Is SYRIZA’s Win a Hollow Victory? (2/2)
In Part 2 of our conversation, Michael Nevradakis, scholar and host of Dialogos Radio in Athens, says the low voter turnout of 55% reflects widespread disenchantment with the Greek political system and SYRIZA
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome back to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. I’m speaking with Michael Nevradakis. He is in Athens. The election results are unfolding as we speak, at this moment, and it looks like Syriza is going to win with about a 7 percent lead against the New Democracy party.
Now, the question is whether Syriza and its Left Platform, now Popular Unity party that also ran in the election, is going to be able to stand up in parliament. The results aren’t looking very good at the moment in terms of the Popular Unity party making it to parliament. Michael, what do you think?
MICHAEL NEVRADAKIS: Well, the very interesting thing and the other major story that is coming out of these results is the fact that the party that did split off from Syriza, the Popular Unity, Laiki Enotita, looks like it is not going to make it into parliament. Right now with about 40 percent of the votes having been tallied up they are at 2.8 percent and it looks like it will be very difficult for them to catch up and to meet the 3 percent threshold that is required to enter the Greek parliament. I think there’s many reasons for this. I think that part of the popular disenchantment that I described earlier carried over to this new party. Laiki Enotiti or Popular Unity was hoping that it would capitalize on a certain percentage of voters who had voted no in the referendum back in July and who were likely not represented anymore by Syriza and its policies, or by any of the other major parties.
But I think voters turned their back on Popular Unity because they didn’t do enough when they still had the chance. Remember, the members of Popular Unity were part of the so-called Left Platform of Syriza. Syriza, of course, is a party that has many component groups. The Left Platform was one of the most major component groups within Syriza and a prior government. For instance the leader of Popular Unity, Panagiotis Lafazanis, was the energy minister in the previous Tsipras-led government. And when Syriza’s leadership turned its back on the referendum result after July 5, there was really not enough action taken by the members of the Left Platform, the current Popular Unity, to stop this from happening.
In fact, many of the members of Popular Unity didn’t even vote no in the vote that followed to pass the new agreement that was signed between Syriza and the Troika, the European so-called partners. Many of these members actually voted simply that they were present. So they took a neutral stance. And in many public statements that they made in July and in August they continued to proclaim their support for Alexis Tsipras as prime minister of Greece and for his government. The reason why they–.
PERIES: But wasn’t, Michael, wasn’t the actual establishment of the party after that general party meeting in which they decided that they now needed to split off, it’s at that point that a number of the Left Platform leaders actually joined and formed the new Popular Unity party.
NEVRADAKIS: They simply–the Popular Unity party was finally formed when the members of the Left Platform were informed by Tsipras and by Syriza’s leadership that they would not be included on the ballot for the September elections. So this is another reason that relates to what I was just talking about as to why voters may have turned their back on Popular Unity. The fact that this came across as a bit of political opportunism, that they were perfectly willing to stay within Syriza, and the reason why they ended up forming this new party was because it would not be on Syriza’s ballot in today’s election.
So this is conjecture, obviously. These are all hypotheses. But these seem like very likely possibilities for why Popular Unity didn’t do very well, as well as the fact of course that in the entire campaign season for these new elections–it was about three weeks. It was only about three weeks ago that elections were finally officially declared, and the date of September 20 was set. So it was very, very little time, not just for Popular Unity but for many of the smaller parties, and there’s other anti-memorandum parties like Antarsya, and EPAM, the United Popular Front, that–.
PERIES: And how do you think Antarsya will do in the elections?
NEVRADAKIS: Well, as of the current result, with again about 40 percent of the votes counted, Antarsya is at 0.8 percent, which is a very small increase from their January result when they were at about 0.6. EPAM, which is another heavily anti-memorandum party that has also spoken out regarding the need for Greece to leave the eurozone and the European Union, very similar to Antarsya. They are now at 0.74 percent. So both of these parties are below 1 percent. They’re well below the 3 percent threshold to enter parliament.
And again, none of these smaller parties had the time or the resources to mobilize once these early elections were called.
PERIES: Michael, the Communist Party of Greece, the KKE, how did they do in terms of results?
NEVRADAKIS: Interestingly enough, their results as far as today’s elections go seem to be almost exactly the same as the result in January. They have really not made any gains nor have they sustained any losses. They’re at about 5.5 percent. They will probably keep the same number of seats in parliament as they had from the previous election, which is 15 seats out of the 300-seat parliament in Greece.
And I think the reason for this, the fact that the Communist Party of Greece has not managed to make any gains despite the political events of the past few months is the fact that their message as far as austerity, as far as the economic measures are going, has also been very mixed. There have been various mixed messages from the Communist Party’s leadership regarding whether or not Greece should leave from the eurozone or not. There was a statement by Dimitris Koutsoumpas, who is the head of the Communist Party of Greece, who basically said that leaving the euro and returning to a national currency would not be in the interest of Greek workers at this time.
So I think this muddled the message that is being delivered by the Communist Party, which in other statements tries to present itself as an anti-austerity or even an anti-imperialist alternative to the mainstream parties. I think that whole message just got confused with all of these other seemingly contradictory statements that the party has made. And as a result they were able to basically keep their basic core electorate [at least] in today’s elections and not make any additional gains beyond that.
PERIES: And do you think the position that they have taken is because there is some truth to that, in terms of leaving the euro and perhaps going back to the drachma?
NEVRADAKIS: I don’t think there’s really much truth to that at all. I think it’s basically just a repetition of what the major mainstream parties in Greece are saying, what the major media outlets, which are all operated by oligarchs, what they are saying, and what the European Union and the so-called Troika is saying. The reality is that there’s numerous Greek and non-Greek economists who have presented very detailed proposals for how a country like Greece could depart from the eurozone, return to a national currency, do this in an orderly manner, and to allow–and these proposals have included policies, policy proposals, that would be geared toward allowing the Greek economy to recover after such an event.
And the reality is that such proposals have gotten absolutely zero airplay in Greece on TV, on the radio, in the newspapers, in the press. Basically any discussion of any sort of alternate policy that differs in any way from what the mainstream parties have been enforcing for the past few years, and that includes Syriza as we saw in the past few months, any alternative debate is essentially stifled by the Greek media. And as a result Greek voters go to the polls, this was the case in January and this is the case again today, with a very incomplete set of information upon which they can base their selection.
PERIES: And finally, Michael, the third party that is rising is the Golden Dawn party, the right wing neo-Nazi party. What do you make of the results, and are they holding steady as well or are they gaining?
NEVRADAKIS: It looks like Golden Dawn will actually make some small gains in today’s elections. They’re currently at over 7 percent. Back in January they were at about 6.4 percent. So they are [inaud.] a slight increase in today’s elections. They will likely gain a couple of additional seats in parliament. They might have 19 or 20 seats in the 300-seat parliament. They are safely in third place. They are about half a percentage point ahead of the next party, which is the coalition between PASOK and the so-called Democratic Left party.
So it looks like they have solidified their position as the third party in Greece at this time. I think there were perhaps people that expected them to do even better, however. Perhaps getting 8 or 9 or even 10 percent, there were even some polls that suggested that this was going to happen. Nevertheless they have made some modest gains. And they were probably able to gain a small amount of disenchanted voters who were disappointed in if not so much Syriza as a supposedly left-wing party then Syriza’s former coalition party, the right wing Independent Greeks. They have gone down by about 1 percent from 4.7 percent in January to about 3.7 in today’s elections. And it looks like a significant percentage of that 1 percent that they lost has likely made it over to a party that is even further to the right, which is Golden Dawn.
PERIES: And Michael, finally, what is ahead in the next few days? Obviously a new government will be sworn in, but what kind of coalition do you think will be formed?
NEVRADAKIS: Well as you said, I think it’s pretty clear at this stage looking at the results that Greece will have a new government in the next few days. There doesn’t seem to be any need for there to be followup elections, as was the case in May of 2012. And most likely what will happen is that Syriza, which will not have enough of a victory to gain an autonomous majority in parliament, they will fall slightly below 151 seats, which was also the case in January when they finished with 149 seats. In today’s elections they might have about 145, 146, 147.
They will likely form a coalition with parties such as the PASOK and Democratic Left electoral coalition. With Potami, which is another party that is very heavily pro-EU and pro-memorandum. Perhaps even with another party that is a first-time entrant into Parliament, the so-called Centrists Union, Enosi Kentroon, which also has had a mixed message. On the one hand they claim to be a party that has always spoken out very heavily against corruption in the Greek political system. On the other hand their position is also very strongly in favor of austerity and Greece remaining within the eurozone. They have gotten a lot of media attention. They’re the only party that was not in parliament that the media gave any attention to, and I don’t think that’s accidental.
So most likely we will see a coalition between Syriza, PASOK, and the Democratic Left, Potami, and the Centrists Union. But what is the wild card is whether or not New Democracy, which will have about 75 seats in Parliament, will also participate. The rumors are that Greece’s so-called European partners would like to have a grand coalition that will encompass practically all of the mainstream parties that are in Greek parliament. They want a government that will have more than 200 seats out of the 300 seat parliament. And if the pressures are high enough I would not be surprised to see New Democracy, the conservative party, also participating in this grand coalition. And that would mean essentially that the opposition, if you could call it an opposition, in parliament would be Golden Dawn and the Communist Party of Greece.
I don’t think that’s a very good result for Greece, I don’t think that’s a very good result for Greek voters. But it’s not very surprising at all considering the fact that it is only these parties that get any attention at all from the mainstream media in Greece. There have been many efforts by both politicians and the media in Greece to essentially terrorize Greek voters about the consequences of what would happen if they chose a different path politically. And of course there’s also the apathy that we talked about before, the fact that almost half of the registered voters did not vote. If they did vote and they came out and voted for parties like Laiki Enotita, Popular Unity, Antarsya, EPAM, and other smaller parties, the results today could have been significantly different.
PERIES: Michael Nevradakis, thank you for your very thorough analysis of what’s unfolding in Greece today.
NEVRADAKIS: Well, thank you very much.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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