Greek elections: the politics behind failure and the challenges ahead of success

There was media frenzy over fruitless coalition talks and the “last-ditch efforts” to form the so-called “government of prominent personalities”. Following Papademos leadership, the option of having unelected technocrats in government again, was under consideration. With the tyranny of pragmatism enslaving politics and society, fully trained economists are seen more competent to spot the right policies. They are supposed to have the skills and experience to ensure successful execution of EU guidelines and maintain effectiveness in a financial environment of ambiguity. Is there any clear evidence to support that? The euro for instance, was launched without significant political institutions behind it, which was not proved to be very clever. However the prospect of a second round of elections, was expected to bring havoc anyway. Under edgy circumstances,  voting -the backbone of democracy- is considered lethal. No need to wonder which section of society might feel threatened when people have their say for their own matters. Apparently a caretaker prime minister took over until elections in June, with a possible “Grexit” making headlines at the moment.

Kouvelis: juggling with two balls

The lack of consensus was not surprising considering leaders’ differing policy ideas for pulling Greece out of crisis. On the other hand, a coalition government with no strong political agreement among the parties involved, would sooner or later get riven and paralyzed. Although the country would most likely return to the ballot box, Samaras, Venizelos and Kouvelis pointed the finger at Syriza for failed efforts to form a government. It is true that Tsipras stuck to his guns, striving to show consistency with his pre-election rhetoric.

Plain maths though give clear evidence of twists and turns: with a majority of 168 seats, New Democracy along with PASOK and Democratic Left didn’t necessarily need the consent of Syriza. However Democratic Left has a mixture of  left leaning and ex-PASOK members, which is reflected on the pool of voters it attracts. Choosing clearly with which side he is on (Syriza or PASOK) it would put the party’s cohesiveness at risk. With a 6.11% of the vote and 19 parliament seats, Kouvelis’ tactic amid epic confrontations was to get the balance between showing that he gets the elections’ message -which clearly reprobates New Democracy and PASOK- by rejecting a power-sharing deal with them and avoid being labeled as indifferent to political instability fueled by the lack of government, thus putting Tsipras’ consent as a prerequisite  for a coalition.

Samaras: flawed, failed but not finished yet

It was Dec 2008 when the fatal injury of a 15 years old by a policeman sparked civil unrest on an unprecedented scale  across the country. Until then, Greek society seemed like a boiling pot ready to explode over a series of financial scandals, leaders’ inability to tackle immigration issues, rising unemployment and police mistrust. Ten months later in 2009, K. Karamanlis stood down as Prime Minister of Greece, bearing on his shoulders New Democracy’s worst defeat in elections. Samaras was appointed to head the conservative party, in what appeared to be a tricky task. He would have to prevent a public inquiry into “Vatopedi” and “Siemens” scandals that could expose the party’s involvement and be the man at the wheel, when Greece’s debt binge crashes provoking an economic crisis.

Apparently a litany of tactical mistakes under his leadership led the party at a historical low on last week’s elections. First and foremost although Samaras seemed to embrace an anti-austerity rhetoric, he backed the second bailout agreement prompting P. Kammenos to form the (splinter) Independent Greeks party, which snatched a great amount of New Democracy’s losses. Secondly he rushed for early elections although his popularity had slumped. Thirdly a few of his aides argue he should not avoid building bridges with Dora Bakoyianni (Democratic Alliance) or Stefanos Manos (Drasi) before elections.

In an attempt to bring the pieces back together, Samaras will strive  to topple left-wing Syriza by allying “with all neo-liberal forces fighting to see the country within Europe standing on its feet” as PASOK is not considered a threatening rival.

The challenges facing Tsipras ahead of elections

With Greece set for a fresh round of elections in June 17, Tsipras’ sheer resistance against mounting pressure to join a coalition with ND and PASOK, proved rewarding as the party seems to achieve consistent poll lead over New Democracy. The major challenge now is to keep it that way until June. Syriza’s  profound popularity stems from broader resentment over austerity and its architects (PASOK/New Democracy), that have been succeeding each other at power for nearly 38 years.

Τhere are still slim chances for an outright winner in the upcoming elections again. In the context of political mistrust, with the widespread belief that representatives across the political spectrum compromise at hard times, Syriza is expected to stand firm in its views and communicate in a credible and convincing manner, whether tearing up the terms of the EU/IMF bailout deal is feasible within Eurozone or not.

With an appeal on a broader section of society than mere anti-capitalists, post-election Syriza needs structural readjustment, not only for the 50 extra parliamentary seats bonus (in case it comes first during elections) but to get ahead swiftly contradictions stemming from its diversity.

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