After four years in which everything has happened, this Sunday Greek citizens will go to the polls in a scenario ruled by uncertainty. The elections do not expect a clear victory for either faction, and difficulties in putting together a government could lead to re-election.
The one that starts as the favorite is Nea Demokrasia (New Democracy), the party of current prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which has ruled for the past four years and which, despite scandals and unrest, maintains the same support quota as in 2019 .
Mitsotakis came to power after the Syrian legislature collapsed four years ago with promises of modernization and development. Create jobs, attract investment, reduce tax burden, and manage the migration crisis – more than 1 million refugees arrived in Greece between 2015 and 2016. A formula that garnered enough support to govern after Syriza’s 4-year government had shattered hopes.
However, over the years the situation has been more turbulent than I could have imagined. The pandemic, the Ukrainian war, geopolitical tensions with Turkey or the tragic train crash in Tempe that killed 57 people are just some of the setbacks his government has had to deal with. In this legislature, the Greek government has managed to improve some economic indicators, such as the reduction of unemployment or public debt, but the country remains heavily structural problems such as inequality, low wages, low public services or access to housing.
The balance sheet of Mitsotakis’ management is far from the miracle his supporters want to sell him and the truth is that his handling of the health, economic and migration crises (where measures for refugees were harsher) undermined his popularity Is . The handling of the Tempe disaster and a spying scandal on political rivals from other structures have been the two events that have most affected the image of a prime minister who, despite everything, has many options to re-establish his position. Are.
Syriza has survived the 2019 defeat and is running in this year’s elections as the main alternative to Mitsotakis
The only person who may be able to stop it is Alexis Tsipras, the former Greek prime minister who stood for austerity in Europe in 2015 but ended up accepting a third bailout memo. His party Syriza survived the 2019 defeat and is running in this year’s election as the main alternative to Mitsotakis.
Some thought Syriza would be a brief blip in history, but Tsipras’ party is here to stay. Eight years after winning the election and four years after leaving government, the party that came under fire from criticism of austerity has polling intentions of around 30%, and although it won’t be easy, it may have options to govern . The situation is by no means a pleasant one, but it is undoubtedly one that has best experienced the whole wave of new leftist parties that emerged after the 2008 crisis.
Despite the good health of Syria, which has established itself as the main party of the Greek left, it is difficult for Tsipras to remain in opposition this Sunday, where the most likely scenario is that no one is able to form a government. Will happen . A very close competition between factions, vetoes between potential allies and changes to the electoral system add uncertainty to a scenario that seems closer to an electoral repeat than a clear victory for one of the two blocs.
tie between blocks
Historically, political competition in Greece has revolved around two large parties: the centre-left PASOK, which became a second-string party following the defeat of Syriza, and the centre-right Nea Demokratia, which remains the main force on the right. Is. Today there have been some changes in the Greek system, such as leadership on the left or the entry of new parties, but the competition is clearly expressed around two large blocs, which are not as compact and homogeneous as the full bipartisanship of decades past.
The right-wing bloc, where Nea Demokratia alone won an absolute majority in the previous elections, finds it difficult to repeat the 2019 results in this election.
The right-wing bloc, where Nea Demokratia alone won an absolute majority in the previous elections, finds it difficult to repeat the 2019 results in this election. They will not govern, they will give figures and it will be possible to reach 150 seats only by resuming the Grand Alliance with PASOK. An option that seems quite remote today. Here, the new electoral system governing this election, which abolished the seat premium for the winner, plays a fundamental role.
Things are no more clear in the block on the left, more fragmented than the ones on the right, and where the formula leading to the majority also seems difficult to articulate. If the election results are as predicted, Syriza will need the support of PASOK and Varoufakis’ smaller party MERA25 to cobble together a coalition to oust Mitsotakis from power, which the Greek Communists are more likely to achieve. Is. party, the KKE, which to this day flatly refuses to agree with Tsipras.
The KKE is a conservative communist party, more similar to its Portuguese counterpart than Spanish, conservative on some civil rights issues, nationalist, and which advocates leaving the European Union in foreign policy. Apart from differences on fundamental points with Syriza, Greek communists are among those who think that Tsipras’ men betrayed the Greek people by accepting the memorandum in 2016. Some wounds and differences that seem difficult to heal.
There is one point that looms over the current situation in Greece and that explains both this institutional blockade and the high probability of repeat elections: the electoral system. In recent decades the Greek electoral system was a reinforced proportional system, meaning that seats are allocated in proportion to the vote received by the party, but has an element that facilitates rule by the majority party. This element in the Greek electoral system was a bonus of at least 50 seats for the winning party, which meant that an absolute majority was achieved with approximately 37% of the vote.
The abolition of this bonus was a historic demand of the Greeks, and in 2016 the Syrian government introduced a reform of the electoral law that abolished the bonus and established a purely proportional system. This reform was not implemented in the 2019 elections, due to another peculiarity of Greek law: if the reform of electoral law does not reach a two-thirds quorum of the chamber, it does not apply for the immediately following election, but For this the following. Therefore, these 2023 elections will be the first with the new purely proportional system.
But the loop could be curled still further, and in 2020 the Mitsotakis government revised the law again, reintroducing the bonus abolished by the Syriza law – this time instead of 50 deputies, it was based on a percentage of the vote. 20 to 50 depending on the base. The Conservatives also did not reach the 200 deputies needed for its immediate application, so the reform does not apply to these elections, but to the following ones. In other words, if an election repeats, the premium returns to benefiting the party with the most votes, which will predictably be Nea Demokratia.
The paradox of these elections is that the Neua Democratia, which will be the first force to form a government, has little incentive to do so.
What is paradoxical in these elections is that the Nea Democratica, which would be the first force to form a government and should initiate, has little incentive to do so, as it would be the main beneficiary of the electoral recount. A return to reinforced proportions would guarantee a greater distance in the number of seats with Seryozha, and could come closer to re-verifying the absolute majority of 2019.
So there is a good chance of a stalemate after tonight’s results. With a Nea Demokratia with many incentives to go on a recount, the only option that may survive the elections is to give the opposition the numbers to form a coalition between Syria, PASOK and MeRA25, with the KKE giving them parliamentary support to form a government. without entering. A complex scenario as we have commented because of the vetoes that exist between potential partners.
Another scenario that has been considered is a grand alliance between Nea Demokratia and PASOK, which seems unlikely. Not only is it likely for PASOK to repeat the decision that led to it being replaced by Syriza as the main opposition party, but relations between Mitsotakis and Nikos Androlakis, leader of the Social Democrats, are not particularly good. When the espionage scandal broke out this summer, it was revealed that Androlakis was one of the people spied on by the Greek secret services, so sharing the council of ministers with those responsible for tapping your phone is not a particularly attractive option. It seems Furthermore, Androlakis seems not to sell his skin cheaply, and has declared on more than one occasion that neither Tsipras nor Mitsotakis can be prime minister if Syriza or Nea Demokratia agree. . Something that is not in the plans of both the leaders.
From these letters it seems that no one will be able to solve the Greek riddle. The only one clear of the formula is Mitsotakis, who will try to unblock the position in July through an electoral premium. Some say that in Greece, the parties in office are preparing for the first elections after two terms in their history.