The stakes of the May 21 Greek elections

Nikos Anastasiadis

Walking around the streets of the main cities in Greece, someone can hardly tell that there is an election coming up. There is a low turnout in pre-election rallies of all parties, and there is a general unwillingness in the population to discuss the election. This is reflective of the prevailing atmosphere of disillusionment with all the main establishment parties (New Democracy, SYRIZA, and PASOK) and what they represent, but also with the parties of the Left (KKE, MERA25, ANTARSYA) who fail to provide any kind of inspiration to working class people and the youth.

No parliament majority in sight

The May 21 elections will be held under a new law that the previous SYRIZA government had voted for. The new election law provides for a more proportional representation of the parties (although it still applies the undemocratic nationwide 3% threshold in order to have any MPs elected). Based on calculations made by all parties’ apparatuses and by the polling companies, it is impossible for either New Democracy (ND) or SYRIZA to elect the 151 MPs required to form a government. The right-wing ND party is projected to get around 30-35% of the vote, while the center-left SYRIZA stands at 25-30% in most opinion polls. Most polling companies predict a 5% or larger margin between the two parties.

Consequently, a discussion around forming coalition governments has opened up. The social-democratic PASOK, which stands at around 10%, is at the center of this, as parts of it want a coalition with ND, while others favour a coalition with SYRIZA.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which is projected to get around 6-7% according to most polls, has ruled out any scenario of supporting a SYRIZA government. 

Similarly, the far-right party “Greek Solution”, which is projected to get 3-5%, and has also excluded supporting an ND government – at least in words.

Varoufakis’ MERA25 repeatedly called in the previous period (but not in the past few months) for a dialogue with SYRIZA, in order to examine if there is space for a ”progressive government” (between SYRIZA, MERA25 and PASOK), but at the same time it clarifies that it does not think this can work out – according to MERA25 cadres this was only raised for tactical reasons. Nevertheless, based on the loose character of this party and its contradictory statements at times, it cannot be ruled out that sections of it could be pushed to support or take part in a SYRIZA-PASOK government if their votes in parliament were crucial for this to take place.

Based on this picture, the most likely scenario is that there will be no parliamentary majority and new elections will be called for July 9. The prospect of not having a government will then be used by the two main parties as a scarecrow in order to pillage votes from the smaller parties. This next election will be held under a new ND law, which gives a significant bonus of MP seats to the party which will come first – thus the most probable final outcome will be a New Democracy government.

Why is ND leading the race?

Mitsotakis is one of the most hated PMs in recent Greek history. His government is mired in scandals, the most recent being the use of the Israeli Predator spyware to spy on the army Chief of Staff, on PASOK’s leader Androulakis and on several of his own cabinet ministers, let alone opposition journalists. His policy of dismantling the public health system has resulted in Greece having one of the worst COVID pandemic death rates per million, ranking 14th worst globally. The policies of privatisation and outsourcing have led to the tragic Tempi train collision, which cost the lives of 57 people, as well as the wildfire disasters of the summer of 2021. The infamous MAT riot police was sent on every occasion to suppress any dissenting voice. The environment is being sacrificed in order to allow capitalists to invest even in virgin or “Natura” (protected) lands.

How come a government like this is leading the race? The answer has to be sought in SYRIZA in the first place and the parties of the Left in the second. 

Mitsotakis and ND do not have any dynamic in this election. The problem lies with the fact that neither does SYRIZA.

SYRIZA was founded in the mid-2000s as a coalition mainly between the Euro-communist “Synaspismos” party (representing around 3% of the electorate) and several organisations of the extra-parliamentary left. Through the debt crisis of 2009-10 and the inability of the KKE to intervene, lead struggles and claim power, it was catapulted into double-digit percentages and was subsequently elected in government with more than 36% of the vote in 2015. But as a reformist formation, it betrayed the working class’ aspirations and sold out after the historic July 2015 referendum. 

Since then, it has portrayed itself as the ‘better’ and ‘less corrupt’ manager of the capitalist system. While in government (2015-2019) it applied essentially the same neoliberal policies as ND, albeit with a “friendlier” face and… blaming the Troika (EU, IMF, ECB) for the attacks against the Greek people. In opposition, after it lost to ND in the elections of 2019, it completely failed to tap on the growing mood of resistance inside the movement, but opted for a “responsible” strategy – with some general left agitational talking points. A striking illustration of this is the fact that SYRIZA voted for 45% of the bills that ND introduced in parliament in the past four years. Furthermore, SYRIZA has opened its gates to bourgeois politicians from PASOK and even ND.

No wonder one can hardly find people enthused with the prospect of a SYRIZA government. Some layers, of course, will vote SYRIZA as a means to get rid of Mitsotakis, although they understand that the change will be little regarding the actual policies pursued. 

Why is the Left also in a stalemate?

The main problem facing the working class and the poor in Greece is that the parties of the Left do not have any traction going to the polls. 

KKE is stagnant at more or less percentages it usually gets (i.e., around 5-6%) although there was a huge opening for it after SYRIZA abandoned left politics. KKE has tried to make some adjustments to its policies, but its deep-rooted Stalinism prevents it from playing a fostering role in the movement. 

MERA25 has made a left-wing turn in the last two years or so, which put it in the radar for many. But the contradictory messages it sends out and the fact that it remains mainly a party around Varoufakis and not a mass living organism, puts brakes on its growth. 

ANTARSYA is in a bad state, as recently another one of its component organisations split away. The anticapitalist coalition at this moment is made up basically of NAR, a left split from KKE in the 90’s, and SEK, the Greek section of IST/SWP. Its recent refusal to engage in discussions for an electoral coalition with other forces in the anticapitalist Left has, once again, sent the message of its ingrained sectarianism. 

Xekinima’s positions 

However, a vote for one of these parties is the only sensible choice in these elections, from the point of view of workers and the oppressed. 

A strengthened left-wing vote, despite the deficiencies and mistaken policies of the Left parties, can help the movement gain confidence for the battles that will inevitably come and which are already on the rise. 

Based on this, Xekinima campaigns for a vote in KKE, MERA25 or ANTARSYA (read more on our position here), explaining at the same time the deficiencies of these formations. It is interesting that a significant number of groups in the anticapitalist Left (around six or seven) have taken a similar position – this is the first time it ever happens. Xekinima is proposing further collaboration of these groups with the aim of setting up a new pole in the anticapitalist Left on a federal basis, without the sectarianism which is characteristic of ANTARSYA. There are discussions taking place around this idea, but it seems that not all of these anticapitalist groups are ready for such a bold step, at this stage at least. 

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