As a Cypriot resolute on being acknowledged as Cypriot rather than Greek-Cypriot, and no longer daily having to inhale the Southern Mediterranean air of erratic political passion, I have to state—at the outset of this blog—that I may not be entirely neutral insofar as my assessment of the results of the Greek parliamentary elections are concerned.
My experience of modern Greece has always been that of a beautiful but extremely nervous and loud country—and especially in Athens I always get a headache. Same now with the election results.
Evidently, the ‘people’ wanted to express their anger. Their concerns and worries are legitimate and we must not forget that the majority of Greeks are paying a disproportionately heavy price for the mistakes of corrupt elites and the consistent failure of past administrations to govern and regulate. Still, their vote is an illustration of the pitfalls of democracy when elections are mindlessly treated as an occasion for protest rather than an opportunity to form and express an opinion.
Nonetheless, the results are interesting in a number of ways:
• There is no single party or two-party coalition considered capable of leading the country through this difficult period. This extent of fragmentation of political opinion is new for Greece and its Constitution is ill-designed to cope with it (in terms of provisions for transition governments and the like).
So much for the bad news. Now for the good ones:
• The majority of Greeks are definitely upset—yet they do not wish Greece to exit the European Union. With the exception of the fascists (6.9% of the vote) and the Soviet-style Communists (8.5%) none of the parties questions EU membership.
• All parties, including the two mainstream parties Nea Dimokratia (18.9%) and PASOK (13.2%), are unhappy with the austerity packages negotiated with the EU and the IMF. Yet only Syriza or the Radical Left (16.8%) proposes complete or near-complete default on payments. In this respect, their message has been very misleading: their electoral program fails to acknowledge the bailouts already agreed upon earlier this year.
• The two other parties which are represented in the Parliament, namely the party of Independent Greeks (10.6%) and the Democratic Left (6.1%), rather wish a re-negotiation of the strict IMF conditions and, more so, programs to stimulate economic growth. In the meantime this is what most Europeans (and their governments) also want.
It follows that there are at least three possible and viable coalition governments: (a) between Nea Dimokratia, PASOK and Independent Greeks (total 182 seats); (b) between Nea Dimokratia, PASOK and Democratic Left (total 168 seats); (c) between all four (total 201 seats).
If none of the above materializes, then this is because the various political parties consider they have more to gain from new elections in a month’s time. But that would be equivalent to playing roulette with no dice, especially insofar as the new and/or small parties are concerned. This is because the most likely outcome of new elections is a small shift in favor of those two parties willing to govern, namely Nea Dimokratia and PASOK.