GREEK ELECTIONS 2012: SEA CHANGES IN THE PARTY SYSTEM


GREEK ELECTIONS 2012: SEA CHANGES IN THE PARTY SYSTEM





The early elections in Greece, on May 6th signed the end of the so-called “Metapolitefsi” (regime change) that was established in 1974 after the collapse of the 1967-1974 military dictatorship. This regime lasted 38 years and its “end” had been heralded several times after 1989, by various political scientists, commentators and politicians. What this view missed was that the two-party system was rooted in a political tradition that valued state and political party dominance upon the civil society. Trade unions and other social organizations and movements were almost totally dominated by the mainstream political parties and their factions. It was only at times of turbulence that social movements surpassed parties and acted independently. The massive demonstrations, marches and occupations against the implementation of austerity policies that convulsed the cities of Greece during the last two years showed that an autonomous social protest movement emerged independently of political parties and traditional bureaucratic trade unions. The Greek “indignados” contributed to the final collapse of the “Metapolitefsi” political party system. Social unrest was diffused throughout the “left-right” political spectrum causing the emergence of both far-right and radical left political organizations.



On the far-right side of the spectrum, the neo-nazist party (“Golden Dawn”) took advantage of the nationalist and xenophobic attitudes of people who could not attribute the acute crisis and its consequences to the policies and operations of the capitalist class system, thus blaming the victims (immigrants) for their “destiny”. Moreover, “Golden Dawn” outnumbered LA.O.S. (“Popular Orthodox Rally”), the parliamentary far-right party until May 6th, because of the latter’s contradictory stances towards the Memorandum and its participation in the three-party government under the premiership of ex-banker, Mr. Loukas Papadimos, in cooperation with the conservative “Nea Dimokratia” and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement that dominated the party system since 1974. 



On the radical left side, the changes were even more exciting. SYRIZA (“Coalition of Radical Left”) outnumbered the traditional Communist Party of Greece (“KKE”, the stronger Stalinist party in Europe) for the first time in Greek history. Although SYRIZA was formed in 2004, its constituent groups can be traced back in the course of history (euro-communism, Trotskyism, Maoism etc). Now SYRIZA is an expanded coalition that includes left-wing social democrats, who in the passage of time, since 2009 abandoned PASOK due to its “conversion to a neo-liberal party”, according to its critics. SYRIZA conquered the second place in voters’ preference and aims at creating a viable government with the Left as its axis.



As regards the previously dominant parties now; PASOK with 13.2% seems to have played its role in the Greek political system as the main cartel party and it is not certain whether it will recover soon from its heavy defeat to lead a coalition of minor parties of the center and center-right (“Action”, “Liberal Alliance”), whose members had cooperated with PASOK in the past. New Democracy, under the leadership of Antonios Samaras will attempt to forge a troubled coalition government of the right - a mission impossible since “Independent Greeks” led by Panos Kammenos who formed his party against Samaras’s pro-memorandum policy and “Golden Dawn” was denounced by him as neo-nazist. Neither could Samaras form a government with PASOK since that would be the most unstable government under the current conditions.  



Since the other parties of the Left cannot add their votes to SYRIZA’s support either due to unresponsiveness (KKE) or to lack of policy consistency (“Democratic Left” led by moderate Fotis Kouvelis) it might be equally impossible to form a minority government.

So, rendezvous in June 2012....





ATHANASIOS TSAKIRIS

PhD, Department of Political Science and Public Administration

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


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