematic of the SPD’s post-Schröder swing to the left, the party being pushed to left as Merkel successfully adopted SPD planks and a general shift of all parties (except the FDP) to more leftist positions since 2009 and especially 2005. In 2013, the SPD’s support increased to 25.7% of the vote, but it remained miles behind the CDU/CSU. The SPD was unable to sucessfully challenge Merkel, even on her government’s weak suit – social justice, a major concern for German voters these days (or rather, while the SPD’s social policies were more popular, the SPD lacked the CDU’s credibility on Eurozone and economic issues) – and shackled with a poor chancellor-candidate (Peer Steinbrück, the infamous ‘gaffe-machine’).
Between 2009 and 2013, the FDP, Merkel’s junior partner after the 2009 elections – in which the right-liberal FDP, on a platform of low taxes and surfing on right-wing unease with the fairly moderate record of the CDU-led government between 2005 and 2009, won an historic high of 14.6% – collapsed. The FDP’s performance in the black-yellow government was widely judged, even by its 2009 supporters, to be ineffective and incompetent and their actions reinforced the old image of the FDP as an exclusive club for special interests and high earners. Merkel steamrolled the FDP and by not lowering taxes, she effectively drained the FDP’s main plank of all meaning. In 2013, therefore, the FDP’s calls for tax cuts certainly rang hollow. The party, which had been in every Bundestag since the end of the War, suffered a defeat of epic and historic proportions: 4.8%, falling below the 5% threshold for seats in the Bundestag and finding itself without any MPs. In past (and recent – Lower Saxony in 2013) federal and state elections, the FDP had survived ‘close calls’ thanks to ‘loan votes’ – CDU supporters voting (on their second, PR, vote in Germany’s two-vote system for federal and most state elections) for the FDP to allow the party, the CDU’s preferred coalition partner, to retain seats. Loan votes and locally-focused FDP campaigns had allowed the FDP to survive in several state elections after 2009 (even as the federal party was in full collapse mode), but these dynamics were in-existent or insufficient in September 2013 – after the Lower Saxony election in 2013, which saw the black-yellow government lose to red-green despite the FDP’s success, there was a backlash against loan votes for the FDP, based on the erroneous claim that black-yellow would have been reelected without the loan votes (however, exit polls in September 2013 showed that a bit less than half of the FDP’s voters were tactical voters). The liberal party has lost its raison-d’être in the eyes of many voters. In the past two decades or so, the FDP’s niche had been lower taxes. Having been utterly unable to deliver on the one issue which defined it and which attracted so many voters in 2009, the FDP lost all credibility and effectively a good chunk of its raison-d’être. The FDP effectively dropped/lost the issue of civil rights/individual liberties to the Greens (and now, the Pirates) in the 1990s after approving wiretaps and voting against civil unions, there is now a serious risk that the FDP has lost the taxation/small government/economic liberalism issue to the CDU and the FDP’s right-wing supporters have in part shifted over to the new, anti-Euro Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The AfD was founded in February 2013, mostly by ex-CDU academics and private sector figures. The AfD’s unifying plank is opposition to the Euro (but not, it insists, the EU) – Bernd Lucke, the party’s leader, argued that the Euro was unsustainable and that it should be scrapped. Economically troubled southern European countries should abandon the Euro while northern European countries including Germany and Austria could form a smaller Eurozone in the north. The AfD claims that is not against the EU, but the party wants to reduce the scope of the EU’s power and supranational aspects, opposes Turkish membership and is against taxpayer-funded bailouts. The AfD is a right-wing party, but it is not really clear what it really stands for. The party’s leadership is economically liberal (in the European sense), but the party’s membership is not quite as convinced by the leadership’s liberalism: members voted to oppose the EU-US free trade deal, despite support from the leadership. Some AfD members and candidates have shifted to the right and embraced social conservative and traditional Christian ‘moral values’, which has reportedly displeased some liberal supporters. The AfD has rejected claims that it is anti-immigration, but the AfD was the only major German party to praise the results of the recent Swiss referendum curbing freedom of movement. The party’s opponents on the left have accused it of pandering to anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiments. The AfD won 4.7% of the vote in the 2013 election, mostly protest votes which came, predominantly, from the FDP, other parties and Die Linke.
The AfD goes out of its way to promote a respectable and clean image of itself, rejecting ties and comparisons to right-wing populists and the far-right in other EU countries. Far-right parties such as the FN and Geert Wilders’ Dutch PVV tried to woo the AfD, but the Germans strongly rejected any cooperation with these less respectable, more extremist parties. It has even rejected overtures from UKIP, criticizing the British party’s anti-EU and anti-immigration stances; although it has been reported that some members of the AfD are supportive of an alliance with UKIP and its partners in the EFD group in the EP. Instead, the AfD has been trying very hard to be accepted as an ally of the British Conservative Party, to fit the general image of a respectable, rather moderate centre-right but Eurosceptic party (notwithstanding the Tories’ ECR ties to more inconvenient parties in Poland and the Baltics). The AfD’s campaign to woo the Tories, something welcomed by some Tory/ECR MEPs, to their side was complicated by Merkel and Berlin-London diplomatic channels. Merkel is said to have warned or pressured David Cameron against developing formal ties with the AfD. However, on June 12, the ECR group voted to accept the AfD, unofficially by a narrow vote of 29-26 in which 2 Tory MEPs defied Cameron’s wishes by voting in favour of the AfD. 10 Downing Street will hope that this embarrassing defeat for Cameron in ‘his’ EP group will not endanger his highly-important relationship with Merkel.
The AfD was joined by Hans-Olaf Henkel, a former president of the German employers’ federation (BDI) and manager at IBM Germany, in January 2014. An advocate for a division of the Euro between a stable northern zone and an unstable southern zone, Henkel was second on the AfD’s list for the EP behind party leader Bernd Lucke.
After the 2013 election, a Grand Coalition with the SPD was the only realistic option on the table. The only other coalition option was a black-green coalition, between the CDU/CSU and the Greens, but the federal Greens, who had ended up performing quite poorly in the election, had burned too many bridges with the CDU/CSU during their rather left-wing campaign. The Union and the SPD reached an initial agreement on a coalition program on November 27, but for the first time, one of the coalition parties – SPD – had taken the decision to submit any coalition agreement it would sign to ratification by its membership in an internal vote. On December 2014, with high turnout, 76% of SPD members voted in favour of the deal. The internal vote was a bit stacked in favour of the yes, because SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel put his job on the line and strongly promoted the terms of the Grand Coalition agreement. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that SPD rejected the agreement, there was the threat of snap elections (which the CDU/CSU would have won by a similar margin as in September 2013).
On the whole, the SPD got a fairly good deal out of the CDU/CSU, considering the weak bargaining position they were in. The new government’s policy program includes two of the SPD’s main promises from 2013: the introduction, from January 1 2015, of a universal minimum wage at €8.50 (with only minors, interns, trainees or long-term unemployed people for their first six months at work excluded; some companies will have until 2017 to phase in the new minimum wage) and allowing workers who have contributed for 45 years to retire early at 63 (currently 65). The SPD also won a liberalization of Germany’s dual citizenship laws, which will no longer require German born-children of non-EU/Swiss citizens to choose, at age 23 (provided they’ve lived in Germany for 8 years or graduated from a German school), between their parents’ and German citizenship. On economic matters, there will be no tax increases (a key CDU demand) but the government promises new investments worth €23 million in training, higher education, R&D and transport infrastructure among others. To please the CDU/CSU, the government’s pension reform also includes a measure to increase the pensions of older mothers who raised children before 1992. To please Bavaria’s CSU, the new government is supposed to implement a toll on foreigners using German autobahnen, but many doubt the controversial policy will go ahead given that Berlin needs to find a way to ensure that Germans don’t pay the toll and make it compatible with EU legislation. The new government is committed to the energy transition, to gradually wean Germany off of nuclear energy by 2022.
In the cabinet, SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel is Vice-Chancellor and minister of the economy and energy – responsible for the energy transition. Andrea Nahles, a former SPD general secretary from the party’s left, became minister of labour and social affairs, pushing forth the pension reform. In the CDU, the promotion to the defense ministry of Ursula von der Leyen, who had been labour minister under black-yellow, was widely read as a sign that Merkel was grooming her as a potential successor. Wolfgang Schäuble, the CDU finance minister since 2009 associated with austerity policies and Germany’s ‘tough’ line, retained his job. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the SPD’s 2009 chancellor-candidate who is perceived as being pro-Russian, returned to the foreign ministry – a job he had held under the first Merkel Grand Coalition.
The coalition’s platform was criticized by employers, who were particularly up in arms about the pension reform – both the SPD’s retirement age changes and the Union’s pension boost for older mothers, which they claim will cost Germany €130 million by 2030. The conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the tabloid Bild were both critical of the coalition agreement. Abroad, The Economist has criticized Merkel’s temerity and the lack of structural reforms, arguing that the government’s various interventionist mini-reforms risks squandering the country’s past economic progress.
The new government has been fairly quiet. In February, it ran into a mini-cabinet crisis following the surprise resignation of a SPD MP (Sebastian Edathy) who later fled the country after police searched his house and claimed that he was the client of a Canadian-based international child pornography ring. The CSU agriculture minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, was forced to resign after it was revealed that, while interior minister in October 2013, he had informed Gabriel of an investigation against Edathy and in doing so likely breached an official secret. The SPD’s leadership is suspected of having tipped off Edathy (and prompting him to resign from the Bundestag before his parliamentary immunity was stripped), and the CSU demanded that the SPD’s parliamentary whip step down. Because of the CSU’s sabre-rattling, the Grand Coalition was briefly at risk of premature death, but the events in Ukraine in late February-early March 2014 meant that the scandal finally blew over. Federally, polling numbers have not budged much since September 2013: the CDU/CSU is down from 41.5% to about 39% in polls but still miles ahead of the SPD, which is stable at its 2013 levels. The Greens, who won only 8.4% in 2013, are now back up to 10-12%; Die Linke are in the 8-10% range, above their 2013 result (8.6%). The FDP is still dead, and the AfD would likely win seats in the Bundestag in the next election, because it’s now polling at 6-7%, above the 5% threshold in federal elections.
There was a major and significant change in the electoral system ahead of the EP elections: in February 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 3% threshold was unconstitutional and ordered for it to be scrapped entirely. In 2009 and prior EP elections, a 5% threshold had applied, but it had been lowered to 3% by the major parties after the Constitutional Court had struck down the 5% threshold in November 2011. The new rules were obviously a huge boon for small parties – a category which now includes the FDP.
Merkel’s CDU/CSU emerged victorious in the EP elections, and Merkel expressed satisfaction with the Union’s performance and its majority over the SPD. However, with only 35.4% for the CDU and CSU, it is a poor result for Germany’s senior governing parties, which is down both from Merkel’s own landslide result in September last year (41.5%) and the Union’s result in the 2009 EP election (37.9%) and past EP results (2004 – 44.5%, 1999 – 48.7%, 1994 – 38.8%). In 2013, Merkel’s own personal popularity had been the reason for the CDU’s success and the party had likely received votes which went more to support Merkel the Chancellor than to support the CDU/CSU the party. Therefore, in an election without Merkel on the ballot, some loses could be expected.
The main reason why the Union parties did poorly is because the CSU’s result in Bavaria was unexpectedly bad: the ruling hegemonic party in conservative Bavaria received only 40.5% of the vote in the Land, down 7.6% from 48% of the vote in 2009 (and 49% in the 2013 federal election and 47.7% in the 2013 state elections, held a week before the federal election). The result came as a surprise, because state-level polling in Bavaria for the EP had showed the CSU in its usual high-40s territory, and the CSU had done fairly well (by Bavarian standards, which means winning in the usual landslide) in local elections held in the state in March 2014. Over the past few months, the CSU has grumbled against some of the government’s policies – Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer, the powerful boss of the CSU and the state, opposes the construction of high-voltage power lines which would transmit wind energy from the North Sea to southern Germany, and the CSU has continued playing its populist, regionalist messages (against EU and federal bureaucrats, against foreign drivers clogging up Bavaria’s autobahnen, against immigrants receiving welfare benefits).
One reason for the CSU’s poor turnout may have been the low turnout – only 40.9%, which is about 7% less than in the country and actually down 1.5% from the last EP election in Bavaria. In contrast, turnout in the rest of Germany increased by 4.9% from 2009. There was, as in 2009, a clear correlation between higher turnout and local elections being held the same day – turnout was highest in the Rhineland-Palatinate, reaching 56.9%; it was up 16.8% from 2009 to 46.7% in the Eastern state of Brandenburg, where there were no local elections alongside the EP election in 2009. However, turnout is not the only explanation, because the CSU’s raw vote did not hold stable – the party lost nearly 330,000 votes from 2009. The CDU’s support increased in Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Merkel’s home state, where she did very well in 2013), Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The CDU suffered substantial loses in Berlin (-4.2%, but turnout increased 11.5%), Hamburg (-5.1%), Hesse (-5.8%) and Schleswig-Holstein (-3.5%).
The SPD, in contrast, performed quite well – 27.3% is a significant improvement on the party’s last two disastrous performances in the EP elections (21.5% in 2004 and 20.8% in 2009, both of them historic lows for the SPD), and the SPD has increased its vote total from about 5.5 million to 8 million. Martin Schulz, the PES’ ‘presidential candidate’ and the SPD’s top candidate, likely accounts for (part of) this good result. An Infratest dimap exit poll showed that Schulz was the favourite EU Commission candidate in Germany over Juncker, 42% to 24%, and even received the preference of 23% of CDU/CSU voters. 76% of SPD voters said that Schulz was an important reason that they voted SPD, against only 55% of Union voters who said that Juncker was an important reason that they voted for the CDU/CSU. The SPD was criticized for an ad campaign which said that “only if you choose Martin Schulz and the SPD, can there be a German President of the European Commission”.
The SPD has also performed surprisingly well, so far, in the Grand Coalition (unlike in 2005-2009). So far, many of the new government’s popular policies – the minimum wage, the pension reform and the dual citizenship reform – all bear the SPD’s mark, a surprisingly good record for what is a weak junior governing partner. 59% of SPD voters were happy with the federal government’s performance, compared to 79% of CDU/CSU voters and 53% of all voters.
The Greens placed third, with 10.7% of the vote, which is down 1.4% on their record-high performance in 2009 (12.1%) but an improvement on the Greens’ poor result in last year’s federal election, when the party won only 8.4%. The Greens’ result in 2013 came as a shockingly bad underperformance by the party, which had been on an upswing since 2007 and especially since 2010-2011 (marked by the Greens’ victory in the 2011 Baden-Württemberg state elections, where the Greens overtook the SPD and the left won enough seats to form a green-red coalition with the Greens in the driver’s seat). The Greens ran a woefully bad campaign in 2013, unwisely seeking to put an emphasis on their left-wing (similar to the SPD, furthermore) position on economic/social issues (with tax increases which the Greens had lots of difficulty defending and framing correctly) rather than their niche environmental issues where the Greens are most popular and credible. The Greens’ left-wing oriented campaign, under Jürgen Trittin, aimed to deflect left-wing criticism that the Greens were just waiting to dive into a black-green coalition with the Union, but instead it just nudged the Greens way too close to the SPD in a position where they would not dare criticize the SPD’s failings (notably on hot-button transportation and infrastructure kerfuffles). The Greens were also hurt by controversies stemming from a terribly overblown faux-scandal about ‘veggie-days’ (allegedly a Green plan to ‘force’ meat-free days in public cafeterias, even though they already existed) and a difficult series of revelations from the Greens’ ties to the pedophile movement in their foundational years. Since the last election, the Greens have been rebuilding, but it’s been difficult. In the Infratest dimap exit poll, 81% of voters said the Greens lacked a strong leader and 70% said they had difficulty seeing what the Greens stood for.
Die Linke placed fourth, holding their ground from the last election and gaining votes thanks to the higher turnout. It was an average result for the party, a bit below its result from 2013 (8.6%). Die Linke had hoped to gain from the SPD’s participation in cabinet, and tried to target left-wing voters disappointed with the SPD’s participation or performance in the Grand Coalition government. However, unlike in 2009, Die Linke proved unable to benefit from the SPD’s government record, largely because the SPD has been performing reasonably well in government thus far. The party still has trouble breaking out of its peripheral role in the German political system: after the party effectively supported or accepted the Russian invasion of Crimea and opposed Ukraine’s “fascist” government, the prospect of participation in a leftist coalition with the SPD and the Greens distanced itself, because the SPD demand that Die Linke drops its most contentious foreign policy planks (opposition to NATO, Euroscepticism) in order to be accepted into government. Die Linke lost votes in its East German, ex-GDR strongholds – its support in the East fell from 23% to 20.6%, its worst result in the old GDR since the first post-reunification EP elections in 1994; but it gained support in the West, increasing from 3.9% to 4.5%. In 2013, the results had also shown a trend towards a more nationalized vote, with Die Linke slowly building a still very small but substantial electorate in the West while being on a net downwards trend in the East, where the party faces demographic problems (aging electorate, out-migration, more affluent East German cities and social changes in the old GDR) and intense competition for protest voters.
The AfD did well in East Germany (8.3%), better than in the West (6.8%). Overall, across the country, the AfD had an excellent result, with 7% of the vote and 2.070 million votes, up from 4.7% and 2.056 million votes in the 2013 federal election. The exit polls showed that the AfD’s electorate largely consisted of protest voters, with highly specific concerns – currency stability (a major issue for 41% of the AfD’s voters), social security and immigration (a major issue for 40% of AfD voters but only 13% of the broader electorate); the AfD’s voters also stand out of the German political mainstream by expressing negative views towards the EU, the Euro, the desirability of deeper European integration and being rather pessimistic about the economy. For example, while the electorate which voted on May 25 was by and large strongly pro-European (actually, even more-so than in the past), with only 16% saying that EU membership brought more disadvantages (compared to 44% who said it brought mostly advantages, up from 25% in 2010), 70% saying that EU countries should act together more often and only 20% saying that Germany should return to the Deutsche Mark; the AfD’s supporters took opposite views on these issues, with 44% (the highest of all parties, with Die Linke in second at 19%) of AfD voters saying that the EU brought more disadvantages, 67% saying that EU member-states should act more independently/alone, 52% saying the EU’s open borders are threatening German society, 39% wishing to return to the old currency (one will notice, however, that not even a majority of AfD supporters support dropping the euro) and 78% opposing bailouts for other EU member-states (compared to 41% of German voters). The AfD is already a very polarizing party: 47% of voters considered it a right-wing populist party, which is not a popular label to be identified with in Germany, and 41% said that while it did not solve problems “it called them by their names” (80% expressed similar views regarding Die Linke).
The AfD appears to be responsible for a good part of the CDU and CSU’s losses. Infratest dimap’s vote-transfer analysis has some suspect findings, but it reports that, compared to 2013, the AfD gained 510,000 more votes from the Union, 180,000 from the SPD and 110,000 from Die Linke; in 2013, the AfD had pulled a diverse electorate, although most of their voters came from the smoldering ruins of the FDP, Die Linke and other parties. According to the vote-transfer analysis from this year, the bleeding from the FDP to AfD was more limited (-60,000) – instead, we are told that the FDP lost a good number of votes to the SPD (60,000) and the Greens (40,000). The city of Munich (Bavaria) also conducted a vote-transfer analysis for the city, compared to the 2009 EP elections. In Munich, the CSU lost 21,100 votes – or 16% of its 2009 voters – to the AfD, providing the new party with its largest bulk of voters (smaller quantities came from the FDP – 2,200 votes; the FW – 2,400 votes; non-voters – 2,100 votes; and other parties – 1,800 votes). In Bavaria as a whole, the AfD did quite well, taking 8.1% of the vote, nearly doubling their percentage from 2013. It did best in Munich’s suburbs in Upper Bavaria and in Swabia. Interestingly, in Munich, the FDP lost most of its 2009 voters – 42% of them (or 22,500 votes) the SPD, which is more than a bit unusual given that, in 2013, the FDP had lost 38% of its voters to the Union and only 9% to the SPD.
The Infratest dimap vote-transfer analysis showed that the Union parties, compared to 2013, also lost heavily to the SPD (-340,000) and Greens (-270,000); the SPD suffered loses, from 2013, to the Greens (-110,000) and AfD, but made up for them by gaining from the Union and FDP; the Greens suffered minor loses (-30,000) to the AfD but gained 2013 votes from all parties, mostly the two largest ones; Die Linke lost substantially to the AfD but gained, weirdly, 100,000 from the Union and 50,000 from the SPD. The analysis reported by Infratest dimap on the ARD website (linked above) seems very suspect and incomplete, given that it makes no mention of 2013 voters who did not vote this time. The Munich analysis appears more reliable, and the comparison is being made to the same kind of election.
The new electoral rules allowed seven small parties to make their entrance into the EP. Besides the FDP, which won a disastrous 3.4% and lost 9 of its MEPs, the largest minor party to make it in were the Freie Wähler (Free Voters), a confederation of various community/local lists and independent candidates which are present throughout Germany but quite strong in Bavaria, especially in local elections. The FW are very hard to pin down ideologically, with an eclectic mix of socially liberal policies, conservative policies or economically liberal policies, and a heavy focus on issues such as direct democracy, local autonomy and local/parochial concerns. The FW have a soft Eurosceptic side. The FW have, as noted above, run in state elections across Germany, but the only region where they have achieved considerable success at the state level is in Bavaria, where the FW won 10% in 2008 and 9% in the 2013 state election. The party won 1.5% of the vote across Germany, and 4.3% in Bavaria (down from 6.7% in the 2009 EP election, where FW was led by ex-CSU maverick Gabriele Pauli). The FW broke 2% in BaWü and Rhineland-Palatinate, but were under 2% in every other state (they had some success in Thuringia and Saxony, but FW had next to zero support in the city-states, NRW, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein). The FW’s new MEP, Ulrike Müller (a Bavarian state MP), is individually affiliated with the small liberal European Democratic Party (EDP) and will sit in the ALDE group. A sign of how local and candidate-based the FW’s support is: the FW’s best result in Bavaria came from the Oberallgäu kreise in Swabia (13.7%), where Müller is from. In 2009, the FW had done best around Fürth in Middle Franconia (where Pauli is from), and poorly in Upper Bavaria and Swabia.
The Pirate Party won 1.5% of the vote and one seat; that vote is up a bit from 2009, when the Pirates were just getting started, but actually down from the party’s results in the 2009 and 2013 federal elections (2% and 2.2%). The Pirates famously rode a brief nationwide wave of momentum following the 2011 Berlin state elections, but that collapsed beginning in late 2012, under the weight of controversies, small scandals, public scrutiny into the party and a perception of the party as a single-issue party with no positions on major issues. The Pirates are nowhere close to regaining lost support: they have serious internal conflicts (largely between moderate left-libertarians and far-left anti-fascist movements), the party’s membership numbers have declined quite significantly, As in past elections, the Pirates drew a disproportionately young, urban (and likely male) electorate: it did best in Berlin (3.2%) and its best results generally came from university towns, such as Darmstadt (Hesse), the district where the Pirates won their highest result this year (3.6%). Their sole MEP will join the G-EFA group, like the two outgoing Swedish Pirate MEPs.
The Tierschutzpartei (Animal Protection Party) is a small animal right’s party, founded in 1993, is fairly similar to the Greens but with the added weirdness and quirkiness which usually characterizes these specifically pro-animal parties. The party has no particular base in any state or region, and is generally a non-factor in elections (0.3% in 2013), but in low-stakes EP elections (it already won 1.1% in 2009), it appears to be able to gain a few extra votes across Germany because of its name (in these kind of elections, parties with non-controversial names or names like ‘family’ or ‘animal protection’ which are cute and friendly buzzwords, tend to have small boost which can bring them up over 1%). Indeed, the party’s support was evenly distributed throughout Germany, ranging from 1% to 1.8%. The party will join the GUE/NGL group.
The far-right neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), which did not run in 2009, won 1.3% and 1 vote (for Udo Voigt, the NPD’s crazy former leader who has praised Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Hess in the past). The NPD, which experienced a brief revival in the early 2000s which brought them into the state parliaments in Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, has been declining in recent elections. In 2013, the NPD fell to only 1.3%. The NPD, constantly under investigation by the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (to the point where the common joke is that most NPD members are actually police informants) and facing renewed calls for its banning, is also weakened by financial problems and very negative media coverage of the far-right with the trial of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) Nazi terrorist group. Nevertheless, the NPD retains a small base in the most deprived regions of East Germany, where the NPD won 2.9% of the vote (and 3.6% in Saxony). The NPD, like the Greek and Hungarian Nazis, are untouchable parties – the EAF, for example, rejected the NPD. Udo Voigt will sit as a non-inscrit.
The Family Party, a minor socially conservative Christian democratic party with a small traditional base of support in the Saarland, won 0.7% (which is actually less than in 2009) and qualified for one MEP, who will sit with the AfD and the British Tories in the ECR group. Like with the Animal Protection Party, the Family Party likely benefits in these low-stakes elections from its name, a cute and friendly buzzword. The Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP) is a Bavarian-based conservative green party (although it has shifted to the left recently, while retaining a ‘pro-family’ and socially conservative orientation unusual for the left-wing green movement), founded back in 1982 by right-wing socially conservative Green dissidents. The ÖDP has received a stable 1-2% of the vote in Bavarian state elections since the 1990s, but the party is largely absent from other states. In Bavaria, the ÖDP won 2.7% of the vote this year, up from 0.6% in 2009. It peaked at 6.7% in Memmingen. Outside Bavaria, the ÖDP’s best result seems to have come from BaWü (only 0.7%). The party’s new MEP will sit with the Greens. Finally, the last seat was won by an unusual party – Die PARTEI (literally The PARTY), a satirical protest party founded in 2004 by the editors of the satirical and provocative magazine Titanic. Die PARTEI often mocks the empty slogans and rhetoric of the major parties and calls major politicians ‘stupid’. The party’s most famous and long-lasting promise is to rebuild the Berlin Wall around East Berlin and the former GDR, a pledge which it has now amended to include building a wall around Switzerland (the party’s response to Switzerland’s recent referendum on freedom of movement). When the party is serious, its platform is usually quite left-wing. In this election, Die PARTEI also promised a ‘lazy rate’ (a quota for lazy people and loafers), redistributing all income over €1 million, abolishing DST, limiting executive pay to 25,000x that of the average worker, ‘fucking’ the US-EU FTA and changing the voting age so that only those between 12 and 52 can vote. Die PARTEI has small strongholds in left-wing inner city areas, those trendy and cosmopolitan urban areas where the Greens and Die Linke (in the West) do very well in. It won, for example, 3.8% in Berlin’s famous Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district and 4.2% in the inner-city Hamburg district of St. Pauli.
Die PARTEI has promised that its MEP will resign the seat monthly, so that every candidate on the list will get a chance to serve for 30 days in the EP. In between the satire, Die PARTEI has suggested that it may be looking into joining a group, perhaps the Greens-EFA.
Turnout: 59.97% (+7.43%)
MEPs: 21 (-1)
Electoral system: Open-list PR, 3% threshold; mandatory voting (unenforced)
SYRIZA (GUE/NGL) 26.57% (+21.87%) winning 6 seats (+5)
ND (EPP) 22.72% (-9.58%) winning 5 seats (-3)
XA (NI) 9.39% (+8.93%) winning 3 seats (+3)
Elia (S&D) 8.02% (-28.63%) winning 2 seats (-6)
To Potami (S&D) 6.6% (+6.6%) winning 2 seats (+2)
KKE (GUE/NGL > NI) 6.11% (-2.24%) winning 2 seats (±0)
ANEL (ECR) 3.46% (+3.46%) winning 1 seat (nc)
LAOS (EFD) 2.69% (-4.46%) winning 0 seats (-2)
Greek European Citizens 1.44% (+1.44%) winning 0 seats (±0)
DIMAR (S&D) 1.20% (+1.2%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Union for the Homeland and the People 1.04% (+1%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Greek Hunters 1% (-0.26%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Bridges (ALDE) 0.91% (+0.91%) winning 0 seats (±0)
Greens-Pirates (G-EFA) 0.9% (-2.59%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Others 7.95% winning 0 seats (±0)
Greece has been at the centre of EU politics over the last five years, as the country which has suffered the longest and the most from the Eurozone debt crisis. As a result thereof, no EU member-state has seen political changes as radical as those which have taken place in Greece since 2009. The Eurozone crisis which has the leading issue in European politics for the past 4/5 years began in Greece shortly after the October 2009 legislative election in the country.
The root causes of the Greek (and, to a lesser extent, European) crisis were the country’s excessively high budget deficits and public debt. Since joining the EU in 1981 and especially since the mid-1990s, successive Greek governments customarily ran increasingly large structural budget deficits which by extension meant that Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio increased to reach unsustainable level by the time the 2007-2008 global recession triggered the economic and debt crisis in Greece. The crisis, however, was not caused – as is widely believed – by huge government expenditure or even a particularly generous welfare state (the popular ideas of lavish social benefits, ‘lazy’ Greeks not working hard enough and long paid vacations were largely myths) but rather by problems in the revenue side of the equation – tax evasion has famously been described as a ‘national sport’ in Greece, and the government’s unwillingness and inefficiency at collecting taxes has meant that the state has lost billions of euros in revenue. Greece’s tax evasion problem was compounded by a very large black market (about a quarter of the economy). Other factors which contributed to make the Greek debt crisis particularly catastrophic were the country’s very high external debt, a large trade balance deficit, heavy government borrowing and political corruption (since the restoration of democracy in 1974, Greece’s political system has been notoriously clientelistic).
By the time of the October 2009 election, Greece had already been in recession since 2008, its shipping and tourism industries having been hit particularly hard by the recession. The ruling conservative New Democracy (ND) party called early elections, which it lost to the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) of George Papandreou, the third generation in a long political dynasty in post-war Greece (his predecessor, ND leader Kostas Karamanlis, was also the son of a former Greek Prime Minister). Upon taking office, the new PASOK government revealed that the country’s deficit and debt was much worse than previously thought, with the deficit revised to be an alarming 15.7% of GDP and the public debt at 129.7% of GDP – Greece now had the largest deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio in the EU. Events accelerated in early 2010, as it became apparent that Greece was unable to borrow on the markets and was forced to asked for a loan from the EU and the IMF to cover its costs. Credit rating agencies, in April 2010, downgraded Greece’s sovereign debt rating to ‘junk’ while speculation on a potential default and exit from the Eurozone (a ‘Grexit’) ran wild. In May 2010, Greece was granted an initial loan of €110 billion from the ECB, EU and the IMF (a powerful trio which has become known in Greece and other countries as the ‘Troika’) in exchange for the approval of an unpopular austerity package by the government. The Papandreou’s May 2010 austerity package, the third set of austerity measures in only four months, included further cuts in public sector salaries, limits on employee bonuses, cuts in pensions and tax increases across the board (the VAT, luxury taxes, property taxes, excise taxes). However, initial austerity measures only worsened the economic crisis, while Greece became dependent on bailout funds to foot its bills and was thus forced to adopt a fourth austerity package in June 2011 to access the next installment of bailout funds. Despite massive protests and a general strike, the Papandreou government passed the new austerity package which now included a plan for privatizations (with a target of €50 billion in revenue), more tax increases and pension cuts.
Austerity measures adopted to meet the Troika’s strict conditions for the bailout had a disastrous impact on Greece’s economy and society, while doing nothing to turn the ship around – in fact, fears of a Greek default and ‘Grexit’ only increased in 2011. Greece, in recession since 2008 with a GDP shrinkage of 3.1% in 2009 and 4.9% in 2010, saw its economy shrink by a full 7.1% in 2011 and 7% in 2012. Unemployment increased from 10.4% in the last quarter of 2009 to 20.8% in the last quarter of 2011, and reached a high of 27.8% in the last quarter of 2013. Unemployment has hit young people the hardest, with over 60% of them currently unemployed. Major spending cuts have crippled Greece’s healthcare system (while unemployment left many without access to public healthcare), with most hospitals and the clinics in precarious conditions; the suicide rate has increased while there have been reports of an increase in HIV infection rates and a malaria outbreak for the first time in four decades. Greece’s public debt reached 148.3% of GDP in 2010 and 170.3% in 2011, while the budget deficit fell to 10.9% in 2010 and 9.6% in 2011
In October 2011, when an agreement on a second multi-billion euro bailout including a debt restructuring (a haircut of 50% of debt owed to private creditors), Papandreou shocked and seriously angered the Troika and EU leaders by announcing a referendum on the deal. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to withhold payment of the next installment of bailout funds, and under intense EU, Troika and domestic opposition pressure, Papandreou was forced to renege on his idea and pushed out the door. A new national unity government led by an independent technocrat, Lucas Papademos, with ministers from ND, PASOK and the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Increasingly exasperated with what they saw as Greek politicians unwilling to implement the required austerity measures or being woefully ineffective at putting them in practice (for example, the government has missed privatization targets by miles for several years), the Troika – especially the Eurozone and Germany – became even tougher in their demands for austerity and economic reforms in exchange for a second bailout. In February 2012, to access the second bailout from the EU-IMF, Papademos’ government passed a fifth austerity package including tough cuts in the minimum wage, pensions, spending, the definitive elimination of a paid ’13th month’ salary, job cuts in the public sector, more privatization and structural reforms to liberalize ‘closed professions’. Despite major opposition from the streets, LAOS (which left government as a result) and over 40 dissident MPs from ND and PASOK, the austerity package was passed by Parliament and Greece was cleared to receive a second bailout of €130 billion with a debt restructuring agreement (worth €107 billion) with private holders of Greek debt to accept a bond swap with a 53.5% nominal write-off. Greece’s ten-year government bond yields shot through the roof at the time of the second bailout and debt restructuring, reaching nearly 40%.
The economic crisis had huge repercussions on the Greek political system. Since 1981, Greece had a fairly stable party system dominated by two major parties – the conservative ND and the social democratic PASOK, although both were clientelistic patronage machines with a very strong dynastic tradition (both ND and PASOK were founded by prominent Greek dynastic politicians – Konstantinos Karamanlis for ND and Andreas Papandreou for PASOK) and rather different from the ‘average’ conservative and social democratic parties in Europe (if such a thing exists). PASOK, for example, lacks the trade union roots and ties or the Marxist background of many older social democratic parties in the EU. Although under Andreas Papandreou PASOK pursued a very left-wing re-distributive agenda and created Greece’s welfare state, PASOK can still be somewhat accurately described as the modern heir of Venizelism, a uniquely Greek liberal-nationalist ideology (it certainly inherited the Cretan stronghold of the Venizelists). After Andreas Papandreou’s death in 1996, PASOK progressively abandoned its early leftist, nationalist and Eurosceptic orientation, and both ND and PASOK became far closer ideologically than they would care to admit, although both remained bitter rivals because of tradition and political culture (with the exception of a brief period of instability and caretaker governments in 1989-1990, ND and PASOK had never governed together before 2011). At the helm of an increasingly unpopular government associated with austerity and the country’s economic collapse, the bottom fell out of PASOK progressively between 2010 and late 2011, and collapsed beginning in the fall of 2011, as Greece’s situation looked more desperate and catastrophic than ever before. ND’s support, in opposition under the leadership of senior politician Antonis Samaras, held up fairly well (albeit at historically low levels in the high 20s-low 30s) until early 2012. In opposition, ND hypocritically opposed the first three rescue packages in 2010 and 2011 (Dora Bakoyannis, a former foreign minister and Samaras’ rival for the ND leadership in 2009, was even expelled from the party in May 2010 for voting in favour of a EU-IMF loan; she went on to create her own pro-austerity liberal party, DISY); even under Papademos’ technocratic cabinet, ND tried to have the cake and eat it – Samaras promised to renegotiate the second bailout agreement after his party begrudgingly supported it, even if the Troika (exasperated by Samaras’ waffling and lack of commitment) made it clear that there could be renegotiation. In the Papademos government, both ND and PASOK (and LAOS, much to its chagrin) became associated with the unpopular austerity policies, which caused major internal dissent within party ranks.
The bankruptcy of the traditional political system allowed new parties – often quite radical – on the left and right to rise to prominence. On the left, the traditional third force in Greek politics has usually been the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the country’s oldest parliamentary party. While the KKE’s electoral base is larger than that of many communist parties in the EU today, it has a very low ceiling because the party basically operates in an alternate reality – after the fall of communism, instead of evolving the KKE doubled-down on arcane and archaic quasi-Stalinist Marxist/Soviet rhetoric from the 1950s about the revolution, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The KKE has successfully retained a loyal electorate, providing it with a fairly high floor but also a very low ceiling because the KKE’s rhetoric lacks credibility in practice (besides pretending that the Soviet Union and Joe Stalin are still alive and well). Although the KKE’s support rose to 12-14%, it never surged. Instead, the main beneficiary of PASOK’s collapse was the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), traditionally a rag-tag coalition of New Left parties and ideologies (eurocommunists from the KKE (Interior), a moderate 1968 splinter from the KKE; democratic socialists, eco-socialists, social democrats, left-wing Eurosceptics, Trotskyists) which enjoyed a late surge in early 2012 on the back of the popularity of the anti-austerity message of SYRIZA’s young leader, Alexis Tsipras. Although one might expect common ground, there is intense hatred between the KKE and SYRIZA (in fact, it often appears as if the KKE hates SYRIZA more than any other party, fascists included), with the former considering the latter as ‘opportunists’ and a ‘bourgeois front’ to trick ‘the proletariat’ into perpetuating capitalism (the KKE is anti-capitalist, anti-EU and anti-Euro). The Democratic Left (DIMAR), a moderate 2010 splinter from Synaspismós (the largest component in SYRIZA) with a nominally anti-austerity but pro-Euro platform, also tried to benefit from PASOK’s failings.
On the right and left, several parties led by anti-austerity dissidents from PASOK and ND emerged, although only one, the right-wing populist Independent Greeks (ANEL), a nationalist anti-austerity party led by ND dissident Panos Kammenos and created in February 2012, has been electorally successful. Kammenos is famous for his rabble-rousing nationalist (often anti-German) and anti-austerity rhetoric, with a certain penchant for tinfoil hat conspiracy theories and defamatory statements about his opponents (he has branded ND as ‘traitors’ for accepting the austerity memorandum and has been sued for libel/defamation several times).
On the far-right, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) – a nationalistic, anti-EU and anti-immigrant party (one which also believed in 9/11 truther theories and was originally anti-Semitic) founded in 2000 – waffled over austerity, voting in favour in 2010 but against in 2011 before joining Papademos’ cabinet in late 2011 but leaving in 2012 by voting against the second bailout. LAOS’ indecision crippled the party, and provided a political void to be filled by Golden Dawn (XA). XA was founded by Nikolaos Michaloliakos in 1993, but until 2010, XA largely operated in the mysterious underworld of far-right/neo-Nazi activism and never won over 1% in any election, although XA’s violent street gangs were active and dangerous (in 1998, XA’s deputy leader killed a leftist student). XA’s first electoral success came in the 2010 local elections, in which the party won 5.3% of the vote and one seat (for Michaloliakos) in Athens. XA lies at the fringe of the far-right constellation in the EU: while it is an intellectually lazy trope to throw the word Nazi at all far-right parties, such a label is fully accurate for XA. Although the party has toned down the open Nazi fanboyism and admiration of the Third Reich which was a mainstay of XA in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Michaloliakos penned articles and essays which heaped praise on Adolf Hitler) and once in a while denies that it is Nazi, the party uses Nazi symbolism regularly (the party’s logo is similar to the Nazi Swastika, XA members have often given the Nazi salute, XA MPs wear Nazi symbols) and XA leaders and MPs continue to deny the Holocaust (Michaloliakos recently denied the existence of gas chambers and XA spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris, who has a Swastika tattoo, denies the Holocaust and has quoted from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) or use explicitly racist and anti-Semitic language (describing immigrants as sub-humans). Nevertheless, X also draws inspiration and ideological references from Greek history: Michaloliakos was briefly a member of EPEN, a far-right party founded by former dictator Colonel Georgios Papadopoulous (1967-1973), XA has praised the Colonel’s junta (the authoritarian military regime which ruled Greece from 1967 and 1974) and openly admires Ioannis Metaxas’ authoritarian-nationalist 4th of August Regime (1936-1940).
XA is radically anti-immigration – immigration has been an increasingly important phenomenon in Greece (and, nowadays, traditional Albanian immigration is slowly replaced by increased immigration from Pakistan and other Asian or African countries), and immigrants have been an easy scapegoat with the crisis (seen and depicted as stealing jobs from Greeks). XA called on the deportation of all immigrants from Greece while XA’s thugs have regularly beat up immigrants and non-whites. XA is also strongly anti-austerity, anti-bailout and anti-Euro; the party’s broader foreign policy expresses support for Greek irredentism and a very hardline stance on the Macedonian naming dispute. In a society marked by the breakdown of public services and increasing poverty, XA has built a strong grassroots support base by offering charitable and social services (food distribution, support for the elderly, protection for victims of crimes) explicitly reserved to Greek nationals or even XA members. In stark contrast to Golden Dawn’s “humanitarian” work, the party is distinguished from other far-right parties in Europe by its use of violence – XA’s blackshirt vigilantes and street gangs have regularly beaten up and assaulted immigrants and leftists (and often with the police’s silent acquiescence, given that the police is alleged to be tolerant or even supportive of XA) and Kasidiaris famously physically assaulted two left-wing MPs during a TV debate in 2012.
The May 2012 election was an ‘earthquake elections’ which saw the old political system destroyed and several new forces achieve remarkable success. ND won only 18.9% of the vote, the party’s worst result in its history, although it still topped the poll in an extremely exploded and fragmented political scene. On the left, PASOK collapsed into third place, winning only 13.2% of the vote – over 30% lower than in 2009. Left-wing (or far-left) anti-austerity SYRIZA replaced PASOK as the main party of the left, with 16.8% of the vote (a remarkable result for a party whose original ceiling was 5%); KKE, on the other hand, won a decent but comparatively paltry result of 8.5% (only a 1% improvement on its 2009 result and nowhere near the KKE’s historic highs). ANEL won 10.6%, making it the fourth largest party. XA surged to 7% of the vote and 20 seats, while LAOS’ support collapsed to 2.9% and it lost all 15 of its seats. DIMAR won 6.1% of the vote. In addition, the parties below the 3% threshold combined to win 19% of the vote (more than the largest party!), divided between greens (2.9%), three unambiguously pro-austerity and right-wing liberal parties (including DISY, 2.6%), far-left outfits and Greece’s hilariously fragmented communist parties. Even with Greece’s 50-seat majority bonus for the winning party (which historically provided one-party absolute majorities), no party or obvious coalition came close to commanding support of a majority of Parliament – Samaras, Tsipras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos (Papandreou’s former leadership rival and his last finance minister) all quickly failed in their bids to form governments and there was no solution but to call for new elections in June.
The June elections quickly polarized into a contest between ND and SYRIZA, erroneously simplified to a ‘referendum on the Euro’ (implying that a SYRIZA government would default and withdraw from the Eurozone, which may have been the case but SYRIZA claims to support Eurozone membership and the EU in the abstract) or perhaps more accurately a ‘referendum on austerity’ (although ND didn’t campaign on austerity per se, it was widely understood to be a vote ‘in favour’ of the memorandum conditions). EU leaders quickly made clear that Greece would either need to respect the second bailout deal and associated austerity or be compelled to default and withdraw from the Eurozone – therefore voting for SYRIZA became a double-edged sword: a vote against austerity (SYRIZA promised growth through consumption, tax increases on the rich and businesses, raising social benefits and wages and nationalization of banks and strategic sectors; it also said it would suspend loan repayments until growth returned and would renegotiate the interest due) but also a high likelihood of a messy default and ‘Grexit’ (which, most predicted, would have wreaked havoc and thrown Greece into an even deeper depression). In the high-stakes contest, both ND and SYRIZA saw their support increase: ND won the election with 29.7% and 129 seats against 26.9% and 71 seats for SYRIZA. All other parties except DIMAR lost votes: PASOK receded even further to 12.3%, ANEL lost over 3% and fell to 7.5% and the KKE collapsed, losing 4% and winning only 4.5%. XA’s support proved surprisingly resilient despite intense media focus on the party, holding 6.9% of the vote. DIMAR won 6.3%. Parties below the 3% threshold fell to only 6%, with severe loses for the liberal right (DISY allied with ND, a liberal DX-Drasi won only 1.6%), LAOS, the Greens and the far-left.
ND and Samaras were able to form a ‘pro-memorandum’ and ‘pro-Eurozone’ cabinet with the support of PASOK and DIMAR (the latter, a small centre-left party, criticized SYRIZA for not giving guarantees on continued Eurozone membership and sought a national unity coalition), although at the outset both PASOK and DIMAR declined to directly participate in the government itself and instead opted to propose independents and technocrats for their portfolios (in other words, let ND deal with most of the crap). The finance ministry went to Yannis Stournaras, an independent economist.
Samaras’ government came in facing a new crisis: the Troika was demanding that Greece find a further €13.5 billion worth of austerity savings (spending cuts and tax increases) for them to release the scheduled disbursement, while Athens asked for a two-year extension of the deadline for the country to be self-financed (out of the bailout). The Troika, especially the EU and ECB, were in little mood to be accommodating, judging that Greece had failed miserably at implementing past legislated reforms and often exasperated at Greek politicians’ behaviour. Within the government, Stournaras (and Samaras) found themselves somewhat undermined by PASOK and DIMAR, which at times were more interested by their own political calculations (in PASOK’s case, a desperate bid for survival) while DIMAR quickly became rather reluctant to support tough austerity measures. As in the last Parliament, the need for further austerity measures divided the major parties and have steadily reduced the sizes of the ND, PASOK and DIMAR from their election day levels. On November 7, the Parliament approved the sixth austerity package (despite protests, DIMAR’s abstention and some dissidents from ND and PASOK), with €13.5 billion in cuts and tax hikes between 2013 and 2016. The package included more cuts on pensions, salary cuts (for public servants, academics, judges, doctors), cutting 110,000 public sector jobs by 2016, an increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67 and capping earnings in parastatals. In exchange, the Troika agreed to reschedule Greece’s debt and grant Athens two more years to reach a primary budget surplus of 4.5% of GDP.
Some economic indicators showed a very minor improvement in 2013, although unemployment hit a record high of nearly 28% (up from 24% in May 2012) and the public debt further ballooned to 175.1% of GDP (but should now begin falling, to 154% of GDP in 2017). Nevertheless, the recession was ‘less severe’ as the economy shrank by ‘only’ 3.9% in 2013 compared to 7% in 2012. The budget balance was -12.7% in 2013, due to the one-off costs of bank recapitalization, but Greece posted its first structural budget surplus in 2013 (+2% of GDP). Tourism was good in 2013, and the economy is expected to grow for the first time since 2007 in 2014, with a 0.6% growth rate in 2014 and 2.9% in 2015 according to EC estimates. The government’s structural reforms and labour market reforms have been said to significantly improve the ‘ease of doing business’ in Greece, although foreign investors remain very slow to test the waters. Unemployment has declined slightly to 26.8% in March 2014 and the EC projects it will fall to 24% in 2015. Yields on ten-year bonds have fallen below 8%, from a peak of well over 40%. In April 2014, Greece returned to the international bond market after four years with a €3 billion issue of five-year bonds. Nevertheless, the recovery remains very slow and extremely fragile. Furthermore, when it comes, it will take years for Greece to recover fully from a six-year long recession – for example, Greece’s nominal GDP is now €181.9 billion compared to €233.2 billion pre-crisis, in 2008. The crisis and austerity have pauperized a very large share of the population, with estimates that about 35% of the population lives in poverty or a precarious situation. The recession has wiped out millions of jobs, shut down thousands of businesses, put over three-fifths of young Greeks out of work (and forced thousands to emigrate to Germany and other countries) and public services will likely be in ruins for years.
The Troika has warmed up to the Greek government and Samaras (whom they initially disliked for his behaviour while in opposition and his reckless talk of renegotiating the bailout), and, prodded by the IMF, has come around to accept that Greece will not be able to repay all the money it owes. However, the government has continued to be weakened by corruption/tax evasion cases and difficulties at implementing its reforms. Since 2012, the government – and PASOK – have been embroiled in a corruption/tax evasion case surrounding the handling of a list with the names of thousands of suspected tax evaders, which France had handed over to the PASOK government in 2010. Now, former PASOK finance minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou is alleged to have removed the names of three family members from the list before transferring its contents to a USB while the tax authorities never received instructions to further pursue the investigation. Papakonstantinou faces a parliamentary inquiry. Evangelos Venizelos, PASOK’s current leader (and foreign minister since June 2013), who was finance minister from 2011 to 2012, is said to have kept the USB in his drawer for more than a year before sending it to Samaras and Stournaras. The government’s privatization program has continuously failed to meet its targets. They managed to sell Opap, the state gambling monopoly, to a consortium of Greek and east European investors but a Russian Gazprom bid for DEPA, the natural gas monopoly, fell through. This means that Greece has failed to meet the original privatization target of €50 billion and has been forced to scale back its privatization goals repeatedly. Greece still faces funding gaps in 2014 and 2015, requiring more bailout funds. Since late 2013, there has been talks in high circles that Greece will need a third bailout.
In June 2013, Samaras unilaterally and peremptorily closed down ERT, the state broadcaster, and sacked its 2000+ employees; announcing that a much leaner organization will replace it. The government’s decision, likely made to impress Troika inspectors. Six days later, the Council of State suspended the government’s decision to interrupt broadcasting and shut down ERT’s frequencies while rebel journalists continued operating a rump channel on other frequencies. Although ERT was widely described as corrupt, mismanaged and politically subservient; Samaras’ unilateral decision, which was opposed by PASOK and DIMAR (in fact, only XA and LAOS supported the government’s shutdown of ERT), provoked a firestorm of opposition. DIMAR decided to withdraw from government in late June 2013, prompting a cabinet shuffle which saw PASOK politicians enter cabinet – with Evangelos Venizelos as deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister.
In late 2013, Parliament narrowly approved a 2014 budget with further austerity measures and a controversial new tax package and in March 2014, it approved structural reforms. In both cases, the government’s majority in Parliament was extremely narrow – at about 152 to 153 votes, just over the absolute majority threshold (151) and always vulnerable to more dissidents. SYRIZA has been clamoring for early elections for quite a while now, and may finally get its chance next year: in early 2015, the Parliament must elect a new President, a procedure which requires a three-fifths majority on the third ballot (two-thirds on the first two ballots), and if this majority is not met, mandatory new elections are held for Parliament. Together, ND and PASOK only have 152 seats left, in addition to 13 from friendly DIMAR and a large number of various dissidents sitting in a 17-strong independent caucus and 6 miscellaneous unattached independents. SYRIZA has said that it will not support any candidate for President, and if he and other parties (ANEL has never missed an opportunity to help SYRIZA undermine the coalition, while XA and the KKE would never offer support) and independents deny the government a 180-seat majority to elect a consensus president, new elections would be held by March 2015. The government insists that it will see Parliament to the conclusion of its constitutional term in 2016, but its majority is very shaky.
In a bid to increase its credibility and international support, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has attended several conferences and left-wing political rallies across the EU, becoming the posterchild for the EU’s fledgling anti-austerity and anti-neoliberal radical left. At home, SYRIZA has merged its many components in a single party (there was some question from the election law whether or not SYRIZA as a coalition rather than a united party would have been eligible for the 50-seat majority bonus at the polls) and broadened its base, welcoming ex-PASOK members or improving ties with Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church (still considered as the official religion and prominent in education). SYRIZA has not moderated its rhetoric, opposing austerity – promising to break ties with the Troika, audit Greece’s debt, undo many reforms and privatizations while still reassuring foreign audiences that SYRIZA does not want to leave the Eurozone. The KKE has continued to exist in its alternate reality, waging a war of words against SYRIZA (described as opportunists ‘making a systematic effort to rescue capitalism in the eyes of the working people’).
XA’s support has increased in polls since the last election, polling up to 15%. The party’s activities – charitable, violent and cultural (nationalist/fascist torch-lit rallies) – increased in 2012 and 2013, but the government, police, judiciary and Parliament dragged their feet on the question of XA – hesitating over which attitude to adopt against XA’s racist violence, hate speech (Holocaust denialism) and criminal activities. In September 2013, anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was murdered by an XA member in Athens, unleashing a wave of condemnation from all parties (XA included) and the government, and finally pushed Samaras to take stronger anti-fascist/anti-XA stances. A police crackdown led to the arrest of several XA members, including XA leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who remains in jail awaiting trial. Prosecutors are attempting to connect XA’s leadership to activities including murder, attempted murder, explosions, possessing explosives and robbery.
The EP elections were therefore fairly important in Greece, and they were tied to the runoffs in local and regional elections (the first round of those elections was held on May 18). SYRIZA topped the poll, as had been widely expected, with 26.6% of the vote, a result which is just below the party’s result in June 2012 (26.9%) and over 100,000 votes lower (turnout dropped from 62.5% to 60%, SYRIZA’s vote from 1.655 million to 1.518 million). While SYRIZA has been tied with ND or narrowly ahead in most polling for the next general election, the party has generally to consistently improve its predicted vote share on its June 2012 result. This may indicate that SYRIZA hit its new ceiling in June 2012, and now struggles to attract new voters from the rank of non-voters (the turnout in the EP election was high, but it was at an all-time low in June 2012) or other parties (the KKE has slightly improved on its disastrous 2012 result, to 6-8%, while DIMAR will likely fall below the 3% threshold in the next election). In the new open list system, SYRIZA’s most popular candidate (and MEP-elect) was 92-year-old war hero Manolis Glezos, who famously tore down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis in 1941 and then became a persecuted and later exiled icon of the Greek left. Since 1974, he has been a leftist writer and active in politics (for PASOK in the 1980s and Synaspismos/SYRIZA since the 2000s). He won more votes (448,971) than any other candidate.
ND, the senior governing party, did very poorly with only 22.7% and a bit less than 1.3 million votes, down from 29.7% and 1.825 million votes in June 2012. ND continues to poll much better – about at its 2012 levels or slightly below – in polling for the general election, but it may have done poorly at the EP and local elections as voters felt freer to oppose the government (without risking anything). Its coalition partner, PASOK, disguised itself as Elia (‘The Olive Tree’), an electoral alliance of PASOK and several new small parties (such as Agreement for a New Greece and Dynamic Greece, two small parties founded by former PASOK members). It won 8% and fourth place, down from 12.3% for PASOK in the last general election and a loss of nearly 300,000 votes. Nevertheless, 8% for Elia turned out to be a surprisingly strong performance from the moribund PASOK, which is polling at about 5-6% in national polls. Yet, a bad result is still a bad result, and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos’ hold on the fractious party was weakened by the weak result. Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, still a PASOK MP, seems to be organizing opposition to his old rival within PASOK, and Papandreou is said to have opposed PASOK’s transformation as Elia.
Some of PASOK’s lost support likely went to To Potami (The River), a new centre-left and pro-EU party founded in February 2014 by journalist and TV personality Stavros Theodorakis. The party can be placed on the centre-left of the spectrum (its MEPs have joined the S&D group, after hesitating with ALDE and the Greens) and it professes to be pro-European, but a lot about the new party is very vague – most of its talk revolves around meaningless buzzwords about reform, change and bland centrism/progressivism. Theodorakis toured the country with his backpack and gave low-key speeches on topics such as meritocracy and tax evasion. There have been claims that To Potami is financed by business interests to deny SYRIZA victory in the next elections, but Theodorakis denies such allegations. His party won 6.6% and two seats. The party did best in Crete (10.1%), an old Venizelist PASOK stronghold which has moved firmly into SYRIZA’s column since June 2012.
XA did very well, winning third place with a record 9.4% and 536,910 votes – in both cases, a marked improvement on its June 2012 result (6.92% and 426,025 votes). Although it no longer polls in the double-digits since the murder of Pavlos Fyssas and the crackdown on XA, the party has further expanded its base and retains a potential of up to 15-20% (based on polling regarding voters’ attitudes towards XA). Although the literature has often focused on XA’s activism in the populous central urban region of Attica (Athens-Piraeus), XA’s electorate is spread out across the country – it won 9.8% in the region of Attica (with results over 10% in all urban and suburban electoral districts of Athens and Piraeus) but its best prefecture was Laconia (15.5%), an old conservative stronghold in the southern Peloponnese, followed by the conservative Macedonian prefectures of Kilkis (13%) and Pella (12.8%).
The KKE expanded its support from 4.5% to 6.1% since the last election, which had been disastrous for the Communists, but 6.1% remains a weak result down on the KKE’s result in the pre-crisis 2009 EP election and on the low end of the Communist Party’s average range of support in the past. It has failed to regain a lot of the votes it had lost to SYRIZA in June 2012, when exit polls indicated that up to one-fifth of KKE’s May 2012 voters had voted for SYRIZA. In one of its terribly verbose and arcane Central Committee communiqués, the KKE announced that it would be leaving the GUE/NGL group (shared with SYRIZA) to sit as non-inscrits. It criticized the ‘altered nature’ of the group, which it claims has moved towards a single line (it blames Die Linke and, of course, SYRIZA for this development). The KKE had already been one of the least loyal members of the GUE/NGL, and the KKE’s 1950s-style Soviet-Stalinist silliness has been increasingly out of place in the GUE/NGL which has increasingly moved towards hip, New Left-style movements focused on immediate concerns (anti-austerity, anti-liberalism etc) and new ideologies (feminism, environmentalism).
ANEL did poorly, taking just 3.5% and narrowly clearing the threshold. This is down on 7.5% in the last general election (itself down on over 10% of the vote in May 2012) and a loss of nearly 265,000 votes. The party has been weakened by infighting and perhaps less interest in Panos Kammenos’ flamboyant antics; I presume that many of ANEL’s voters may have shifted to XA, although exit polls from June 2012 indicated that ANEL’s losses largely split between SYRIZA and ND with only limited loses to XA.
Several parties won significant support below the threshold. LAOS, defending two MEPs, won 2.7%, a weak result nonetheless up on the party’s June 2012 result (1.6%). ‘Greek European Citizens’ was a liberal list led by German FDP MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (German-born, but of Greek descent), whose Hellenophilia and opposition to Greek austerity had become a poor fit in Germany’s FDP. The right-wing liberal list (Bridges), an alliance of Drasi and Recreate Greece (DX), won only 0.9%. It won 1.4%, with very strong results in random prefectures (Grevena in West Macedonia – 12.5%, Lasithi and Heraklion in Crete – 14.4% and 7%). DIMAR won only 1.2%, a terrible result which is a poor sign for the party ahead of potential early elections in 2014/2015. The Union for the Homeland and the People (1%) is a new right-wing party led by former ND Minister of Public Order Vyron Polydoras (2006-2007), who voted against a tax bill in late 2013 and had previously called for ND to work with XA against the Troika, and ex-ND/ANEL MP Christos Zois. The Greens, defending one MEP, won only 0.9% of the vote.
One small party had tremendously local appeal: the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace (KIEKF/ΚΙΕΦ), a small party representing the small Muslim minority in Thrace (Turkish and Pomak) and which had at least one MP in the Parliament between 1996 and 2012 in alliance with PASOK (or ND, in 2004) but lost its seats after supporting DISY in May 2012 and DIMAR in June 2012. The party won 0.75% nationally, but won 41.7% in Rhodope prefecture (which is majority Muslim) and 25.9% in Xanthi prefecture (which has a very large Muslim minority) in Thrace. Except limited support in Evros (1.5%), the party won only 172 votes (out of 42,627) outside of those three prefectures!
Local and regional elections were overwhelmingly (and, compared to 2010 result, unusually) dominated by local considerations with weaker results for SYRIZA but also ND, while independent candidates – often elected on PASOK’s ballot in 2010 – did well. The major races were the mayoral contests in Athens and Thessaloniki – both cities gained by PASOK-backed candidates against ND administrations in 2010, and the governorship of the region of Attica (won by PASOK in 2010, the first election for regional governments following a regional and municipal downsizing and restructuring plan passed by PASOK alongside austerity measures). In Athens, incumbent independent mayor Giorgios Kaminis – backed by PASOK and DIMAR – was reelected in a tight runoff ballot against SYRIZA candidate Gavriil Sakelaridis, winning 51.4% to 48.6%. In the first round, the incumbent won 21.1% against 20% for SYRIZA, 16.9% for ND, 16.7% for Ilias Kasidiaris (XA) and 7.4% for the KKE. However, SYRIZA narrowly won the Attica region, with 50.8% in the runoff against the independent (ex-PASOK) incumbent; in the first round, SYRIZA won 23.8% against 22.1% for the incumbent, with ND (14.1%), XA (11.1%) and the Communists (10.7%) trailing. With a population of 3.8 million and the largest GDP of all regions in the country, Attica is by far the most important of Greece’s 13 regions and the office of regional governor is one of the most important devolved government positions in Greece – therefore, it will be SYRIZA’s first chance to lead a government. In Thessaloniki, popular incumbent left-wing mayor Yiannis Boutaris was reelected with 58.1% in the runoff against a ND candidate (a former Minister for Macedonia and Thrace); in the first round, SYRIZA won only 10.6% against 36% for Boutaris (who was backed by PASOK, DIMAR and Drasi) and 26.2% for ND. XA won 7.7%. In the region of Central Macedonia, the second-largest region (1.87 million) in Greece, independent conservative governor Apóstolos Tzitzikó̱stas (backed by ANEL, LAOS and Vyron Polydoras’ Union for the Homeland and the People) was reelected over a ND candidate (a former Greek basketball player and coach turned politician), with 71% in the runoff; in the first round, Tzitzikó̱stas won 32.8% against 18.6% for ND and 11.7% for SYRIZA.
ND won seven regions, SYRIZA won two while the remaining four regions were won by independent candidates. Besides Attica, the only other region won by SYRIZA were the Ionian Islands, where the radical left took 59.9% in the runoff against the ND incumbent. ND held Thessaly, while ex-PASOK independents incumbent held Crete and Western Greece in runoff battles against ND (by a very tight margin in the latter, by a landslide in the former). In mayoral contests, the KKE gained Patras (Greece’s third largest city), an independent (an ally of shipping tycoon and Olympiakos football club owner Vangelis Marinakis) gained Piraeus from ND, SYRIZA gained Larissa from ND while ND-DIMAR gained Heraklion from a PASOK independent.
Overall, according to an estimate by the pollster Public Issue, ND won 26.3% of the national local election vote on May 18 followed by SYRIZA (17.7%) and PASOK (16.2%). Independents and other parties won 11.5%, the KKE won 8.8%, XA won 8.1%, DIMAR won 3.8%, ANEL took 3.2% and far-left ANTARSYA won 2.3%. Compared to the 2010 local elections, ND’s support is down 6.3% and PASOK lost 18.5%, while SYRIZA gained nearly 13%. Compared to the last legislative elections in 2012, SYRIZA and ND are both down (-9.2% and -3.2% respectively) while PASOK is up (+3.9%) – as well as KKE (+4.3%) and XA (+1.1%). PASOK resisted well at the local and regional level, while SYRIZA’s performance was considerably weaker locally, but expectations for the radical left were low because SYRIZA lacks the local grassroots base of ND and PASOK. Therefore, SYRIZA was still counted as one of the main winners, while ND and PASOK both did comparatively poor. XA also did well, especially Ilias Kasidiaris in Athens, XA’s main local government base.
On June 9, Samaras shuffled his cabinet, changing several ministers and portfolios. Yannis Stournaras was replaced in finance by another technocrat, Gikas Hardouvelis, whose work will focus on structural reforms (liberalization of ‘closed professions’) and continuing the Troika’s reforms. Otherwise, the promotion of the right within cabinet was noted, with a new hardline conservative – Sofia Voultepsi (who claimed that refugees were ‘unarmed invaders’ controlled by ‘the Turks’) as government spokesperson while Makis ‘The Hammer’ Voridis, an hammer-wielding fascist and anti-Semite in his youth, returned to cabinet as health minister (a former member of LAOS, he was already a minister under Papademos and joined ND after LAOS left the Papademos cabinet).
Turnout: 28.97% (-7.34%)
MEPs: 21 (-1)
Electoral system: Closed list PR, no threshold (effectively 0.58%)
Fidesz-KDNP (EPP) 51.48% (-4.88%) winning 12 seats (-2)
Jobbik (NI) 14.67% (-0.1%) winning 3 seats (nc)
MSZP (S&D) 10.9% (-6.47%) winning 2 seats (-2)
DK (S&D) 9.75% (+9.75%) winning 2 seats (+2)
E2014-PM (G-EFA) 7.25% (+7.25%) winning 1 seat (+1)
LMP (G-EFA) 5.04% (+2.43%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Others 0.92% winning 0 seats (-1)
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s governing right-wing Fidesz won a landslide in the EP elections, a few months after Orbán was reelected to a second term in office in legislative elections back in April 2014. Orbán is a highly controversial leader in Europe, whose government and policies have been decried by foreign and local opponents as being dangerously autocratic and intolerant of criticism and democratic norms. Yet, fresh from a very comfortable victory to a second successive term in office back in April, Orbán is nevertheless still hugely popular at home and he is one of the EU’s strongest and most popular leaders. Orbán and his party have, since the fall of communism and the first free elections in 1990, evolved from an anti-communist and liberal/libertarian party of fiery student leaders to a conservative party with strong dirigiste inclinations on economic issues and a certain nationalist tint. Fidesz has been the strongest right-wing party in the country since 1998, traditionally the main rival to the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), which grew out of the old communist party into a very centrist and pro-European party which has often been keener than Fidesz on neoliberal economics or austerity polices. Orbán already served as Prime Minister between 1998 and 2002, before losing the 2002 and 2006 elections to a Socialist-Liberal (SZDSZ) coalition. However, the last MSZP-SZDSZ government, led by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány (2004-2009), led to the near-total destruction of the MSZP as a major party. Shortly after a narrow victory in 2006, a secret speech given by Gyurcsány was leaked; in this expletive-filled speech, Gyurcsány said that the government had been lying since he took office and that it had done nothing it could be proud of. Despite mass protests, Gyurcsány did not leave office until early 2009. In April 2009, Gyurcsány resigned and was replaced by Gordon Bajnai. A little-known politician, Bajnai cobbled together a coalition with the SZDSZ, and took office on a program of major spending cuts. The Hungarian economy was badly in crisis in 2009, with growth falling by nearly 7% and the country struggling to cope with a high deficit and the largest debt in Eastern Europe (80%). In 2008, the IMF and the EU granted Budapest a $25 billion loan, but Hungary needed to cut spending and implement painful structural reforms (pensions, most notably) to keep up with IMF guidelines. The government, despite resistance from sectors of the MSZP, cut spending by nearly 4% of GDP, cut social spending and public sector wages and cut social security contributions (to increase Hungary’s low employment rate). The government won plaudits abroad for its orthodox fiscal management, but with high unemployment (7.5% in 2006 to 11% in 2010), high corruption, criminality problems and the legacy of 2006, the MSZP remained deeply unpopular at home. In 2008, Fidesz, leading a policy of obstinate opposition to the government, had successfully organized and passed a referendum in which voters abolished healthcare user fees, daily fees for hospital stays and tuition fees introduced by the MSZP. The MSZP was defeated by Fidesz by wide margins in the 2006 local elections and 2009 EP elections.
The 2009 EP elections saw the strong performance of Jobbik, a far-right party which won 14.8% of the vote and 3 MEPs. Nationalism has been a key issue in Hungarian politics since 1920, and Hungary’s contemporary politics and political culture cannot really be understood without understanding the legacy of the Treaty of Trianon (1920) on Hungary. Defeated in World War I, Hungary lost 72% of its pre-war territory and 64% of its pre-war population; it also lost access to the sea and the country’s industrial base was separated from its sources of raw materials. Although the territory which Hungary lost had a non-Hungarian majority, large ethnic Hungarians minorities now lived outside the country’s border, especially in Slovakia and Romania. Since 1990, Hungarian governments have not sought a revision of the borders, but it has, from time to time, advocated for the rights of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries – there are substantial Hungarian minorities in neighboring EU member-states Slovakia (8.5%) and Romania (6.2%) and this has severely complicated and, at times, poisoned Hungary’s relations with its neighbors (especially Slovakia). The economic crisis led to an upsurge in nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment in Hungary. Politicians on the right, including many in Fidesz, lashed out at ‘foreign speculators’ and foreigners (and Jews) who allegedly controlled Hungary’s wealth, and irredentist visions of Greater Hungary also increased. Anti-Roma views, a favourite of the far-right across Eastern Europe (and now Western Europe), also gained steam. The Romas numbered around 309,000 in 2011 (3-4% of the population). The Hungarian far-right depicts them as criminals, stealing Hungarian jobs and leeching on welfare money.
Jobbik is a far-right and ultra-nationalist party founded in 2003; it is one of the EU’s most distasteful far-right parties, in a league of its own with the likes of XA. In 2007, Jobbik founded its own civilian militia/paramilitary group, the Magyar Gardá, a charming collection of uniformed thugs and fruitcakes. The Magyar Gardá was ordered to be disbanded by a court order in 2008. Jobbik has the traditional populist, anti-establishment, anti-globalization, ethno-nationalist, socially conservative anti-European rhetoric of much of the far-right, but it adds irredentism and particularly virulent anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic ramblings (it denies claims that it is anti-Semitic, claiming to be anti-Zionist/anti-Israeli, but denunciations of Israel/Jews as ‘conquerors’ and greedy capitalists is commonplace; and many Jobbik politicians have said anti-Semitic things in the past, and in 2012 a Jobbik deputy leader famously asked for the Jews in Parliament and government to be ‘tallied up’).
Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz roared to a tremendous landslide victory in the 2010 legislative elections, ending up with 52.7% of the vote and 263 out of 386 seats while the MSZP was absolutely obliterated, being reduced to only 19% and 59 seats. Jobbik won 16.7% and 47 seats. With a two-thirds majority, Fidesz and the very strong-headed Orbán quickly moved to shore up their own power over Hungarian politics. The result has been extremely contentious, giving Orbán (to outsiders, and many Hungarians) all the trappings of a Vladimir Putin-like autocratic leader who crushes independent institutions. Orbán quickly moved to dismiss the heads of several government agencies and institutions while a Fidesz drone was elected to the presidency. The government confronted the Constitutional Court after the highest judicial body invalidated a law which would impose a 98% tax to all public sector severance payments over $10,000, backdated to January 2010. Fidesz reacted with legislation which removed the Court’s power over the state budget, taxes and other financial matters; a few months later, it was the independent budget watchdog (the Fiscal Council) which was axed in favour of a new council stacked with Orbán allies.
In 2010 and 2011, a new media law attracted significant controversy, especially as debate coincided with Hungary’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2011. The new law forced all media outlets (print, broadcast, online) to register with a new media authority, which can revoke licenses for infractions and a new media council, which can impose fines for violating some very vaguely defined content rules, allegedly to protect the people’s ‘dignity’ or for ‘inciting hatred’ against minorities, majorities and so forth. The members of these new bodies are all nominated by the ruling party. The furor it raised caused Fidesz to temporarily retreat. In 2011, the Constitutional Court excluded print and online media from the scope of the media authority’s sanctioning powers and struck down clauses which limited journalists’ ability to investigate (confidentiality of sources etc). However, in 2012, the EU still felt that amendments to the law had not addressed most of its problems with Hungary’s law. Fidesz and its allies control most of the domestic media, and government is the largest advertiser in the country. In 2011, the media council did not renew the license of an anti-Orbán radio station. Under new media rules, the funding for the public media is now centralized under one body, which had laid off over a thousand employees as part of a streamlining process. There have been major concerns with regards to self-censorship by journalists and the pro-government sycophancy of much of the media. In 2013, Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press report rated Hungary as ‘partly free’.
In April 2011, the Parliament adopted a new constitution to replace one written by the communists in 1949 (but obviously heavily amended since 1989). The new constitution, described as socially and fiscally conservative, beginning with preamble references to the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen, God, Christianity, the fatherland and family values, a constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and a ‘golden rule’ limiting the public debt to 50% of GDP. Certain policy areas, such as family policy, taxation, pensions, public debt, morality, culture and religion were classified as areas of ‘cardinal law’ which may only be altered with a two-thirds majority. Clauses about ethnic Hungarians abroad, which opened the door to voting rights in Hungarian elections, irked Slovakia. The opposition MSZP and the green-liberal Politics Can Be Different (LMP) walked out of the drafting process, dominated by Fidesz, demanding a referendum on the matter and decrying the lack of consultation. However, with a two-thirds majority, Fidesz easily adopted the new constitution despite the opposition of the centre-left and far-right and protesters outside Parliament.
In 2013, new controversial amendments removed the Constitutional Court’s ability to refer to judicial precedent predating the January 2012 enactment of the constitution and may no longer reject constitutional amendments on matters of substance (only on procedural grounds). The amendments also included other laws struck down by courts in the past, including strict limits on advertising during election campaigns (a rule seen as favouring Fidesz).
A judicial reform placed significant power over the judiciary in the hands of the new National Judicial Authority, whose head is the wife of a Fidesz MEP who drafted most of the new constitution and whose powers include nominating many local and higher-court justices.
Upon taking office, the new government alarmed investors when some Fidesz leaders mentioned the word ‘default’ and warned that Hungary could become Greece. Foreign investors went into a frenzy, badly hurting confidence in the Hungarian economy even if its fundamentals were much stronger than those of Greece. Orbán quickly moved to smooth out the crisis by announcing new economic measures in June 2010: cuts in income and corporate taxes, the introduction of a 16% flat tax on incomes, a temporary windfall tax on banks, banning mortgages in foreign currencies and cuts in public spending. The government promised to reduce its budget deficit to 3.8% of GDP, a target agreed upon with the IMF and EU in 2008; its economic program aimed to reduce corruption, common petty scams and corrupt dealings in Hungarian businesses and create jobs.
The windfall tax on banks, aimed to raise 0.5% of GDP ($560 million), worried foreign banks in Hungary. In July 2010, the EU and IMF broke off talks with Budapest over the renewal of a $26 billion loan. The EU-IMF were worried about the windfall tax on banks, and demanded stronger commitments to spending cuts and structural reforms in state-owned enterprises. With talks broken off, Budapest announced new economic measures in October 2010: temporary ‘crisis taxes’ on largely foreign-owned telecommunication, energy and retail companies, renegotiation of public-private partnerships, a tax break for families with children and redirecting private pension fund contribution to the state. Orbán said that it was time for those with profits to ‘give more’. The main victims of the ‘crisis taxes’ on telecommunication, energy and retail were foreign companies. The government announced that those in the private pension system who didn’t opt back into the state pension fund would lose all rights to a state pension.
In 2011, the government detailed its spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit to a targeted 1.9% of GDP in 2014. These included an extension of the bank tax, but also cuts in state subsidies for disability pensions, drugs and public transportation and a postponement of corporate tax cuts (from 19% to 10%) until 2013. The government refused to call these measures ‘austerity’. In November 2011, after disappointing economic results, the government reopened talks for assistance (which it called ‘a safety net’) from the IMF. Although the government successfully cut the deficit in 2011, growth remained low, the forint fell and bond auctions failed. The government’s opponents gloated at the failure of Orbán’s ambitious gamble of ‘economic independence’ from the major global financial institutions. In December 2011, the EU and IMF once again broke off preliminary talks, over concerns over new legislation which weakened the powers of the governor of the central bank at the expense of the Prime Minister.
In early 2012, the European Commission launched legal action against Budapest on three issues (independence of the central bank, independence of a new data protection authority, the forced retirement of over 200 judges who were older than 62), a decision which led to more nationalist flourish from Fidesz but did force Orbán to be a bit more conciliatory.
Hungary’s economy faces challenges – the country slipped back into recession in 2012 and growth was only 1.1% in 2013 and Hungary remains Central/Eastern Europe’s most indebted country (79% of GDP) – but the deficit has fallen to only 2.2% of GDP and unemployment has recently declined below 10% (9.1%) and the overall economic performance has not been all negative. Furthermore, many aspects of Orbán’s populist and nationalist economic policies (denouncing the IMF/EU, high taxes on banks and largely foreign-owned companies, cuts in income taxes for families, a law allowing Hungarians to repay their mortgages in foreign currency at very good terms while banks are forced to swallow the difference) have been very popular with Hungarian voters. To the crowds, Fidesz plays very heavily on nationalist sentiments – with speeches from Orbán and his stooges decrying ‘colonization’, lashing out at foreign bankers, European bureaucrats and IMF technocrats, but is far more polished when actually working with said technocrats.
Fidesz’ case has also been helped by the centre-left’s increasing fragmentation and its troubles at picking up all the pieces from its historic defeat in 2010. The MSZP, led by the rather hapless Attila Mesterházy, has faced competition from two new parties led by former Prime Ministers: Ferenc Gyurcsány founded the Democratic Coalition (DK), a centre-left liberal party slightly to the right of the MSZP in 2011; Gordon Bajnai founded Together 2014 (E14) in collaboration with anti-Orbán civil society movements and later teamed up with Dialogue for Hungary (PM), a party founded by dissidents from the green LMP over the LMP’s refusal to ally itself with E14 and later the MSZP and DK. The MSZP, DK, E14-PM and a new Liberal Party formed a common front – Unity – for the April 2014 elections.
Despite a very anti-Orbán campaign from the centre-left, it was no match for Fidesz, which was easily reelected with a reduced majority. Fidesz won 44.9% against 25.6% for Unity and 20.2% for Jobbik; but thanks to Hungary’s mixed-member system (lacking a compensatory element) and Fidesz’s changes to it, Fidesz was able to narrowly retain its highly important two-thirds majority in Parliament. During the campaign, the ruling party was also unduly advantaged by “restrictive campaign regulations, biased media coverage and campaign activities that blurred the separation between political party and the State” (citing the OSCE’s report) which resulted in Fidesz’s domination of the airwaves. Nevertheless, the election was still won fair and square by Orbán, while the liberal and pro-European centre-left barely improved its result from 2010. Offering clear and tangible benefits to a large mass of voters and a simple populist-nationalist message, Fidesz blew the centre-left – mostly reliant on sophisticated attacks on Orbán’s autocratic tendencies and purported threats to democracy – out of the water. The far-right, which also has a clear and simple message (the vilification of enemies, real or imagined, the creation of scapegoats and a campaign more populist than extremist), also did well. Orbán, like Jobbik to a lesser extent, has created and mobilized a mass following for himself, with supporters who worship him as a nationalist icon fighting for freedom and national sovereignty.
Cultural arguments, as I had explained in my post on the Hungarian elections back in April (see link above), would posit that Orbán (and Jobbik’s) popularity in Hungary stems from the absence of a long experience with democracy (under Miklós Horthy in the interwar era and then under communist rule during the Cold War) and a tradition of strongmen who still retain some amount of goodwill (Miklós Horthy, who remains a controversial icon for nationalists, and communist-era dictator János Kádár), which has in turn created a yearning for ‘strong leaders’ (like Orbán) who embody national unity and express some sort of ‘siege mentality’ (particularly powerful in Hungary, which continues to struggle with the Trianon trauma/tragedy). Additionally, what experience Hungary has with democracy since 1989 has been tainted by corruption (although Orbán is no cleaner himself and a new camarilla of petty oligarchs dependent on Fidesz largess has replaced an old petty oligarchy who prospered under the MSZP) and unpopular neoliberal/capitalist policies. The economic reforms in the 1990s did not produce the sense that things are looking up, breeding a lingering current of negative views towards ‘capitalism’. The claim is that the neoliberal reforms resulted in foreign intrusion, the cheap selling out of Hungary’s wealth and businesses, unemployment, corruption, inefficient government and increased criminality. The left has accepted capitalism as the doxa or dominant paradigm, but to voters instinctively angry at the ‘capitalist’ system, only Jobbik and, to a lesser extent, Orbán present appealing alternatives. The left, in part due to its own failures and in part thanks to a pro-Fidesz media, has been associated with neoliberal reforms and corruption (indeed, during the April campaign, a MSZP stalwart was arrested for tax evasion – $1,000,000 in a secret account in Austria); it has additionally failed to renew its leadership (Gyurcsány is damaged goods, Mesterházy’s competence is limited and only Bajnai seems more solid) or its base (it has an aging electorate, while Jobbik eats up young anti-system voters).
In a very low turnout and low-stakes election, Fidesz performed very well, taking 51.5% of the vote. It was one of the largest victories for a ruling party in these EP elections (after Malta, which has a very stable two-party system), although the record low turnout means that Fidesz’s raw vote was quite poor (1.19 million, down from 2.26 million in April 2014 and the lowest vote for Fidesz in an EP election). For the centre-left, after uneasy unity in April, the EP election was to be a ‘safe’ chance for each party to measure its forces and prove itself independently. The result was an absolute disaster for the MSZP, which won 10.9%, the party’s lowest result in its history (with only 252,000 votes). It ended up in a terrible third place, placing behind Jobbik. While Jobbik’s second place showing, the first time it has come second in a national election, is highly symbolic and only intensifies the blow to the MSZP, the far-right’s result was fairly paltry: Jobbik’s popular vote share is down significantly on its historic 20.2% it took in April 2014 and down from its 2009 EP election result. I suppose, in a low turnout election, its poor showing can be attributed to Jobbik’s base of protest voters in low-income small town regions not showing up. Turnout was indeed below average in many of Jobbik’s strongholds in the east of the country, and significantly above average in Budapest (38.8%), where Jobbik has its worst results in the country.
Jobbik’s second place showing owes to the division of the left. The MSZP remained the largest centre-left party, but its three rivals had strong showings: Ferenc Gyurcsány’s DK won 9.8% and proved to be a strong challenge to the MSZP not only in urban Budapest but also in rural areas (12% in the metro districts and county towns, 9.3% in cities and 6.6% in villages; Gordon Bajnai’s E14-PM won 7.3% with a strong performance in the largest urban areas (10.5%) but poorer results in towns and villages (5.6% and 3.7% respectively) while the green-liberal LMP, which had saved its parliamentary presence by a hair in April (5.3%) barely passed the threshold this time again (5.04%). In Budapest, the traditional redoubt of the left (especially in this era of Fidesz hegemony), the MSZP placed fourth behind Fidesz (43.8%), DK (13.1%) and E14-PM (13.1%) with only 11.5%. Jobbik won only 9.9% in the Hungarian capital, and the LMP won 7.9%. The MSZP did best in Csongrád County (16.7%, including the university town of Szeged) and the poor eastern counties of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg (14.6%) and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén (13.2%); the DK and E14-PM both had their best results in Budapest, although DK also did well in Komárom-Esztergom County (11.6%) and Baranya County (10.6%). The far-right’s best result came from Heves County (22.9%), a poor eastern county home to Jobbik leader Gábor Vona (he is from Gyöngyös). Jobbik also broke 20% in neighboring Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén and Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok counties.
Next: Italy – complex and confusing as always, but so fascinating every time, requires its own separate post to clearly break down a very significant EP election result.
Greece 2012 – Second Coming
Legislative elections were held in Greece on June 17, 2012. All 300 members of Greece’s unicameral legislature, the Vouli ton Ellinon, were up for reelection. This election comes only a bit more than a month after a previous general election, on May 6, proved inconclusive as no government could be formed based on the election’s results.
For a quick reminder, Greece uses a modified and basically rigged form of proportional representation. There is a 3% threshold for representation in Parliament, and seats are distributed to 56 electoral constituencies (48 of which are multi-member) through rules which nobody bothers understanding. The most important aspect of Greek electoral law, however, is the “majority bonus”, which awards 50 seats to the party which wins the most votes. This means that a party can win an absolute majority in Parliament with only 39% of the vote. The remainder of the seats will be distributed proportionally to parties who have won over 3% of the vote on the basis of valid votes and excluding votes cast for parties which did not meet the threshold. Voting is compulsory in Greece but the law is not strictly enforced, turnout reached a record low of only 65% in May.
These elections, like the last elections in May, remain, of course, heavily conditioned by Greece’s economic situation. The Greek economy remains on the verge of collapse, still crumbling under the weight of recession and a public debt crisis of phenomenal proportions. The country’s economy remains mired in recession with little prospect for recovery in the near future, and the successive austerity packages imposed on Athens by its foreign creditors have created a dangerous climate of social tensions, political radicalization and a total loss of faith or confidence in traditional democratic institutions.
The general elections on May 6 confirmed the ire of Greek voters towards their traditional political leaders and the explosion of Greece’s old two-party system. The two old parties, the conservative New Democracy (ND) and the old centre-left Socialists (PASOK) won only 32% of the vote together, and ND emerged as the largest party with only 18.9% of the vote. ND was crippled; PASOK was almost utterly destroyed. Smaller parties, almost all of them fairly ‘radical’ in their attitudes towards the successive EU-IMF imposed austerity and bailouts, were the main beneficiaries. SYRIZA, a ‘radical’ left-wing party who campaigned on a platform supporting Euro membership but visceral opposition to the terms of the bailout, won 16.8% and placed a strong second behind ND. The hardline Communists won 26 seats, but far more worryingly, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (XA) party won 7% of the vote and 21 seats.
These results, which gave no majority to ‘pro-austerity’ ND and PASOK, meant that no stable government could possibly be formed. SYRIZA was unwilling to cooperate with PASOK, while it was unable to gather support to form an anti-austerity coalition with other anti-austerity parties – given that one of them are outright Nazis and the other are crackpot Stalinists who hate SYRIZA, this is no surprise. As per Greek law, when government formation talks failed, the President was forced to call for snap elections and appoint an interim technical government to manage the day-to-day affairs of the country.
In any other country, this would make for amusing and entertaining politics, but in Greece, the stakes are so high. The country’s economy is teetering on the edge of collapse. Its foreign creditors have temporarily halted their loans to the country and warn that they could suspend them if political stability is not restored. The government is struggling to pay public sector wages and pensions, and the entire healthcare system is collapsing. There are fears that Greece will invariably be forced to default and eventually leave the Eurozone entirely, which would entail a deep economic collapse in Greece and likely across Europe. These fears have sparked a mini bank-run, with a large number of persons withdrawing their cash, in Euros, from their banks.
This election evolved into a straight contest between ND and SYRIZA, who emerged in May as the top leaders of their respective camps: the pro-austerity and anti-austerity camps, that is. For opponents of the austerity-inducing bailout packages and left-wingers, SYRIZA has become the sole credible alternative which is willing to govern. The party’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, a young and fiery populist, has struck a chord with his simple and appealing message of keeping Greece in the Eurozone while basically scrapping the austerity policies. Tsipras boldly argues that accepting the bailout terms is not a precondition for Greece staying in the Eurozone. He wants to boost the collapsing economy through consumption. His main promises include an audit of the public debt, nationalizing main banks, an increase in retirement pensions, unemployment benefits and the minimum wage, abolishing tax loopholes for ship owners and the creation of many new jobs in the public sector. You can find details about the platform here.
This election has been billed as a referendum on Greek membership in the Eurozone, though it would be more accurate to style it as a referendum on the bailout conditions. A vast majority of Greek voters support the Euro, but on the other hand, an equally large majority of voters oppose the austerity measures which have been imposed on the country. SYRIZA has been able to profit from these conflicting attitudes, which are, in reality, fairly contradictory. It has presented itself as pro-European, but radically anti-austerity. In reality, however, can SYRIZA realistically hope that Greece remains the Eurozone when Germany, Brussels and the IMF have shown no willingness to reopen or renegotiate the austerity deal, and seem willing and/or resigned to “let Greece go”?
As much as Tsipras’ campaign was bold, confident and fiery; ND led a cautious campaign. ND has emerged as the main representative of pro-austerity forces, and its leader, Antonis Samaras, has played it very cautious in this go-around. Gone are the various populist vote-winning promises of the last election, rather it has preferred to run a campaign urging voters to be realistic about Greece’s European future and warning that a SYRIZA victory would spell ruin for Greece (as the country would risk returning to the drachma in a disorderly fashion). ND managed to form an electoral alliance with the small liberal DISY, led by a former ND cabinet minister, which won 2.6% and no seats in the last election. In the same spectrum, PASOK, found itself trying desperately to prevent an electoral armageddon for the party. ND’s emergence as the anti-SYRIZA, pro-austerity party has seriously marginalized PASOK, which has played an even more low-key campaign. At this point in time, PASOK is fighting for its political survival.
Other anti-austerity parties also found themselves marginalized in this campaign. This is especially true for the KKE, which, somewhat to my surprise, started the campaign at a much lower level than where it was in May. It appears as if even KKE’s usually loyal voters opted to vote for SYRIZA, as the KKE continued to refuse any role in any government majority. Similarly, the right-wing anti-austerity Independent Greeks (ANEL) also entered the campaign at somewhat lower levels of support. Finally, the neo-Nazi XA also lost a good share of their May 6 vote during the campaign, likely because they were unable to resist the media spotlight which ended up scaring away a lot of its first time voters. During the campaign, at a TV debate, a XA candidate physically attacked a Communist candidate.
Turnout was 62.47%, a new all-time low after having already reached a previous all-time low (65%) in May. Once again, the economic crisis has not just worked to the benefit of the old third parties and new political actors, but has also significantly increased the number of non-voters in a country where turnout was usually well over 70% in the past. Political institutions, parties and politicians have lost a great deal of legitimacy and trust with the advent of the economic crisis. In contrast, only 0.99% of votes were blank or invalid, down from 2.58% in May. Results were as follows:
ND-DISY 29.66% (+8.26%) winning 129 seats (+21)
SYRIZA 26.89% (+10.11%) winning 71 seats (+19)
PASOK 12.28% (-0.9%) winning 33 seats (-8)
ANEL 7.51% (-3.1%) winning 20 seats (-13)
XA 6.92% (-0.05%) winning 18 seats (-3)
DIMAR 6.25% (+0.15%) winning 17 seats (-2)
KKE 4.5% (-3.98%) winning 12 seats (-14)
(total below threshold: 5.98%)
DX-Drasi 1.59% (-2.36%) winning 0 seats (nc)
LAOS 1.58% (-1.32%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Greens 0.88% (-2.05%) winning 0 seats (nc)
All others below 0.5% 1.93% (-4.69%) winning 0 seats (nc)
IGraphics.gr has a wonderful interactive map, which can hardly be beaten.
In this unofficial referendum over Greece’s economic future, the centre-right ND – which is generally pro-austerity (regardless of whatever posturing they do) and favourable to the gist of the EU-IMF bailout – narrowly won the election.
The first election in May was really a massive free for all, and a dictionary definition for protest voting (or voting with the middle finger) taken to its fullest extent. Many voters, in May, let out their anger and frustration with their country’s economic state by casting their votes for new (or old) small parties, many of which did not pass the 3% threshold for representation. While there were still two general competing ‘ideologies’ in May – pro and anti-austerity, both camps were divided between their various ‘factions’ and avatars (and there are many – from neoliberals to ND-PASOK’s old patronage machines; or from Stalinists to outright Nazis), and nobody really emerged as a clear winner.
This month, while protest voting, to be sure, was still a major factor, voters didn’t use their middle fingers all that much and, in large part, votes coalesced around ND and SYRIZA – which had emerged in May as the strongest pro and anti-austerity parties respectively. Fears about the country’s future economic and political prospects played a much greater role in this campaign, and after the disastrous experience of May, there was a much stronger motivator to vote for parties which could form a stable government.
The result was that both ND and SYRIZA significantly increased their support compared to the May election. ND, which represented the generally ‘pro-austerity’ or, perhaps more accurately (given that Samaras didn’t exactly sing the praises of austerity in the campaign) a vaguely pro-memorandum, centre-right anti-SYRIZA party, gained about 8.3% compared to what it and DISY (Bakoyannis’ small liberal splinter from ND which joined ND ahead of these snap elections) won in May. In doing so, it killed off any chances which the new liberal and clearly pro-austerity DX-Drasi alliance might have had (if the two parties had ran together in May they would have won seats) of doing well in this election. It must have taken votes from PASOK – though PASOK is at a point where its remaining voters are probably born-and-bred parochially Socialist – but also from the right-wing but anti-austerity ANEL (by fear of a radical left government?) and the. LAOS, the “old” (and far more pleasant – how things have changed!) far-right party, lost all its seats in May and lost another 1% of its May popular vote, likely to ND. There has always been some symmetry between the two parties, given that ND – regardless of what the clueless media writes – has always had a soft nationalist side to it.
In practical terms, the election results gave 162 seats – a bare 11 seat absolute majority – to ND and PASOK, historically the bitter enemies of Greek politics, but forced towards reconciliation as moderate pro-memorandum parties by the forceful emergence of the likes of SYRIZA, ANEL and XA. PASOK, in a last bid to appear as still vaguely left-leaning, announced that it would not participate in a government without SYRIZA (arguing that a ND-PASOK government weighing only 42% of voters would be illegitimate – but PASOK won its majority in 2009 with only 43%…), but, unsurprisingly, it threw this weird posturing out the window and will swallow its pride and form government with Samaras, complemented by DIMAR, a small moderate left-wing and vaguely pro-Eurozone party. This new ND-PASOK-DIMAR coalition holds 179 seats, a much more comfortable 28 seat majority.
Besides ND, SYRIZA was, of course, the other main winner of this election. Strong from a close second place finish in May, SYRIZA clearly established itself as the left-wing party of choice for those voters who opposed austerity or the EU-IMF bailout. Because this election was a must-win contest for both ND and SYRIZA, the latter’s very narrow defeat will definitely be a bit disappointing for them, but in the wider realm of things, this is a spectacular result for a party which was polling only 4% as recently as 2009-2010. Alexis Tsipras has gone from the young (unknown outside of Greece) leader of an also-ran third party which seemed destined to continued marginalization to the vocal, charismatic and fiery leader of the main anti-austerity force in the Greek political and economic crisis, with international recognition and a very strong following at home. Tsipras will now have the chance to prove himself and his fairly young and relatively unknown or misunderstood party as the main opposition in the new Parliament. Of course, in these conditions, opposition is a much more lucrative position in the long-term than being government. If Tsipras and SYRIZA prove themselves to be credible and competent in opposition, they are promised an even greater future, in political and electoral terms.
What SYRIZA did is quite spectacular. Indeed, it has done what so many non-dominant socialist left-wing parties in Europe (notably the IU in Spain) have always dreamt of: outrunning the dominant social democratic centre-left parties and replacing them as the dominant force of the ideological left. It took an economic depression of phenomenal proportion and a social and political crisis for SYRIZA to achieve this, but it has perhaps irrevocably changed Greek politics. It must now live up to expectations, but that is much more easily done when one can reap the luxuries of opposition.
Interestingly, the results of these elections show a little move back towards a two-and-a-half party system, though weaker than the old system which prevailed since the fall of the Colonels. ND has remained the main right-wing – or more accurately, the pro-memorandum party – in this system, but SYRIZA has seemingly, for now at least, replaced PASOK as the main left-wing party; while PASOK could be relegated to the position of perennial third, formerly occupied by the KKE.
PASOK’s results could have been much worse, considering that it has absolutely nothing going for it at this point. It remains a discredited party, both by the left and right, since its last stay in power; it is no longer one of the top two parties of Greek politics (unlike ND), meaning that it is no longer a patronage party; and it has a very hard time finding a voice, hesitating between maintaining appearances as even remotely left-leaning or playing along with ND in a game in which it would be marginalized and dwarfed by ND. The party lost about 1% of its vote compared to an already disastrous performance in May, and ends up with a new record low, which places it below 13% of the vote. It would be interesting to analyse who are PASOK’s last remaining voters, resisting the SYRIZA onslaught, but from my (admittedly cursory) knowledge, my hypothesis is that, like in May, PASOK has been limited to core, rock-ribbed base of ancestral or traditional PASOK voters, not necessarily (and in fact, probably not) left-leaning in ideology.
ANEL, a populist right-wing, nationalist and anti-austerity, won over 10% of the vote in May, boosted by its charismatic rabble-rousing leader, Panos Kammenos, a former ND cabinet minister. Nowadays, it has little in common with ND, which it generally brands as traitors, and ironically has far more in common – at least as far as opposition to austerity is concerned – with SYRIZA (though ANEL has an added nationalist-conservative and anti-German rhetoric which SYRIZA does not have). It lost a bit over 3% of the votes compared to the May election. The party is rather thin on substance, banking heavily on its charismatic populist leader, so its star was set to fade after its great performance in the very protest-oriented May election. Once again, the mood in the May election was a free-for-all attitude of protest voting, with little concern for the formation of a stable government. In the government negotiations in May, ANEL played its role in creating the deadlock, by refusing to work with the ‘traitors’ (ND and PASOK) although I believe it would have agreed to work with SYRIZA if an anti-austerity cabinet without the Nazis and the KKE had had a majority. In this election, the concern of forming a stable government and the resulting re-polarization of the election around ND and SYRIZA likely had a significant impact on ANEL’s vote, which is probably not as rock-ribbed anti-system as XA’s vote is. It is hard to say, with my cursory knowledge, where its lost voters went given the general incompatibility with both ND (on the issue of austerity and the memorandum) and SYRIZA (on general ideology and nationalism), although I would bet more towards ND.
Perhaps most interesting and surprising was XA’s performance. The neo-Nazi party held its vote remarkably well, losing less than a tenth of percentage point in the end, when most polls had shown that the party, which won 6.97% in May, would win a somewhat lower share of the vote (4-6%). Most had thought that the recent media spotlight on XA’s various insanities – like the physical assault on a KKE deputy or its open Nazism – would throw cold water on some voters who voted for XA without exactly knowing what XA really was. I would wager that it was less XA’s repulsive ideology than its general anti-system, anti-establishment, radical nationalist and populist rhetoric which won it that many votes. However, clearly – but fairly understandably – there must be a large share of “shy Nazi” voters who do not want to admit to a XA vote, but who nonetheless vote for XA in the secrecy of the voting booth. It would seem as if those who voted XA in May – and almost all of them had not previously voted for the party – were resolutely anti-system, and were unmoved by the various attacks on the party (likely believing Michaloliakos when he raves about a media conspiracy to silence him) and the calls for a stable majority. In very large part, they confirmed their vote in this election.
DIMAR was the only smaller party to see an increase in its vote share, although only minimally. Given its history but perhaps most importantly its position on the political spectrum as a moderate and fairly social democratic party which supports a renegotiation of the memorandum only with a guarantee that Greece will remain in the Eurozone, its voters, a lot of whom must have come from PASOK’s 2009 electorate, were perhaps less attracted to Tsipras’ more radical creed of scrapping the memorandum and the unspoken risk of leaving the Eurozone as a result. The party’s actual views and positions on the issue remain rather vague, because they aren’t totally anti-austerity but certainly are not as pro-austerity/memorandum as ND is portrayed to be. Nonetheless, the party has taken the (politically courageous) decision of supporting (without joining) Antonis Samaras’ new government, thus forming a ND-PASOK-DIMAR coalition of sorts which DIMAR had kind of rejected in May.
This election was an unmitigated disaster for the KKE, which saw its support nearly cut in half and reduced to its lowest results in at least 20 years. In May, the KKE had won a good but not great result, which they, of course, interpreted as a sign that the Revolution was around the corner and that they could continue playing its Stalinist games. The KKE has been locked in its archaic ideology and style since the 1990s, without ever suffering excessively from it, given that it could count on a base of voters which were likely ideologically or socially attached to the KKE without being too displeased by its attitude of constant opposition and its perennial use of Stalinist language. Until this year, the KKE never really faced a very strong challenge in its own backyard on the left, but in establishing himself and SYRIZA as a dominant political force, Tsipras has also managed to strike what could be a mortal blow to the KKE.
Tsipras presented himself as a credible and fairly realistic but still clearly left-wing alternative, notably with his proposals for a major stimulus/recovery plan. This is more than what can be said for the KKE, which played its role in the May deadlock by continuing its Stalinist antics and keeping up with its vociferous hatred for the “opportunists” (SYRIZA). The image which KKE gave off right after the May election was of an obviously archaic party which actually had little in the way of credible policy and categorically refused to partake in the country’s governance. It seems as if even its own usually loyal voters saw this image and reacted negatively to it, by abandoning, in large part, the KKE in favour of a strategic vote for SYRIZA, the ‘credible’ left-wing and anti-memorandum option. The KKE responded to this situation by branding SYRIZA as an opportunist bourgeois force, in cahoots with foreign powers and global finance. And, of course, the KKE’s assessment of these elections is that its poor result is due to outside forces, blackmail, intimidation and fear; certainly not to its own faults!
The major re-polarization of this election was most apparent with parties who did not pass the 3% threshold. Together, they won over 19% in May and formed the largest “political force” when combined. Only a month later, they weighed a mere 6%. All these ‘third parties’ which had ran in May lost a significant amount of their votes, further proving that May was very much a massive free-for-all election. The new liberal alliance formed by DX and Drasi, which would have won seats in May had they run together, won only 1.6% of the vote, clearly marginalized and hence crushed by re-polarization around ND. LAOS continued its descent into the abyss, losing 1.3% of the vote and being reduced to a paltry 1.6%. SYRIZA’s pressure was very heavy on the Greens, who had toyed with the idea of running on a joint slate with SYRIZA. They probably should have, judging by their results: 0.9% against 2.9% in May, erasing three years of slow gains by the Greek Greens. Another party which suffered particularly heavily from SYRIZA’s gains was ANTARSYA, a small far-left outfit with a wonderful name (Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow), which won 1.2% in May but only 0.3% this month.
The geography of this election was broadly similar to that of the May election, except that PASOK came first in no district this month. SYRIZA’s map clearly shows the extent to which the party has recouped much of PASOK’s old base – and now parts of the KKE base. Crete, the historical bastion of PASOK, saw all four prefectures back SYRIZA in this election, though PASOK still pulled over 20% in two of these prefectures. In the urbanized conglomeration of Attica (Athens, Piraeus and their suburbs), SYRIZA has emerged, once again, as the main force – particularly in the Piraeus and Athens’ working-class suburbs, though not in Athens proper (ND came first in the traditionally conservative city). PASOK, in turn, was once again obliterated in Attica, the country’s premier industrial region, and obviously the region which has seen the most of the social unrest which has shaken the country in the recent years. XA won some of its best results (9-10% in some parts, peaking at 14-16%) in Attica.
Antonis Samaras’ new government will probably not include any PASOK or DIMAR cabinet ministers, both parties having announced that they would only provide parliamentary backing to the new government. The new government faces a daunting task, held hostage by a wrecked economy and a state apparatus on the verge of collapse. This new cabinet will be greeted by a sigh of relief by decision makers in Berlin, Brussels but also Paris and Washington, given that ND is far more likely to adhere to the EU-IMF’s bailout conditions. Samaras has pledged a renegotiation of the most onerous parts of the deal, and creditors have shown some willingness in reopening some parts of the deal. However, Samaras is left with very little leeway here, and will probably need to quickly acquiesce to more stringent conditions. ND’s defeat does not necessarily eliminate the risk of a Greek exit from the Eurozone – far from it – nor does it ensure that the worst is behind.
Besides some phenomenally huge economic challenges, the new government also faces an uncertain political situation and the real risk of continued social unrest. While SYRIZA has promised resolutely tough opposition and warned that ND will not be able to renegotiate the bailout deal, ND is backed by two parties who, having contributed no ministers to the cabinet could be ready to pull the plug if they feel things are not going their way. In the end, this government’s lifespan could end up being pretty short, and Greek voters might return to the polls as early as next year. The government will also face pressure from the street, where social unrest will certainly continue as Samaras will eventually be forced to agree to more tough austerity medicine in return for more bailout money to keep the country’s government afloat.
In electoral terms (and this is what this blog is all about after all!), the future prospects of all parties – especially the governing parties – will be heavily dependent on Greece’s economic performance in the coming months. If the situation worsens or even remains the same, which is unfortunately the most likely option at this point, the government could be hitting high unpopularity numbers very quickly, its partners could be looking to pull the plug to save their own turfs while SYRIZA could be standing to be the happy beneficiaries. If the situation somehow starts improving, the government could certainly benefit.
The country’s future might be marginally brighter than in May, but even then, Greece’s future – socially, economically and probably politically – still looks very bleak.
Legislative elections were held in Greece on May 6, 2012. All 300 members of Greece’s unicameral legislature, the Vouli ton Ellinon, were up for reelection. Toying around with Greek electoral law is a favourite of both main political parties in Greece, who have changed the electoral law – loosely based on proportional representation – countless times over the year. There is a 3% threshold for representation in Parliament, and seats are distributed to 56 electoral constituencies (48 of which are multi-member) through arcane rules. The most important aspect of Greek electoral law, however, is the “majority bonus”, which awards – beginning this year – 50 seats to the party which wins the most votes. In the last election, 40 seats were awarded to the largest party, this election is the first to be fought on a 2007 reform of the electoral law which made it even easier for a party to win an absolute majority – with 39% instead of 41-42%. The remainder of the seats will be distributed proportionally to parties who have won over 3% of the vote on the basis of valid votes and excluding votes cast for parties which did not meet the threshold. Voting is compulsory in Greece but the law is not strictly enforced, but turnout remains high at over 70%.
The evocation of ‘Greece’ in modern parlance no longer brings up beautiful islands or the Acropolis, rather it brings up a country at grips with a huge financial and economic crisis which has left Greece and its economy in ruins: a debt at over 160% of the GDP, an economy which shrunk by over 6% in 2011, a huge budgetary deficit, an unemployment rate at nearly 20%. The survival of the Eurozone country’s economy seems increasingly dependent on the good graces of the IMF and the EU (Germany in particular) which in return for their successive bailouts have imposed extremely stringent austerity measures which Greeks have found unpalatable and which has unnerved most of the traditional Greek political class.
Five austerity packages have been implemented by the government since 2010, entailing major wage cuts, public sector job loses, tax increases, spending cuts, pensions cuts and privatizations. Still unable to pay its bills, Athens was forced to ask for a bailout from the EU and IMF. In October 2011, the single-party Socialist government of Prime Minister George Papandreou staged a poorly managed and amateurish political gamble by announcing intentions to hold a referendum over the second bailout deal, which had just been agreed upon. Finally, in November 2011, Papandreou resigned and was replaced by a “technical” government led by Greek economist Lucas Papademos who formed a caretaker coalition government charged with implementing the second bailout and holding new elections. Papademos’ coalition government, largely made up of Socialists, received the support of the main opposition force – the conservative New Democracy (ND) in return for snap elections, which were called in April 2012.
Since 1974, Greek politics have been dominated by two major parties: the left-wing Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the conservative New Democracy (ND).
PASOK, unlike most of its colleagues in the PES, has little roots in any socialist, trade unionist or Marxist tradition. Rather, it is a fairly ‘artificial’ party founded in 1974 around the personality of its founder, Andreas Papandreou, and heir more to the liberal-nationalist and republican Venizelist tradition than to any socialist or left-wing tradition. Indeed, Andreas Papandreou’s father, George Papandreou Sr, had served as a liberal (centrist or Venizelist) Prime Minister in the 1960s prior to the military coup. The 1974 plebiscite which abolished the Greek monarchy in the process removed Venizelism’s last structuring raison-d’être (republicanism) and PASOK became the heir to Greece’s liberal-nationalist tradition which had been central to its politics since World War I. Papandreou himself could still be rightfully described as a socialist, at any rate his government – in power between 1981 and 1989 – implemented fairly left-wing policies including wealth redistribution measures, wage and pension increases, labour law reforms (favourable to employees) and the introduction of a comprehensive welfare system including extended health care coverage. His policies led to the construction of a large and economically dominant public sector, which has distributed generous pensions, benefits and high wages to its employees.
Papandreou returned to power in 1993 after being acquitted in a large corruption scandal which had sunk PASOK in the late 1980s. Following his resignation in 1996, the party moved away from the its older nationalist (notably on the Macedonian issue), eurosceptic and socialist inklings towards consensual centrism. Under the leadership of Costas Simitis, who governed the country between 1996 and 2004, PASOK slowly ‘modernized’ but internally the party became increasingly fractured between a more reformist and centrist leadership and an old guard of Papandreou confidantes and old timers who remained resistant towards modernization or any major economic reforms as the country’s debt and deficit – concealed by successive governments – grew.
In 2009, PASOK, led since 2004 by Andreas’ son, George Papandreou, returned to power. In the wake of the economic crisis and the successive austerity measures it was forced to implement starting in 2010, the party’s popularity started taking a nosedive. It initially resisted fairly well in the 2010 local elections, but when the country came to the brink, PASOK’s support collapsed in the face of continued social and labour unrest in opposition to Papandreou’s austerity measures. Following his resignation in 2011, he also quit PASOK’s leadership and was replaced by his old rival and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos (no familial links to the old Venizelos). Venizelos had been defeated by Papandreou in a 2007 leadership review, but he had forced Papandreou to appoint him as finance minister lest he fancied losing the support of Venizelos’ faction.
New Democracy (ND), Greece’s main conservative party, was founded by Konstantinos Karamanlis, the old right-wing politics of the 1960s who had been at the forefront of the Greek transition to democracy (the metapolitefsi) in 1974. Even though he himself at been at the helm of a fairly conservative (in the literal sense of the word!) party in the 1960s, Karamanlis intended for ND to be a more modern and progressive centre-right party which could reconcile old Greek conservative-monarchism with some remnants of the liberal-nationalist tradition. Karamanlis and ND dominated the first years of the transition, in a way quite reminiscent of the UCD in Spain (though without its rapid collapse shortly thereafter). The party briefly regained power in 1989 and formed a shaky majority government led by the old rival of the Papandreou clan, former liberal Constantine Mitsotakis. The party lost power in 1993 but returned to power in 2004, led by Karamanlis’ son, Kostas Karamanlis.
ND was reelected in 2007 but handily defeated in 2009, Kostas Karamanlis went into hiding shortly thereafter. For good reason. His government has generally been regarded as willfully incompetent and inept in handling the increasingly troubled Greek economy following the 2004 Olympics, and continued the tradition of concealing large debts and deficits.
In opposition since 2009, ND has been led by Antonis Samaras, a longtime fixture of cabinets and right-wing politics who had played a major role in toppling Mitsotakis in 1993 – Samaras, then foreign minister, took a hard stance on the Macedonian issue and founded his own party (Political Spring), only rejoining ND in 2004. Faced with the economic crisis, Samaras sought to draw political gains from opposing the bailouts and austerity packages, taking an attitude which was if not irresponsible then certainly quite hypocritical. He has, at times, attempted to position himself and ND as quasi-‘nationalist’ of the EU-IMF bailouts.
The Greek left – that is, the “historic left”, has been fractured for decades. The largest party of the left has tended to be the Communist Party (KKE), Greece’s oldest party which had been on the losing side of the civil war in the late 1940s and was banned until 1974. During the post-war era, the Greek left was organized politically as the United Democratic Left (EDA), which was widely perceived and thus feared by the Palace and the political establishment as being a front for the KKE. The KKE underwent a pretty significant split in 1968, with its more reformist and anti-Moscow members founding the KKE-Interior, transforming the remaining KKE into an old-style hardline pro-Soviet party.
The KKE and its 1968 splitoffs have been bitter rivals since then, despite a short-lived left-wing coalition between 1989 and 1991. KKE is one of the last remaining truly hardline communist parties in Europe (one could say ‘Stalinist’), which acts as if the Soviet Union still existed and certainly retains the old Marxist rhetoric. Its arcane communiques about the proletariat, the need for Revolution and the corruption of the bourgeois capitalist-imperialist order make for great reading (they are published in English) if nothing else. Politically, the KKE has refused to partake in governments at the national level and maintains a stridently anti-Euro and Eurosceptic line. It views the economic crisis as a vindication of what it has always preached, and has banked on the imminent collapse of the bourgeois state and the impeding revolution.
The KKE’s deadly rival is the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), a coalition which is often confused with Synaspismos, the largest party in the coalition. Synaspismos itself was formed in 1989 as an alliance of the Stalinist KKE and the eurocommunist KKE-Interior. Following the KKE descending further into its Marxist rhetoric of class struggle, the hardliners purged moderates and shut the door on the idea of Synaspismos as a broad alliance of the non-PASOK left. Since then, Synaspismos, now integrated into SYRIZA, has moved along not without difficulty, taking the appearance of a more pragmatic and reasonable but still rather ideologically left-wing party in opposition to the KKE. Its electoral record has been mixed, usually hovering a bit above or below 5%.
The existence of two parties – KKE and SYRIZA – which give the superficial appearance of ideological proximity – has often raised the question of why the two parties do not cooperate. In practice, the two parties hate each other with a passion unequaled. KKE seems to hate SYRIZA more than even the “fascists”, the conservatives or the social democrats; branding SYRIZA as “opportunists” and never missing an opportunity to call them a bourgeois front.
Synaspismos (or SYRIZA, whatever) split in 2010 when Fotis Kouvelis’ social democratic and moderate ‘renewal’ minority faction quit the party to form the Democratic Left (DIMAR). SYRIZA, under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras, had been shifting leftwards and adopting a European policy increasingly similar to the KKE’s dogma. Kouvelis and DIMAR have been fairly vague in their positioning, but they are clearly pro-European in theory. Even if they oppose the austerity measures and seek a renegotiation of the bailout deals, it is opposed to burning all bridges and, unlike the KKE, does not advocate leaving the Eurozone, lest as a last resort.
The far-right Popular Orthodox Alarm (LAOS) was represented in Papademos’ caretaker coalition until it left the coalition in 2012 out of opposition to the bailout measures. LAOS entered Parliament in 2007 and did well in the 2009 elections. Originally LAOS took a fairly Orthodox Christian political orientation, but shifted towards nationalism and anti-immigration rhetoric. Though taking heed to moderate the neo-fascist inclinations of some of its members, which included until this year Makis “the hammer” Voridis (who is now a ND member), the party has not steered clear of any controversies. It still has clear anti-Semitic positions: its leader, Georgios Karatzaferis, is a notorious Holocaust denier and has a knack for talking about a Jewish conspiracy.
However, LAOS’ participation in government has seemingly crippled it significantly. The sad irony of the whole situation is that, in the process, LAOS has become an innocuous moderate party in contrast to what has succeeded it: Golden Dawn (XA). XA, led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has been around for ages now but it had never been electorally significant until 2010 or so when Michaloliakos won a seat in Athens’ city council. XA is rather clearly and almost openly a neo-Nazi party, which maintains its own paramilitary force which is active in parts of Athens and has been dangerous for years as it beats up immigrants and left-wingers. The group has gained prominence and support as the issue of immigration becomes a major explosive issue in Greek politics, especially during the economic crisis.
The economic crisis has weakened the main parties and led to a series of splits as members of both PASOK and ND left or were expelled from their parties for opposing their parties’ positions on the successive austerity packages. The earliest such split took place in late 2010 when former ND cabinet minister and defeated leadership contender Dora Bakoyannis was expelled from ND for voting in favour of the first EU-IMF bailout loan. She founder her own party, the liberal Democratic Alliance (DISY), which calls for major structural reforms in the Greek economy including a flat tax and reducing the size of government. It has had limited appeal, perhaps understandably because its economic liberalism do not seem to be attractive to voters in such conditions. In 2012, ND suffered another split when about 10 of its members quit the party for voting against the Papademos cabinet, forming a new party called Independent Greeks (ANEL). ANEL is a populist right-wing nationalist party which opposes austerity and claims that Greece is the victim of an international conspiracy. It has allied with the anti-austerity PASOK splitoff party named ‘Panhellenic Citizens Chariot’. Other PASOK splitoffs include Social Agreement, led by two former cabinet ministers; the Unitary Movement (allied with SYRIZA) and Free Citizens (allied with DIMAR).
The two main parties, ND and PASOK, have collapsed and lost a good deal of legitimacy with the economic crisis. A current of opposition to the two deadly rivals of Greek politics, which are ultimately quite similar, was emerging before all hell broke loose, but the crisis sped things up. Both parties are perceived as irresponsible and both have been equally blamed for either causing the crisis or poorly handling the crisis. The austerity measures have been very unpopular, sparking social and labour unrest in Greece. Chronic political corruption, an entrenched system of crony capitalism and the lack of a structured and strong civil society has served to weaken Greece since 2009, leading to an increase in radical anti-system populist responses.
PASOK has been the party which has suffered the most, collapsing to a low of 8% support in polls but rebounding a bit since Venizelos became the party’s leader. The only thing PASOK has going for it at this point in time is a modicum of traditional loyal support and the traditional division and limited appeal of its left-wing rivals. Given the KKE’s adamant refusal to participate in any coalition government and the high conditions placed on such cabinet participation by SYRIZA and even DIMAR, PASOK can still play the card of being the ‘reasonable’ guys who will be willing to participate in government. The IMF has been keen on letting it be known that it considers PASOK and ND as the only reasonable party with which it could feasibly work. A common criticism of the parties to PASOK’s left has been that it has always struggled to come up with comprehensive, pragmatic and reasonable policies. DIMAR has accused SYRIZA of playing an irresponsible populist game, but it too has struggled to come up with policies and ideas which are deemed comprehensive or clear by the mainstream.
ND, overall, retained the edge throughout the campaign. But it too is in poor shape, polling much lower than what it won in 2009 (which was then considered a very bad result) and falling victim to the division of the right. ND’s leader Antonis Samaras apparently spent the entire campaign on another planet, insisting that voters give him an absolute majority and saying countless times that he was not interested in coalitions and wanted to govern alone. His party waffled its way around the economic crisis, and its proposals do not seem extremely credible: vague rhetoric about renegotiating bailout conditions, stopping salary cuts, increasing pensions, increasing government support for children and families and cutting taxes. It plans to find this new revenue by cutting down on waste and stepping up privatizations.
Besides the economy, immigration has become the other big issue in this campaign. XA’s emergence as a potential parliamentary force has seemingly led the main parties, ND first and foremost, to tack hard to the right on the issue of immigration. Even PASOK has turned right on immigration, announcing the creation of a closed detention centre for illegal immigrants. At the same time, however, Venizelos pleaded voters not to send the neo-Nazi XA to Parliament.
Turnout was 65.10%, which is an all time low (after already having hit a low in 2009) which stands about 10% below the 75% turnout seen in past ‘normal’ elections. Apparently the economic crisis has not only turned people away from the two main parties, but also from politics and elections as a whole. 2.36% of votes were invalid or blank. The results were as follows:
ND 18.85% (-14.62%) winning 108 seats (+17)
SYRIZA 16.78% (+12.18%) winning 52 seats (+39)
PASOK 13.18% (-30.74%) winning 41 seats (-119)
ANEL 10.60% (+10.6%) winning 33 seats (+33)
KKE 8.48% (+0.94%) winning 26 seats (+5)
XA 6.97% (+6.68%) winning 21 seats (+21)
DIMAR 6.11% (+6.11%) winning 19 seats (+19)
(total below threshold: 19.03%)
Greens 2.93% (+0.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
LAOS 2.9% (-2.73%) winning 0 seats (-15)
DISY 2.55% (+2.55%) winning 0 seats (nc)
DX! 2.15% (+2.15%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Drasi 1.8% (+1.8%) winning 0 seats (nc)
ANTARSYA 1.19% (+0.83%) winning 0 seats (nc)
All others under 1% 5.43% winning 0 seats (nc)
Looking for map? Hardly anything can beat The Guardian in this case.
If anybody doubted that three years is a very long time in politics, their doubts were crushed by Greek voters on May 6. In 2009, the Greek elections were fairly normal. Sure, the incumbent ND lost by a big margin and the opposition PASOK won an absolute majority with a comfortable margin, but none of the small parties (KKE, SYRIZA or LAOS) did exceptionally well. Furthermore, both ND and PASOK, which have dominated Greek politics and government since 1974, retained the support of well over three-quarters of Greek voters (though their combined share of the vote hit a low point compared to previous years at ‘only’ 77.4%).
But that was before Greece fell victim to one of the largest economic crises any single country has ever experienced since the Great Depression. Regardless of the causes of the crisis or the responsibility of past Greek governments and Greek citizens in this crisis, the results were extremely negative and dire for Greece: a GDP which contracted by over 6%, rising unemployment, a humongous public debt, social and labour unrest, a country living at the mercy of international organizations and Germany, deep austerity measures across the board and – especially relevant in our case – a total and utter loss of political legitimacy by the twin enemies of Greek politics.
PASOK and ND had already been losing legitimacy with voters prior to 2010, because PASOK’s shift to the left in its post-Papandreou era moved it closer to ND. Thus, in the end, despite both parties sharing a profound dislike of one another, they were in practice fairly similar: fairly inoffensive centrist parties of government who closed their eyes to crises to please everybody when things were looking up, but which were both like deer in the headlights when the bad stuff came along.
PASOK certainly lost any remnants of legitimacy on the left as the main socialist party in the country when the Papandreou cabinet (2009-2011) implemented austerity medicine so tough that even the most enthusiastic of small government right-wingers would shirk away from implementing in normal conditions. These were not normal conditions, but it didn’t matter a lot to Greek voters who were hit firsthand by the negative repercussions of austerity on their wages, pensions, social benefits, standard of living, jobs and income. PASOK had held up relatively strongly up until the fall of 2010 (PASOK did fairly well in local and regional elections that fall), but it collapsed at a dizzying pace as Greece hit rock-bottom in 2011.
At the same time, ND was also shedding support, though at a less rapid pace. Unlike the PP in Spain, which was the main beneficiary of the PSOE’s collapse in 2010-2011, ND never really benefited much from PASOK’s descent into hell. Until November 2011, its status as an opposition party both allowed it to act less pragmatically (more irresponsibly?) and lose less legitimacy and support than PASOK. Up until that point, it stood only a bit below its 2009 result. Its unenthusiastic transformation into a coalition member of the Papademos interim cabinet, which forced it to give up the luxury of opposition and to support austerity and bailouts, led to its division and a collapse which, although not as stark as PASOK’s, was still very pronounced.
Ultimately, ND emerged as the largest party – but only by a hair and with a result which is far below its 2009 result (which, by ‘normal’ standards had been terrible!). While its popular vote is terrible, the nature of Greece’s electoral system (which, as far as I’m concerned, makes a farce of PR) has allowed it hold about 36% of the seats in Parliament (on less than 19% of the vote no less). Calling ND’s result a victory – even a Pyrrhic victory – is wrong. Despite ‘winning’, it is one of the main losers of this election. It lost 14.6% support compared to 2009, but the rigged electoral system allowed it to actually emerge with a larger caucus.
ND leader Antonis Samaras’ weird optimism about the Greek economy (with his proposals about stopping wage cuts, investing more for families and pensions and so forth) did not, unsurprisingly, convince voters. Neither did what some have called his ‘Enda Kenny strategy’ of promising to renegotiate the country’s obligations towards the EU-IMF. His whole campaign looked like the desperate campaign of a man who is completely oblivious to his party (and his country’s) true state and who acts as if nothing happened.
In reality, voters held both ND and PASOK responsible for the situation. ND hasn’t gotten rave reviews either at home or abroad for its handling of the pre-collapse economy when it was in power between 2004 and 2009 – in fact, the mere fact of Kostas Karamanlis calling snap elections in 2009 just gave the impression that he wanted to lose the election (which was never in much doubt) and wash himself and ND off of the responsibility for the collapsing economy. Its performance between 2009 and 2011 in opposition, furthermore, was pretty horrible and as a party it hardly looked credible with its waffling over the issues at stake.
The incumbent governing party – which won an absolute majority in 2009 – finished in third, taking in a result which is its worst result in its history (in 1974, with 13.6%, it had done marginally better). While its initial handling of the situation in 2009-2010 did not earn it the ire of voters, as noted above, when the Greek economy continued to collapse and on top of that became dependent on foreign bailouts and imposed austerity, PASOK collapsed alongside the economy. It basically lost all credibility and legitimacy, in the eyes of voters and then in the eyes of foreign leaders (with the ill-advised referendum stunt last fall), to handle the economic situation.
A good case could be made that as a left-wing party, it was due to suffer more heavily from heavy austerity measures than a right-wing party would have. Simply put, the traditional bases of left-wing parties (working class, low income earners, public servants) are usually those who are the most heavily affected by austerity policies. PASOK’s electoral base, like that of any other left-wing party in the world, is more diverse than just those core constituencies, but those traditionally left-leaning voters certainly constituted a good part of PASOK’s base, as far as I know. While this theory has not, to my knowledge, been backed up with facts and analysis (though I would love to do so), it is an interesting hypothesis to theorize about.
PASOK admitted that it made mistakes in the past three years and it entered the fight with a political leader who, while quite unpopular in his own right, is less damaged goods than Papandreou was. It was, obviously, not enough to stop the profuse bleeding which PASOK suffered. It totally lost its left, and it collapsed to a rock-solid core. It lost the most of any party, collapsing a spectacular 30.7% compared to 2009 and losing well over one hundred seats in the Greek Parliament.
On the left, PASOK, either temporarily or permanently, has been replaced by SYRIZA. Prior to the economic crisis (and even then), SYRIZA had always struggled to break out of its small core electorate (around 5-7% at most) of ‘modern’ radical left-wingers (as opposed to the paleocommunists of the KKE). It had a very urban electorate with a small clientele similar to those who vote for similar political parties (youths, somewhat cosmopolitan urbanites and so forth) in Europe. This year, SYRIZA managed to establish itself as the most credible and legitimate voice of the anti-austerity left. It clearly extended its base into left-leaning working-class areas where it had not been as popular in the past, especially in the industrial hinterland surrounding Athens and the Piraeus.
Compared to DIMAR, whose stance on the bailout is unclear, SYRIZA had a clear and unambiguous stance in opposition to the bailout and austerity. Compared to the KKE, SYRIZA was not only an attractive protest option but it was also a credible anti-austerity choice (for left-wing voters) because SYRIZA clearly seeks to govern, unlike the KKE which prefers to act like clowns in opposition. It also as at its helm a confident, combative and charismatic young leader, Alexis Tsipras. On the other hand, the KKE’s Aleka Papariga has the appearance of a Stalinist drone straight out of the Kremlin.
DIMAR clearly aimed to gain the support of PASOK voters who had a falling out with their party and who were looking for a fairly pragmatic and moderate option to their left. While it likely did so in part, it was unable to replace PASOK as the main left-wing party and its result likely falls far short of initial expectations. It is quite possible that it was hurt significantly by its more ambiguous stance on the bailout and related debt issues. It is anti-austerity, but it does not have a clear attitude towards the Eurozone, the European Union or what attitude the country should adopt against the EU-IMF bailouts. The climate in Greece is radical, pushing towards the extremes on both sides. In this case, the centrist parties (PASOK, ND) but also more open-ended moderates (such as DIMAR) were left out in the dark by voters. Voters instead preferred radical alternatives on both left and right, who were uncompromising in their opposition to austerity and bailouts and spoke forcefully against either “the banksters” or other groups.
If this is true, why, then, did the KKE not do all that well? The Communists won a very mediocre 8.5% of the vote, when polling in the past months had them hitting highs at nearly 14% but often averaging in the 9-10% range. It had a radical anti-austerity, anti-bailout and anti-Euro message seemingly tailored out to respond to the grassroots anger. The KKE’s problem is that its rhetoric, policies and style remains deeply bedded in some sort of Stalinist paleocommunism straight out of the 1950s. In the 2010 local elections, it did well, in part, because it could be an attractive protest vote for some left-wing voters. However, this year’s vote was not only the case of a lot of people voting with their middle fingers but also a large share of voters whose vote was certainly a protest against austerity but also reflected a real desire to elect a credible and unambiguously anti-austerity government.
True to its style, the KKE spent the whole campaign saying that it would not participate in a government and talked in traditional Pravda blabber about the revolution and a workers’ struggle against the opportunists, bourgeois and capitalists. The KKE has a very loyal core electorate, which almost lives and breathes by the KKE’s verbose statements and is resentful of all other parties. It is not surprising that a party like the KKE, which is very archaic in everything its does, would have a solid base of voters (7-8%) but would struggle to appeal to a large swathe of swing left-wing voters in such a high-stakes general election.
Simply put, SYRIZA was a far more credible and reasonable option for a voter hungry for a fiery anti-austerity platform. SYRIZA not only provided that, but, they also acted as if they were ready to take the responsibility of governing and appeared far more credible than the KKE. If this had been fought in more normal circumstances – that is, a fairly bad economy, but not a country on the verge of collapse, and with the traditional parties holding most of their ground – I would wager that the KKE could have done better because of ‘protest voters’ who did not want to vote for the traditional parties which would have won by a ‘normal’ margin like in the past. This was not a normal election, at all. The traditional parties collapsed, and the result was not just traditional low-stakes protest voting by people who wanted to vent their anger by voting for a party which can’t win, but rather ‘serious’ voting with the aim of protesting austerity and the country’s sad economic situation by voting for at least half-credible parties. How could the KKE have been considered a credible and ‘useful’ option for a left-wing opponent of austerity when the party announced before the election that it would not be in any coalition?
The result was that SYRIZA emerged, by far, as the top left-wing anti-austerity party; while the KKE fell flat on its face, holding on to its core base of voters but nothing more. Of course, the KKE will refuse to read the tea leaves for the umpteenth time and insist that they did everything correctly but the media, financial puppet-masters and other parties all tricked their voters into not voting for them. As in 2009, it will “get in contact” with those voters, which for them usually means stepping up the Stalinism.
Anti-austerity wasn’t just a left-wing thing. The party which placed fourth didn’t even exist until February of this year. The Independent Greeks (ANEL) are a right-wing, populist and nationalist party which was founded by anti-austerity ND dissidents. The party took considerable support from ND after the main right-wing party was compelled into abandoning the luxuries of opposition for the bitter realities of government. All the nationalist, conservative and anti-austerity support which had stuck with ND as it was the opposition party to a collapsing PASOK fled to ANEL.
The party probably benefited very much from the personality of its leader, Panos Kammenos, a fiery populist and media-savvy charismatic rabble-rouser. Kammenos and ANEL played on a mix of right-wing populism, fiery opposition to austerity but also on nationalist and anti-German sentiments. Critics say that he is thin on substance, which is probably true, but he benefited from deep-seated anger on the right, which mixes old nationalist rhetoric with modern anti-German sentiments and more contemporary populist, anti-establishment conservatism expressed through opposition to austerity and foreign bailouts.
Most of ND’s losses between 2009 and 2012 were probably to ANEL’s benefit, but ND did not lose only to ANEL. Like almost all other parties, it must have lost a bit to the new kids on the block – and they’re not exactly nice kids. Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn, or XA) made a spectacular eruption into Greek politics and Parliament by winning 7% of the vote and 21 seats. XA, founded by supporters of the Colonel’s Junta, has been around for ages but until very recently it was physically dangerous (its gangs are notorious for beating up leftists and immigrants) but politically irrelevant. It won about 0.3% of the vote in the 2009 election, and was about as electorally relevant as other neo-Nazi or radical far-right nationalist groups in Europe.
It is trendy to heap the label ‘Nazis’ on just about any type of party which one personally finds even remotely distasteful. It is even trendier to call the bulk of the European far-right, from the FN to the PVV, a bunch of Nazis. In those cases, such a label is intellectually dishonest. In the case of XA, it is not. XA are literally Nazis and they don’t exactly go to great lengths to downplay their national-socialist inklings. XA’s leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos likes to do Nazi salutes. XA’s slogan was a vow to rid ‘the land of filth’ (predictably, the immigrants). On election night, Michaloliakos, surrounded by strong-armed neo-Nazi thugs, gave a speech which many found worryingly Hitler-esque.
Immigration has long been a political issue in Greece, but most mainstream politicians shied away from touching too much on it. The rise of criminality associated with the economic crisis and no slowdown in the flow of immigrants (from Turkey, Albania, Africa or Asia) combined to make immigration the second most important issue behind the economy. For many voters, in fact, the two issues were interrelated. Immigrants are viewed either as outright criminals or at best leeches that steal jobs from native Greeks or live off the toil of hard-working native Greeks. Even though, in reality, immigrants had little to do with Greece’s economic situation, they represent a perfect scapegoat in these dangerous times of political radicalization and socio-economic despair.
XA had a number of factors going for it in this election. Firstly, the general political climate is one of radicalization on both left and right. The economic crisis, delegitimizing the two main parties, combined with endemic political corruption and the lack of a strong civil society has created a perfect breeding ground for far-right (and far-left) movements. XA, despite its Nazi fanboyism, was able to appeal to radicalized voters with a fiery populist message and grand promises to defend Greece and rid it of all the ‘filth’ which were, they claimed, responsible for the crisis. Secondly, the main far-right party – LAOS – which had done well in 2009 and even better in 2010, took a major tumble after it entered the Papademos cabinet (an austerity government) in November 2011. LAOS’s ill-advised decision meant that it no longer appeared as a credible and legitimate right-populist protest party. Even LAOS’s later decision to pull out of the cabinet came too late to stop the bleeding. ANEL but also XA proved attractive options for those who had backed LAOS as the right-wing, populist and nationalist option. If LAOS had not joined cabinet in 2011, it would likely have done very well in this election and limited XA’s gains. Instead, it lost all seats and won only 2.9% of the vote.
XA also have benefited from a fairly strong grassroots base. Its vigilante (black shirts, for opponents) groups have gained a presence in a lot of urban areas in Attica where locals often find them a more efficient (perhaps more ‘efficient’ in terms of punishments, if you get my gist) force than the actual police. Locals who have been robbed or attacked often rush to XA’s vigilantes and are more than pleased when the assailant is beaten up by XA’s gangs. XA has been physically dangerous for years, as mentioned above, but its shock-and-awe actions had not ever translated into heaps of votes. This year, it did. Furthermore, in a way reminiscent of the Salafists in Egypt, XA has developed a benevolent image in some neighborhoods by dropping off food to poor families or escorting elderly locals to bank ATMs.
This year, a vote for XA is probably not a massive vote of adherence to XA’s neo-Nazi ideas but rather an ephemeral radical anti-system protest vote. At least, we can hope that it does not signal an evolution of politics in the footsteps of Weimar Germany after 1930. To be an optimist in a sea of pessimists, I tend to find the talk about the imminent risk of civil war or military coup in Greece to be fairly ridiculous.
Below the threshold, the Greens increased their support a bit vis-à-vis 2009 (where they had barely missed out) but ultimately fell short of meeting the 3% threshold by a very narrow margin.
Dora Bakoyannis’ liberal splinter from ND, DISY, did poorly. The climate is not very favourable, to say the least, to an economically liberal and otherwise centrist party. The overall political mood is, above all, overwhelmingly anti-austerity. Yet, DISY and other new liberal parties (Drasi and Recreate Greece) won results which are not all that awful for such parties in this anti-austerity climate. It likely took votes from a small minority of more liberal and pro-European centre-right voters exasperated by ND’s waffling.
A geographic analysis of this election proves quite interesting. The map gives a superficial appearance of a ND landslide, but its results are hardly exceptional, even in its strongholds. It broke 30% in only three constituencies, two in the very conservative southern Peloponnesus and one in Macedonia. It did especially poorly in urban areas, including major cities such as Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus where the party had been fairly strong.
It is far more to look at the patterns of support for the ‘new’ parties such as SYRIZA, ANEL or Golden Dawn but also the remnants of PASOK’s support. SYRIZA dominated Attica (Athens, Piraeus and its suburbs) and the traditionally left-leaning Euboea, but also did well in the northern metropolis of Thessaloniki (though ND won the city proper, SYRIZA won its suburbs). It expanded its traditionally urban base of support into the bulk of Athens and the Piraeus, where it had not been particularly strong in the past. This year, SYRIZA and KKE often placed first and second in many working-class areas of Attica.
A sure sign of SYRIZA’s appeal to former PASOK voters is that its support elsewhere is fairly reflective of traditional Socialist bases: Crete, the Ionian Islands, the predominantly Pomak Xanthi prefecture in western Thrace and Achaias, the birthplace of the Papandreou dynasty and an historic PASOK stronghold.
PASOK lost heavily across the board, first and foremost in its old strongholds, but also in urban areas. Throughout Attica, it was almost wiped off the map with results below 10% almost everywhere. Loses were probably particularly heavy in the working-class hinterland of Athens and the Piraeus which had voted PASOK in the past. For example, in Attica constituency (which excludes Athens, the Piraeus and their inner suburbs), PASOK had won 43% in 2009 (placing first, far ahead of ND which had won 29.5%). This year, PASOK placed sixth with 8.2%. In Piraeus’s 2nd constituency, where it won 44.3% in 2009, it also placed sixth this year with 8.1%.
PASOK won only four prefectures. It won all but one prefecture in Crete and took Rhodopis, a largely Muslim area of western Thrace. Though one could surmise that PASOK lost heavily in left-leaning areas but held on best in strongholds like Crete whose Socialist tradition is more of an older Venizelist-centrist tradition, the Socialists actually suffered most of their heaviest loses in Crete.
ANEL’s patterns are pretty interesting. They did quite well in Attica (except Athens proper) but also in traditionally conservative Macedonia, a region where ANEL’s nationalist and populist rhetoric probably found some very fertile ground. However, it did poorly in the conservative heartlands of the southern Peloponnesus. Somehow, it won 17.8% of the vote in the Dodecanese, including much higher results in some small islands.
The KKE’s map would be rather un-noteworthy had it not been for the fact that it actually won a constituency – Samos. In this particular case, the KKE dominated on the island of Ikarias (with no less than 41%!) – a well-known ‘red island’ where many communists from the Greek Civil War were exiled.
XA’s map would be interesting to analyse further, but I always get excited by analysing the maps of new or unusual political movements which are otherwise hard to quantify and visualize geographically. XA did best in Corinthia with 12%, including 13% in the city of Corinth itself, nowadays a more downtrodden working-class area in proximity to Athens. XA was also particularly strong in Attica, especially the Piraeus area, Athens and Attica constituency. I haven’t taken the analysis down to a micro level, but it appears as if XA’s results in Athenian working-class hinterland were fairly weak compared to neighboring results. It would appear as if they did best in slightly more exurban areas of Attica including Megara (14%).
Attica, which is Greece’s leading urbanized region, also concentrates most immigrants. Thus, anti-immigration sentiment has usually run higher in Attica than in other parts of the country. XA also did well in central Macedonia, a conservative region which usually combines some anti-immigrant feelings with a strong nationalist tradition, fed by the proximity with the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). It did badly in Crete and generally poorly in the Aegean Sea islands (but surprisingly well in the Ionian Islands).
The most likely result of this election is… another election. At final count, ND and PASOK combined – the two traditional parties – won a puny 32% of the vote, down from 77% in 2009. Because of the rigged system, seatwise they combine to 49.7% of the 300 members – or 149 out of 300, two short of an absolute majority. Despite their historical enmity, ND and PASOK remained the most viable and likeliest outcome of this election. Both parties are pro-austerity, generally supportive of the bailout conditions and support continued membership in the Eurozone. They are also, for the EU-IMF, the only acceptable parties.
However, ND and PASOK combined fell just short of an absolute majority. While even an absolute majority for these two parties would have been tumultuous, rocky and unpopular to say the least, it would have guaranteed a more or less acceptable government for the EU-IMF and, domestically, prolonged the status-quo (austerity, bailouts and hanging on to the Euro). Samaras pretended that he only wanted an absolute majority, but after the election it appears as if he would have endorsed a coalition with PASOK if it had been possible.
Plan B if ND-PASOK failed was a coalition extended to DIMAR, the most moderate of the other parties and the one most amenable to working with the traditional parties. However, DIMAR quickly turned down a coalition with the two biggies, probably reading the tea leaves and correctly inferring that participation in such a government might have been fatal to the fairly nascent party.
Short of that, none of the other parties were even remotely amenable to working with ND or PASOK. That is how deep the gap between the two traditional parties and the other parties is. ANEL didn’t even want to talk with ND, branding them traitors. KKE and XA were not even on the table.
The other potential option would be an anti-austerity coalition, which would be received with clear hostility in Berlin and Washington, but perhaps with much more popularity at home. The seat bonus given to ND means that such a coalition would either need to include all parties other than ND or PASOK – yes, including the Nazis and the Stalinists; or it would need to include one of the two traditional parties. Hardly realistic, and besides, the problem with such a coalition is that it would be even more disparate than a ND-PASOK coalition. SYRIZA could lead it, but who would it ally with? ANEL and DIMAR apparently agreed to govern with SYRIZA, but such an option would lack a majority. KKE, of course, entertains its vivid hatred of SYRIZA and, at the end of the day, probably wants actual political power as much as it wants the plague. XA, finally, is too toxic to be included in any coalition and even being propped up by their external support is a big no-no for a self-respecting party.
Samaras quickly concluded his exploratory mission to form a government with a failure. Tsipras was called upon next and has apparently decided to use up the three days of his exploratory mission to lay the groundwork for a snap election (in June, probably) which remains the most likely outcome of this whole process.
Formally, when Tsipras gives up his mandate to form a government, the leader of PASOK Evangelos Venizelos will receive an exploratory mandate which lasts another three days, and he too will most likely fail to reach a deal. Apparently he will ask Kouvelis, the leader of DIMAR, to be Prime Minister in a ND-PASOK-DIMAR cabinet, which is unlikely to see light of day in such format. Following this process, the President will convene all party leaders in a last attempt to get them to form a government, a process likely to end in failure. The President will then be responsible for immediately calling snap elections, which would be administered either by an all-party interim cabinet or by a technical government led by a chief justice of one of the country’s three Supreme Courts.
Given that there will most likely be another election within the next two months, what would be the most likely result? From a non-electoral standpoint, it would likely breed chaos and panic on financial markets. The markets have already responded unfavourably (obviously) to the election results, there would likely be a fit of panic when it becomes clear that Greece cannot form a government and will be returning to the polls for another election which is up in the air. Speculation about an imminent default or withdrawal from the Eurozone would ensue. From an electoral standpoint, it is unlikely that elections held so quickly after these elections will see dramatic changes. However, Tsipras will enter the contest with momentum coming from his party’s excellent result and will be in a position to continue sucking votes from PASOK and DIMAR, to the point where SYRIZA could potentially emerge as the largest party in Parliament – and probably get the 50 seat bonus. By using his three day exploratory mandate to meet with trade unions and extra-parliamentary parties such as the Greens, it is clear that he is laying the groundwork for a quick campaign aimed at winning the snap elections.
Such a result would be an unmitigated nightmare and disaster for Berlin, the EU and the IMF as it would mean that the pro-austerity and pro-bailout forces would certainly lack the seats to form government while Tsipras would be in a strong position to form a more cohesive anti-austerity cabinet, but once again it would depend on the relative strength of the other anti-austerity forces and their attitudes towards cabinet participation. At any rate, Greece’s economic, social and political future looks extremely bleak.
Greek locals 2010
First off, apologies for the relative lack of updates. I’ve had a lot on my plate aside from this, and I haven’t been able to cover other elections especially recent ones in Africa and Asia as I would have wished. I’ll refer you, for now, to Who rules where’s overview of those recent national elections.
Greece held key local elections on November 7 and 14. Not only where these elections the first test for Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government since his 2009 election victory, but they were also important in that they tested the popular mood after the tough austerity measures implemented by Papandreou’s Socialist (PASOK) government. They became even more crucial when Papandreou tied his government’s survival and the austerity measures to a PASOK win in these elections (saying he’d call snap elections if PASOK lost the local elections). Furthermore, these are the first elections under the vastly revamped local government structure.
At the lower level, there will be 325 municipalities, down from 1033 municipalities. Each municipality has a popularly elected mayor and council. The second level of government are now the peripheries, of which they are 13. These had existed in the past, but had served little role and the old second level were prefectures (and a few super-prefectures in major population centres), of which they were around 50. For political nerds, the new system is more comprehensive and much simpler, but the objective behind this reform was to save costs by cutting in the number of municipalities (and councillors), their salaries and in the number of local government employees. As such, it wasn’t well received by the incumbents. To quote the Communists, these changes “will lead to new and deep anti-people changes”.
The electoral system has changed a bit, notably raising the threshold for a first round win from 42% to 50%. The seats are allocated proportionally, but given Greece’s knack for fake proportionality, Three-fifths of the seats are allocated in the runoff, with the quasi-entirety going to the winning party. The remaining two-fifths seem to be allocated proportionally on the basis of first round votes with no apparent threshold.
It should be noted that these elections are officially non-partisan, so party labels tend to be slightly less rigid than in national elections. Still, everybody knows the party of the candidates and unlike in, say, Ontario, they’re rather well publicized. Even the Interior Ministry indicates a candidate’s party affiliation as well as the parties supporting him.
Given that my comprehension of the Greek alphabet, this is not a complete overview but hopefully a better one than the non-existent coverage in the Anglophone media.
The overall results were disappointingly bad for both major parties, PASOK and ND, though the former beat out the latter in their race to the bottom and thus prevented the country from another election (which would have further wrecked the economy). Abstention, especially in the runoff, was a big winner, with turnout at roughly 49% in municipal election runoffs (and 61% in the first round, though that is already low). The big winner amongst the political parties were the Communists (in Greece, they’re still Stalinist) who won 10.89%, a number they haven’t matched in a national election since at least 1989.
In Athens, which is a conservative (ND) stronghold, ND led on the first round with 34.97% (down from 46.1% in 2006) against 28.28% for PASOK (down slightly from 28.8% in 2006). The Communist Party took 13.74%, an excellent result (they had won 8.8% in 2006) while an independent list took 7.37%. The Radical Left (SYRIZA) took 5.8%, down significantly from 10.5% in 2006. In the runoff, for the first time in 24 years, PASOK won the capital city with 51.95% against 48.05% for ND, defeating the incumbent ND mayor.
In Thessaloniki, another conservative stronghold, ND led on the first round taking 37.91% against 33.58% for PASOK (in 2006, it had been ND 41.4% vs. PASOK 21.6% on the first round). The KKE took 9.5%, an independent took 6.04% while SYRIZA took a paltry 3.67% and LAOS did similarly poorly with 3.58%. In the runoff, another historic win for the left, with 50.16% for PASOK against 49.84% for ND.
I gave up all hope of understanding these elections in Piraeus, the country’s third largest city and Athens’ well-known harbour. As one might guess, it traditionally leans towards PASOK, giving the party a 45-32 margin over ND in 2006. In the first round, PASOK was down significantly taking only 29.61% against 23.08% for ND (which also did horribly). An independent backed by LAOS did spectacularly well, with 18.83%. The KKE did very well too, taking 14.77%. A candidate backed by SYRIZA, the Greens and the new Democratic Left (a party formed by the social democratic right-wing of SYRIZA a few months ago) won 7.58%. In the runoff, while the Socialists were making history in Athens, the conservatives won Piraeus with 51.76% against 48.24% for PASOK. If you needed proof that this is an anti-incumbent election, there you have it. Turnout also probably helped the right, given that it fell to barely 36% in the runoff.
In Patras, a PASOK stronghold, the challenge to PASOK from its left. In the first round, PASOK led with 35.07% (even slightly up on 2006) while ND was outpaced by a SYRIZA-Democratic Left coalition which took 21.13% against 17.7% for ND. The KKE won 16.52% in this old working-class city, an excellent result as well. In the runoff, the SYRIZA-led coalition took 53.63% against 46.37% for PASOK. Despite KKE hating SYRIZA, which they always brand as “opportunists”, it appears that their votes played an important part in electing its candidate.
In the Cretan capital of Heraklion, one of PASOK’s strongest base in Greece (their candidate won 72.8% in 2006), they held their ground well. They took 71.82% by the first round, with 12.13% for KKE in the absence of a ND candidate. SYRIZA came fourth with 6.5%.
A right-leaning independent held on easily in the industrial suburb of Peristeri, which is the country’s sixth largest city.
In the new peripheral elections, PASOK won 8 of the 13 new peripheries against 5 for ND. The Socialists had managed to win by the first round in Crete and in the South Aegean. The major race was in Attica, the huge new periphery where 40% of the population lives. ND was thought to be favoured there, and counted a lot on maverick independent Ioannis Dimaras, a PASOK parliamentarian who broke with the party when he refused to accept the IMF bailout of the country. In the end, PASOK led in the first round with 24.05% against 20.45% for ND. Ioannis Dimaras took 15.96%, the KKE took 15.96%, LAOS took 14.44%, SYRIZA (whose top candidate was a Socialist) took 6.23% and the Greenies took 4.04%. In the runoff, PASOK won the biggest prize of the night with 52.87% against 47.13%.
ND still held on in the northern peripheries, which cover the traditionally conservative areas of the country, notably winning in Central Macedonia (which includes Thessaloniki).
It’s rare that one gets the chance to read traditional 1950s Communist discourse in this day and age, and that’s why we’re all thankful that the Greek Communist Party (KKE) exists. It’s electoral statement is worth a read. It also gives us interesting statistics, the national vote share. According to the KKE, PASOK took 34.67% (down significantly from the 43.92% it garnered in its 2009 landslide) against 32.82% for ND (which lost around one percent compared to 2009). The Communists themselves took 10.89%, up roughly 3% for 2009 and the 2006 locals. SYRIZA, named the “opportunist current” by KKE, took 4.5%, down slightly from 4.6% in 2006. The KKE’s press release is correct in stating that the coalition/party has undergone an internal crisis, with the coalition’s right-wing walking out to form the Democratic Left which won roughly 2.5%. The far-right LAOS took 4.5%, around 1.5% less than in 2009 though that number seems a bit low given that the party was allied with ND (or PASOK) in a good number of the ballots and they did much better than that where they ran independently (notably in Attica). The Greens (the Communists haven’t found a funny brand name for them yet) took 2.9%, a small increase compared to 2009.
The bottom line is that these elections, while generally decent on the surface for the governing Socialists, were largely reflective of an anti-incumbent mood which seems very widespread and affecting all major parties equally (seeing that the four largest cities changed hands this year). The high abstention also reflects this mood, and a high vote for the Communists probably reflect the anti-incumbent and protest-oriented mood. Yet, unlike in Ireland (where the government is polling worse than the bubonic plague), the electorate doesn’t seem to have abandoned the government in droves following the tough austerity measures it implemented. It may surprise given the big street protests, but we should know better than reading the political mood of a country from its street protests.
As expected, the Socialist Party (PASOK) won an overall majority rather easily in last night’s Greek elections, defeating the incumbent conservative government. George Papandreou (PASOK) will become Prime Minister, the third Papandreou to do so, succeeding Kostas Karamanlis. The final results are as follows:
PASOK 43.92% (+5.82%) winning 160 seats (+58)
ND 33.48% (-8.38%) winning 91 seats (-61)
KKE 7.54% (-0.61%) winning 21 seats (-1)
LAOS 5.63% (+1.83%) winning 15 seats (+5)
SYRIZA 4.60% (-0.44%) winning 13 seats (-1)
EcoGreens 2.53% (+1.48%)
Turnout was 70.92%, down from 74.14% in 2004. Results are available here.
While PASOK’s victory is comfortable and without question an excellent result, the map just overplays the extent of its domination. Mostly due to ND, which had its worst result since its creation in 1974. I still think this is more of a vote for change than a vote for Papandreou or his party, and a vote against Karamanlis. The KKE dropped a little, probably victim to some voters switching to PASOK, and SYRIZA dropped a bit, victim in part to their attitude during the riots, though their drop was offset by their new leader’s popularity. LAOS obviously served as a reserve for right-wing voters who had voted ND in 2007 (and provided it with a late swing resulting in it’s narrow majority) but didn’t want to vote Socialist this year. I don’t know if the Greenies have much of a future, or if they do, it’s much less promising than it was before they shot themselves five times in the foot.
ND only held tight, it seems, in some of their northern strongholds and the far south of the Peloponnese, which was historically the most conservative (or royalist/pro-German in 1914) region of Greece. As opposed to a north which voted massively for Venzielist and the republic, mostly because they were new citizens and had benefited from the irredentist Venzielist policies. Sidetracked. As for the solidly PASOK prefectures in the northern Peloponnese, I assume that’s more of a personal dynastic vote for the Papandreous who come from the area. PASOK won 94% of the vote in the birthplace of the family, so personal dynastic votes are still highly important. Crete and the Dodecanese vote PASOK due not to centre-left voting patterns, but centrist voting patterns, centrist in Greece meaning Venzielist. Venzielos himself was Cretan and Crete formed the basis of his first policies. PASOK’s two northern strongholds, Xanthi and Rhodope are plurality Turkish-Thrace Muslim (Rhodope itself is majority Muslim/Turkish whatever). Communist support is two-fold, both insular with its best results on Lesbos and Samos, but also in the industrial suburbs of Piraeus and Athens, which are also ND’s worst areas nationally. Communist support inland, in central Greece, might be based on old KKE areas in the Civil War, though I’m definitely not certain of that. LAOS’ support is reactionary in the immigrant-heavy areas of Attica (Athens) and nationalist in Greek Macedonia. The Greenies’ relative spread outside of urban cores is surprising, especially in Crete and the islands, though the Greenies’ base remains in Attica or atleast in urban cores.
Excuse the stereotypical silly font, I wanted to have fun.
George Papandreou, the leader of PASOK will become Prime Minister. He’s a reformist and moderate figure within his party, and especially moderate on terms of foreign policy, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll prevail over the ‘old’ archaic dinosaurs within the party. He also faces a host of issues, including a poor economic outlook, the eternal Macedonian question and also a general discontent with Greek politics within the Greek electorate (or if not, the Greek youth).
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).
Europe 2009: Results
Here is the first post in a series of posts concerning the various Euro results from June 7. The results for the major parties winning seats (or not, in a few cases) are presented here, along with a very brief statistical analysis of what happened. If applicable, a map of the results is also presented. Again, except for the Germany map, all of these maps are my creations.
ÖVP 30% (-2.7%) winning 6 seats (nc)
SPÖ 23.8% (-9.5%) winning 4 seats (-3)
HP Martin’s List 17.7% (+3.7%) winning 3 seats (+1)
FPÖ 12.8% (+6.5%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Greens 9.7% (-3.2%) winning 2 seats (nc)
As I expected, the junior partner in government, the centre-right ÖVP came out on top but the most surprising was the ÖVP’s decisive margin of victory over its senior partner, the social democratic SPÖ. In fact, the SPÖ, like the German SPD, has won its worst result since 1945. This is probably due to a poor campaign a poor top candidate – Hannes Swoboda. Swoboda ranted against job losses and outsourcing when he himself did the same thing to his employees at Siemens. The good result came from Hans-Peter Martin’s anti-corruption outfit, which got a third seat and increased it’s vote. While improving on its poor 2004 result, the far-right FPÖ is far from the 17.5% it won in the 2008 federal elections. A lot is due to abstention (anti-Euro voters being a large contingent of the abstentionists) and also Martin’s success. The Greenies have unsurprisingly fallen, though they held their second seat due to late (and still incoming) postal votes. The BZÖ of the late Jorg Haider fell just short of the threshold, and it did not win Haider’s Carinthian stronghold. Turnout was 45.3%, slightly up on 2004.
GERB 24.36% (+2.68%) winning 5 seats (nc)
BSP 18.5% (-2.91%) winning 4 seats (-1)
DPS 14.14% (-6.12%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Attack 11.96% (-2.24%) winning 2 seats (-1)
NDSV 7.96% (+1.89%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Blue Coalition (UDF and DSB) 7.95% (-1.14%) winning 1 seat (+1)
The pro-European centre-right GERB won, as in 2007, defeating the Socialists (BSP, officialy grouped with smaller parties in the ‘Coalition for Bulgaria’). The Turkish minority party DPS fell significantly compared to its surprisingly excellent 2007 result. This is due to higher turnout and to competition (by Lider) in the very active vote buying market in Bulgaria. The liberal NDSV led by former Bulgarian monarch Simeon II came back from the dead to win 2 seats and increase its vote share – all this due to a top candidate who had a high personal profile and popularity in an election where person and popularity are very important.
Democratic Rally 35.7% (+7.5%) winning 2 seats
AKEL 34.9% (+7%) winning 2 seats
Democratic Party 12.3% (-4.8%) winning 1 seat
Movement for Social Democracy 9.9% (-0.9%) winning 1 seat (+1)
European Party 4.1% (-6.7%) winning 0 seats (-1)
To my surprise, the opposition centre-right (albeit pro-reunification) DISY defeated the governing communist AKEL. However, both parties increased their share of the vote compared to 2004, mainly on the back of the centrist anti-reunification DIKO and the Social Democrats (who won a seat due to the collapse of the liberal European Party).
Civic Democrats (ODS) 31.45% (+1.41%) winning 9 seats (±0)
Social Democrats (ČSSD) 22.38% (+13.6%) winning 7 seats (+5)
Communist Party (KSČM) 14.18% (-6.08%) winning 4 seats (-2)
KDU-ČSL 7.64% (-1.93%) winning 2 seats (±0)
Of the shocking results of the night, the Czech result was a shocker to me. I had predicted the Social Democrats to win all along (most polls agreed, albeit very late polls showed a narrow ODS lead), and you have this very large ODS victory that really comes out of the blue. This is really quite a piss poor result for the ČSSD and its controversial and, in my opinion, poor, leader, Jiří Paroubek. I wasn’t surprised by the results of either the Communists (on a tangent, the KSČM is the only formerly ruling communist party which hasn’t changed it name and it remains very much stuck in 1950) or the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL). The KSČM’s loses were predictable because 2004 was an especially fertile year for them (the ČSSD was in government, a very unpopular government). Two small parties which won seats in 2004 – the centre-right SNK European Democrats (11.02% and 2 seats) and the far-right populist Independents (8.18% and 2 seats) suffered a very painful death this year. The SNK polled 1.66%, the Independents (most of which were Libertas candidates) won 0.54%. The Greens, a parliamentary party, won a very deceiving result – 2.06%. This is probably due to turnout, which remained at 28%.
Social Democrats 21.49 % (-11.1%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Venstre 20.24% (+0.9%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Socialist People’s Party 15.87% (+7.9%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Danish People’s Party 15.28% (+8.5%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Conservative People’s Party 12.69% (+1.3%) winning 1 seat (nc)
People’s Movement Against the EU 7.20% (+2.0%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Social Liberal Party 4.27% (-2.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
June Movement 2.37% (-6.7%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Liberal Alliance 0.59%
Red: SD, Blue: Venstre, Purple: SF, Green: DF
No real surprise in the Danish results, which were as I expected them to be. The Social Democrats drop compared to their superb 2004 showing was to be expected, obviously. Obviously, these loses were profitable not to the government (Venstre, Liberals) but to the Socialists (SF) and the far-right (DF). SF and DF have won their best result in any Danish election, either European or legislative. The June Movement, the second anti-EU movement which is in decline since it’s shock 16% in 1999, has lost its sole remaining MEP. The older (and leftier) People’s Movement has picked up some of the June Movement’s vote, though its results are far from excellent. Despite an electoral alliance with the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals (Radikal Venstre) lost its MEP.
Centre 26.1% winning 2 seats (+1)
Indrek Tarand (Ind) 25.8% winning 1 seat (+1)
Reform 15.3% winning 1 seat (±0)
Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica 12.2% winning 1 seat (±0)
Social Democrats 8.7% winning 1 seat (-2)
Estonian Greens 2.7%
Turnout was up 17% in Estonia over 2004, reaching 44% (26.8% in 2004), correcting the weird result of 2004 which saw the normally weak Social Democrats come out on top. However, the surprising result here was Reform’s rout (compared to the 2007 general elections) at the profit of Indrek Tarand, a popular independent. The opposition Centre Party, however, came out on top. However, the map clearly shows that Tarand took votes from all places – Centre, Reform, right, Greenies (winning a very deceiving 2.7%), and Social Democrats. The Centre came out on top purely due to the Russian vote in Ida-Viru and in Tallinn, the capital (despite the name, the Centre performs very well in urban areas – it’s not at all a rural centrist party a la Finland).
National Coalition 23.2% (-0.5%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Centre 19% (-4.4%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Social Democratic Party 17.5% (-3.7%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Greens 12.4% (+2%) winning 2 seats (+1)
True Finns 9.8% (+9.3%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Swedish People’s Party 6.1% (+0.4%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Left Alliance 5.9% (-3.2%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Christian Democrats 4.2% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (+1)
No surprises from Finland, which came out roughly as expected. The junior partner in government, the centre-right National Coalition (Kok) defeated its senior partner, the agrarian liberal Centre Party. However, the Finnish left (SDP and Left) suffered a very cold shower, winning its worst result in years. The Left even lost its sole MEP. A lot of that left-wing vote probably went to the Greenies (who won a very good result) and also the anti-immigration True Finns (in coalition with the Christian Democrats, which allowed the Christiandems to get one MEP). The Swedish People’s Party ended up holding its seat. The map is quite typical of Finnish elections, with the agrarian Centre dominating in the sparsely populated north and the National Coalition dominating in middle-class urban (Helsinki, where they narrowly beat out the Greenies for first) and suburban areas. The Swedish vote is concentrated on the Åland islands (over 80% of the vote for them) but also in small fishing communities on the west coast of Finland (which does not show up on the map).
CDU/CSU 30.7% + 7.2% (-6.6%) winning 42 seats (-7)
SPD 20.8% (-0.7%) winning 23 seats (nc)
Greens 12.1% (+0.2%) winning 14 seats (+1)
Free Democrats 11% (+4.9%) winning 12 seats (+5)
The Left 7.6% (+1.5%) winning 8 seats (+1)
In the EU’s most populated country, the Social Democrats took a major hit by failing to gain anything after the SPD’s horrible (worst since 1945) result in 2004. Overall, the Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel and its Bavarian sister, the CSU, won as in 2004 but their vote also took a hit (the CDU/CSU was a popular opposition party then, they’re the senior government party now). The winners were of course the Greens, who held on to their remarkable 2004 result and in fact gained a 14th MEP, but certainly the right-liberal Free Democrats (FDP). The Left also gained slightly compared to 2004. The Left’s map remains largely a map of the old DDR but, for the first time, you have darker shades appearing in the West – specifically in the industrial regions of the Saar, the Ruhr and Bremen city. In the end the CSU had no problems with the 5% threshold and they won a relatively decent (compared to most recent results, not 2004 or 2006) result – 48% – in Bavaria. Frei Wahler took 6.7% in Bavaria, and 1.7% federally.
PASOK 36.64% (+2.61%) winning 8 seats (nc)
New Democracy 32.29% (-10.72%) winning 8 seats (-3)
Communist Party 8.35% (-1.13%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Popular Orthodox Rally 7.14% (+3.02%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Coalition of the Radical Left 4.7% (+0.54%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Ecologist Greens 3.49% (+2.88%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Pan-Hellenic Macedonian Front 1.27%
No Greek surprise overall, though the Greenies’ poor result could be one. As expected, the opposition ‘socialist’ PASOK defeated the governing unpopular and corrupt right-wing New Democracy. However, there remains no great love for PASOK, partly due to the fact that both ND and PASOK are very similar. The Communist Party (KKE), one of Europe’s most communist communist parties (it still lives in 1951, decrying bourgeois and capitalists), won 8.35%, slightly above its 2007 electoral result but below the KKE’s excellent 2004 result (over 9%). The surprise came from LAOS and the Greens. The Greenies, who were polling 8-11% in the last polls, fell to a mere 3% partly due to a controversial video by the Green Party leader who said that Macedonia (FYROM, the country) should be allowed to keep its name (s0mething which does not go down well in Greece). Most of the Green strength in polls came from disenchanted ND supporters who ended up voting LAOS (the ultra-Orthodox kooks). The Radical Left (SYRIZA) won a rather poor result, probably due to the fact that it is seen as responsible for the violence and lootings during the 2008 riots in Athens.
Fidesz 56.36% winning 14 seats (+2)
Socialist 17.37% winning 4 seats (-5)
Jobbik 14.77% winning 3 seats (+3)
Hungarian Democratic Forum 5.31% winning 1 seat (nc)
The surprise in Hungary came from the spectacular result of the far-right quasi-Nazi Jobbik (which has its own private militia), which did much better than any poll or exit poll had predicted. Jobbik’s results significantly weakened the conservative Fidesz which won “only” 56% (down from 65-70% in some polls). The governing Socialist MSZP took a spectacular thumping, as was widely expected. While the right-wing MDF held its seat, the liberal SZDSZ (f0rmer coalition partner in the MSZP-led government until 2008) lost both of its seats.
Fine Gael 29.1% (+1.3%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Fianna Fáil 24.1% (-5.4%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Labour 13.9% (+3.4%) winning 3 seats (+2)
Sinn Féin 11.2% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Libertas 3.1% (new) winning 0 seats (new)
Socialist 1.5% (+0.2%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Green Party 1.1% (-3.2%)
As expected, Fine Gael came out on top of FPVs in Ireland, inflicting a major defeat on the governing Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil, did not, however, slip to third behind Labour as some pollsters made it seem. This is due in a large part due to Labour’s complete lack of organization in most rural areas. In Dublin, both Fine Gael and Labour incumbents made it through without much sweat. The race, as expected, was for the third seat between the Fianna Fáil incumbent (Eoin Ryan), Socialist leader Joe Higgins and the Sinn Féin incumbent (Mary Lou McDonald). Surprisingly, Sinn Féin was the first out leaving the final seat between Ryan and Higgins. In the end, Higgins got the quasi-entirety of McDonald’s transferable votes and defeated Ryan with 82,366 votes against 76,956 votes for Ryan on the 7th count. Former Greenie (against the party’s participation in government) Patricia McKenna won 4.3% on first preferences against 4.7% against the official Greenie (however, further transfers from joke candidates got McKenna all the way to count 5, while the Greenie got out by count 3). In the East, Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness got elected on the first count, quite the feat indeed. However, no luck for Fine Gael’s second candidate in holding the third seat held by a retiring Fine Gael incumbent. Labour’s Nessa Childers, second on first prefs, far outpolled John Paul Phelan (FG’s second candidate) and got the second seat. Fianna Fáil held its seat. In the North-West, all incumbents (1 Independent ALDE, 1 FF, 1 FG) held their seats with Marian Harkin (Ind-ALDE) topping the poll (however, both Fianna Fáil candidates combined outpolled him and Fine Gael’s MEP). The founder and leader of Libertas, Declan Ganley polled a respectable 13.66% on FPVs and held out till the last count but lost out to Fine Gael due to rather poor transfers from the other anti-Lisbon outfit, SF. In the South, FF incumbent Brian Crowley topped the poll and won easily, as did Sean Kelly (FG). The third seat was between the incumbent Independent (eurosceptic and social conservative) Kathy Sinnott and Labour’s Alan Kelly. Kelly won.
In the local elections, the final seat share is as follows:
Fine Gael 340 seats (+47)
Fianna Fáil 218 seats (-84)
Labour 132 seats (+31)
Others and Indies 132 seats (+40)
Sinn Féin 54 seats (nc)
Socialist 4 seats (nc)
Green Party 3 seats (-15)
Full breakdown by county and city
People of Freedom 35.26% winning 29 seats
Democratic Party 26.13% winning 21 seats
Lega Nord 10.20% winning 9 seats
Italy of Values 8.00% winning 7 seats
Union of the Centre 6.51% winning 5 seats
Communists (PRC+PdCI) 3.38% winning 0 seats
Sinistra e Libertà 3.12% winning 0 seats
Italian Radicals (Bonino-Pannella List) 2.42% winning 0 seats
Pole of Autonomy (La Destra+MPA) 2.22% winning 0 seats
South Tyrolean’s People Party 0.46% winning 1 seat
Berlusconi Coalition (PdL+LN+Autonomy) 47.68% winning 38 seats
PD Coalition (PD-SVP+IdV+Radicals) 37.01% winning 29 seats
Red: PD, Blue: PdL, Green: Lega Nord, Yellow in Aosta Valley: Valdotanian Union (PdL ally), Yellow in Sudtirol: SVP (PD ally)
The Italian results were certainly a setback for Silvio Berlusconi and his “party”, the PdL, which performed a bit lower than what he and polls had expected (38-41% range). The centre-left PD did relatively well, and this will atleast keep the party from splitting up into the old Democrats of the Left and the Daisy. In terms of coalitions, the two large parliamentary blocs stand almost exactly where they stood overall in 2008, with a very very slight improvement for Berlusconi’s coalition. The marking result of this election is probably that of Lega Nord, which has won its best result in any national Italian election (narrowly beating its previous record, 10.1% in the 1996 general election). The Lega has expanded its support to the “south” (north-central Italy), notably polling 11% in Emilia-Romagna and 4% in Tuscany. The support and future of Lega Nord is to be watched closely in the future, due to a potential new electoral law which could significantly hinder it’s parliamentary representation (more on that later). The other good result is from Antonio di Pietro’s strongly anti-Berlusconi and anti-corruption populist Italia dei Valori, which has won its best result ever, by far. It has almost doubled its support since last year’s general election. After being shutout of Parliament in 2008, the Communists and other leftie parties (Socialists and Greens) are now out of the European Parliament, depsite improving quite a bit on the Rainbow’s 2008 result. Of the two coalitions, the old Communist one made up of the Refoundation Commies and the smaller Italian Commies polled slightly better than the Sinistra e libertà, the “New Left” coalition (Greenies, Socialists, moderate “liberal” Commies). Such was to be expected, but the irony is that both leftie coalitions were formed to surpass the new 4% threshold, and none did. However, if there had been a new Rainbow coalition (the 2008 Rainbow included both the hardline Commies and the New Left), they would have made it. As expected, those small parties which won seats in 2004 due to the old electoral law have been eliminated. These include the fascists, La Destra-Sicilian autonomists/crooks, and the Radicals. The South Tyrolean SVP only held its seat due to an electoral clause which allows these “minority parties” to ally with a party to win a seat. The SVP was the only one of these which was successful in doing so. Two smaller Valdotanian parties (one allied with PdL, the other with IdV) failed to win a seat. In provincial elections held the same days, the right was very successful and of the forty provinces decided by the first round, they had won 26 against 14 for the left. 22 provinces will have a runoff. I might do a post on that if I have time.
Civic Union 24.33% winning 2 seats (+2)
Harmony Centre 19.57% winning 2 seats (+2)
PCTVL – For Human Rights in United Latvia 9.66% winning 1 seat (nc)
Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way 7.5% winning 1 seat (nc)
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK 7.45% winning 1 seat (-3)
New Era 6.66% winning 1 seat (-1)
Latvian politics are very confusing, mostly due to the huge swings. This time was no different. A new party, Civic Union (probably EPP) topped the poll over the Harmony Centre, a Russian minority outfit. The PCTVL, another Russian outfit, fell slightly compared to its 11% result in 2004, but remained remarkably stable. TB/LNNK, a UEN party which topped the poll in 2004 fell down three seats. The conservative New Era, senior party in the governing coalition, won only 7% (a lot of its members, along with TB/LNNK members apparently joined the Civic Union). The People’s Party, the senior party in the old coalition which fell apart this year due to the economic crisis won barely 2%. The Union of Greens and Farmers, which won something like 16% in the 2006 election polled a mere 3.7%.
Homeland Union-LKD 26.16% winning 4 seats (+2)
Lithuanian Social Democrats 18.12% winning 3 seats (+1)
Order and Justice 11.9% winning 2 seats (+1)
Labour Party 8.56% winning 1 seat (-4)
Poles’ Electoral Action 8.21% winning 1 seat (+1)
Liberals Movement 7.17% winning 1 seat (+1)
Liberal and Centre Union 3.38% winning 0 seats (-1)
Remarkable stability for a Baltic nation in Lithuania. The winner of the 2008 election, the Homeland Union (TS-LKD) won a rather convincing victory, improving on its 2008 result (only 19.6%) and obviously on its 2004 Euro result (12.6%). The LSDP has picked up an extra seat and has cemented its place as the opposition to the TS-LKD, along with the third-placed populist Order and Justice. Labour, the centrist party which won the 2004 Euro election has seen its seat share cut down from 5 to one, a logical follow-up to its collapse in 2008. The Poles have probably benefited from low turnout (21%) to motivate their base and won an outstanding 8.2% and elected one MEP. I don’t really follow Baltic politics, but if I remember correctly, a government rarely wins re-election, so if that’s true, the result of the TS-LKD is even more remarkable.
Christian Social Party 31.3% (-5.8%) winning 3 seats
Socialist 19.5% (-2.5%) winning 1 seat
Democratic Party 18.6% (+3.7%) winning 1 seat
The Greens 16.8% (+1.8%) winning 1 seat
Alternative Democratic Reform 7.4% (-0.6%)
The Left 3.4% (+1.7%)
Communist Party 1.5% (+0.3%)
Citizens’ List 1.4%
Remarkable and unsurprising political stability in Luxembourg, with no changes in seat distribution. While the CSV and LSAP suffer minor swings against them, the DP and Greens get small positive swings. The Greens’ result is their best ever and one of the best Green results in European elections.
On election night last week, I also covered the simultaneous general election. Here are, again, the full results.
CSV 38% (+1.9%) winning 26 seats (+2)
LSAP 21.6% (-1.8%) winning 13 seats (-1)
DP 15% (-1.1%) winning 9 seats (-1)
Greens 11.7% (+0.1%) winning 7 seats (nc)
ADR 8.1% (-1.8%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Left 3.3% (+1.4%) winning 1 seat (+1)
KPL 1.5% (+0.6%)
Labour 54.77% winning 3 seats (nc)
Nationalist 40.49% winning 2 seats (nc)
Obviously no surprise in tiny Malta, where the opposition Labour Party has defeated the governing Nationalist Party. Both sides made gains in terms of votes, feeding off the collapse of the green Democratic Alternative (AD), which won a remarkable 10% in 2004 but a mere 2.3% this year.
Civic Platform 44.43% (+20.33%) winning 25 seats (+10)
Law and Justice 27.4% (+14.73%) winning 15 seats (+8)
Democratic Left Alliance-Labour Union 12.34% (+2.99%) winning 7 seats (+2)
Peasant Party 7.07% (+0.67%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Map by electoral constituency. Key same as above table
Polish politics move quickly, but it seems that this ‘setup’ is here to stay, atleast for some time. The governing right-liberal pro-European Civic Platform (led by PM Donald Tusk) has won a crushing victory over the national-conservative eurosceptic Law and Justice of President Lech Kaczyński. PO’s margin of victory is slightly larger than its already important victory in the 2008 elections. The SLD-UP electoral alliance, which is what remains of the Left and Democrats (LiD) coalition of the 2008 election (encompassing SLD-UP but also a small fake liberal party), won 12%, the average result of the Polish left these days. The Peasant Party, PO’s junior partner in government, won slightly fewer votes than in 2008 (or the 2004 Eur0s). The 2004 Euros, marked by the excellent result of the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families (LPR, now Libertas) and the left-wing populist Samoobrona saw both of these parties collapse. Libertas-LPR won 1.14% and Samoobrona won 1.46%. Smaller ultra-conservative jokes also did very poorly. After the 2004-2006 episode, sanity seems to have returned to Polish politics.
Social Democratic Party 31.7% winning 8 seats (+1)
Socialist Party 26.6% winning 7 seats (-5)
Left Bloc 10.7% winning 3 seats (+2)
CDU: Communist Party-Greens 10.7% winning 2 seats (nc)
Democratic and Social Centre-People’s Party 8.4% winning 2 seats (nc)
Blue: PSD, Red: PS, Green: CDU (PCP-PEV)
Cold shower for the governing Portuguese Socialists after the huge victory of the 2004 Euros. The centre-right PSD has won a major victory by defeating the PS, albeit a relatively small margin between the two. The lost votes of the PS flowed to the Left Bloc (the Trotskyst and more libertarian component of the far-left) and the CDU (the older and more old-style communist component of the far-left), both of which won a remarkable 21.4% together. These voters voted BE or CDU due to the PS’ economic policies, which are far from traditional left-wing economic policies. The PS will need to fight hard, very hard, to win the upcoming general elections in September.
Social Democratic Party+Conservative Party 31.07% winning 11 seats (+1)
Democratic Liberal Party 29.71% winning 10 seats (-6)
National Liberal Party 14.52% winning 5 seats (-1)
UDMR 8.92% winning 3 seats (+1)
Greater Romania Party 8.65% winning 3 seats (+3)
Elena Băsescu (Ind PD-L) 4.22% winning 1 seat (+1)
The close race in Romania between the two government parties ended in the victory of the junior partner, the PSD with a rather mediocre 31%. The PDL’s 30% was also rather mediocre. The PNL also did quite poorly. The two winners are the Hungarian UDMR, which won a rather remarkable 9%, probably benefiting from high Hungarian turnout in a very low turnout election. The far-right Greater Romania Party overcame past setbacks and won three seats and a surprisingly good 8.7%. This is due in part to the participation of the far-right quasi-fascist PNG-CD on its list (the party’s leader, the very controversial Gigi Becali, was the party’s second candidate on the list). László Tőkés, an Hungarian independent elected in 2007 (sat in the Green-EFA group) has been re-elected as the top candidate on the UDMR list.
Smer-SD 32.01% winning 5 seats (+2)
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union–Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS) 16.98% winning 2 seats (-1)
Party of the Hungarian Coalition 11.33% winning 2 seats (±0)
Christian Democratic Movement 10.87% winning 2 seats (-1)
People’s Party–Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (ĽS-HZDS) 8.97% winning 1 seat (-2)
Slovak National Party 5.55% winning 1 seat (+1)
Smer’s result is definitely deceiving for them and possibly a sign that their past stellar poll ratings will slide to the benefit of the opposition SDKÚ-DS. However, the SDKÚ-DS (but also the KDH and obviously the ĽS-HZDS) have slid back compared to their 2004 Euro results. While the collapse of the ĽS-HZDS (formerly led by former quasi-dictator Vladimír Mečiar) is good news, the entry of the quasi-fascist Slovak National Party, Smer’s charming coalition partners, is not. However, the SNS’ 5.6% is not the 10% it used to poll and hopefully they stay low.
Slovenian Democratic Party 26.89% winning 2 seats (nc)
Social Democrats 18.48% winning 2 seats (+1)
New Slovenia 16.34% winning 1 seat (-1)
Liberal Democracy 11.52% winning 1 seat (-1)
Zares 9.81% winning 1 seat (+1)
In Slovenia, the oppostion centre-right SDS has defeated the ruling Social Democrats. Here again, the current political setup between SDS on the right and SD on the left, a rather new setup, seems set to stay for a few years. The NSi, which won the 2004 election, and the LDS, which used to dominate Slovenian politics, have both slumped back. The new liberal Zares won 9.8%, roughly its level in the 2008 election.
People’s Party42.23% (+1.02%) winning 23 seats (-1)
Socialist 38.51% (-4.95%) winning 21 seats (-4)
Coalition for Europe (EAJ-CiU-CC) 5.12% (-0.03%) winning 2 seats [1 EAJ, 1 CiU] (±0)
The Left 3.73% (-0.38%) winning 2 seats (±0)
Union, Progress and Democracy 2.87% winning 1 seat (+1)
Europe of Peoples 2.5% (+0.05%) winning 1 seat (±0)
As expected, the conservative PP defeated the governing PSOE, but due to the polarized nature of Spanish politics, no landslide here. However, the PSOE definitely polled poorly, though the PP didn’t do that great either. The regionalists held their ground well, and CiU got some little gains going in Catalonia. Aside from UPyD’s narrow entry and the obvious PP gains, it was generally status-quo.
Social Democrats 24.41% (-0.15%) winning 5 seats (nc)
Moderate Party 18.83% (+0.58%) winning 4 seats (nc)
Liberal People’s Party 13.58% (+3.72%) winning 3 seats (+1)
Greens 11.02% (+5.06%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Pirate Party 7.13% (new) winning 1 seat (+1)
Left 5.66% (-7.14%) winning 1 seat (-1)
Centre 5.47% (-0.79%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Christian Democrats 4.68% (-1.01%) winning 1 seat (nc)
June List 3.55% (-10.92%) winning 0 seats (-3)
Sweden Democrats 3.27% (+2.14%)
Feminist Initiative 2.22%
First map: Parties (SD in red, M in blue) – Second Map: Coalitions (Red-Green in red, Alliance in blue)
The Swedish results must come as a major deception for both major parties, the Social Democrats and the governing Moderates. Both had done horribly in 2004 and the 2009 results are no improvements for either of them. In fact, the opposition SD has in fact dropped a few votes more from the 2004 disaster. These loses profit to the smaller parties in their respective coalitions (Red-Green for the SD, Alliance for M). The Liberals did very well, unexpectedly well in fact, and elected a third MEP. The Greens drew votes from Red-Green voters dissatisfied by the unpopular SD leader, Mona Sahlin, and its vote share increased by 5%. Of course, Sweden is now famous for electing one Pirate MEP, and even a second MEP if Sweden gets additional MEPs as planned by the Treaty of Lisbon. The Left’s vote fell significantly from its good showing in 2004, while the vote for smaller coalition parties – the Centre and Christian Democrats also slid a bit. The eurosceptic June List, which had won 14% in 2004, fell to a mere 3.6% and lost its 3 MEPs. However, this result might have prevented the far-right Sweden Democrats from picking up a seat. The Feminists, who had one MEP after a Liberal defection, won a surprisingly decent 2%, far better than what polls had in store for them. In terms of coalitions, the governing Alliance actually won with 42.56% against 41.09% for the opposition Red-Greens.
Longer, special posts concerning the Euro elections in Belgium, France and the UK will be posted in the coming days.