Monday, 26 January 2015

Eíkosi éxi Éna Dekapénte (Twenty six One Fifteen)-i̱ méra pou i̱ Elláda antepitéthi̱ke (the day that Greece fought back)

The victory of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) that has just happened is a historic moment not only in Greece, but also in Europe-for the first time ever, a genuinely socialist party has won a free and fair election in a European country.

In full, SYRIZA won 149 seats (not a majority, but not as bad as it looks; read below), 'New Democracy' won 76 seats, Golden Dawn won 17 seats (and worryingly finished third), To Potami won 17 seats and polled 6.1%, 0.2% less than Golden Dawn, the Greek Communists won 15 seats (an increase of just 3 from June 2012), the Independent Greeks won 13 seats (down 7 from June 2012, they were worried in some polls about being eliminated from the Greek Parliament by falling below the electoral threshold of 3%), and junior coalition partners PASOK finished a dismal seventh, and deservedly so, with 13 seats and just 4.68% of the votes cast. For a stark comparison, just over 5 years ago PASOK had won 160 seats and 43.92% of the vote. Democratic Left, who were coalition partners with ND and PASOK for a period, finished as low as 13th place in the poll (notably behind the far-left ANTASRSYA, the Union of Centrists, and ex-PM George Papandreou's splinter movement KIDISO, which only just missed out on representation) with half a percent of the votes cast. Overall, it was generally only self-defining left wing/far left parties in Greece that managed to increase their vote share-SYRIZA increased their vote share by 9.45% (to 36.34), KKE increased their vote share by 0.97% (to 5.47), ANTARSYA doubled its vote share to 0.64% (had it cooperated with SYRIZA, SYRIZA could have gained those vital extra two seats), and each minor communist party of Greece increased its vote share.

Now that SYRIZA has won, Greece can take some great leaps forward out of austerity-and hopefully so can many other countries mercilessly squeezed by the European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund-none of those Troika components are elected or accountable to ordinary people, unlike Alexis Tsipras, Greece's newest Prime Minister.

I do however believe that even though SYRIZA did not quite win a majority, it did not need to make deals with the UKIP-like (somewhat) Independent Greeks (ANEL), and here is why:

1. ANEL, despite being anti-corruption and anti-memorandum, is racist and xenophobic (even if not to the same extent that Golden Dawn is!), and SYRIZA needs to remain as progressive as possible in addition to being socialist.

2. The pro-European, pro-capitalist parties in Greece combined do not have enough seats left to obstruct any socialist legislation that SYRIZA wants to pass (combined, ND, To Potami, and PASOK only have 106 seats altogether), even with KKE's sectarian, uncooperative attitude.

3. ANEL's differing values, especially its social conservatism, could water down important parts of SYRIZA's plan, even if not that much. I believe SYRIZA needs to stay resolutely opposed to the Troika, resolutely committed to unshackling Greece from austerity, and helping Greece become more socially progressive.

Meanwhile back in Britain, the Green Party is still surging, with 50,000 members as of now and now starting to get relatively fair media coverage-and quite a few socialist parties have started entering the ring for May's general election, with TUSC, Socialist Labour, and the Socialist Party of Great Britain each having more selected PPCs than the BNP and English Democrats currently have in place put together.  Podemos is still polling well in Spain (although it does need to maintain its lead over the ruling Partido Popular more consistently, as SYRIZA did in the run-up to those elections). Portuguese election polls have not been so favourable for the left, sadly, partly due to LIVRE (quite similar to the component parties of the Democratic Unitarian coalition, except with more environmental emphasis) holding its small support base and the Left Bloc faring badly (I cannot figure out why it has lost support since 2011, though). The Red-Green Alliance is still polling well in Denmark, though, and the next Danish general election happens later this year.

I wish Alexis and all SYRIZA deputies the best of luck in these next crucial years.


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