Saturday, June 24, 2023

What to Know About Greece's Sunday National Elections




Tomorrow is Sunday, it’s also Greece’s National Election Day Redux, when the birthplace of democracy will (hopefully) select its Parliament and Prime Minister.


I add “hopefully” because, in an election held for the same purpose on May 21st the current party in power (New Democracy) received a massive number of votes, but not enough to form a majority government out of its own party members, and the many other parties that received votes for seats in Parliament could not agree to form a coalition government. 


Sunday’s election is a critical one, for it could well set the course for Greece’s continued journey out of the decade-long financial crisis that brought both the nation’s economy and reputation to its knees.


In order to put this into better perspective, I thought it might be helpful to offer a brief explanation of the electoral mechanics involved, and the political dynamic currently driving the electorate. That said, in order to maintain my long-held practice of not expressing my personal opinions on Greek politics—as opposed to the willingness of my fictional characters to do so ––I’m offering up this amalgam of two articles reported this week by Reuters. One titled, “Greece’s Election on Sunday: how the system works,” and the other, “Greek conservatives appear set to win Sunday election tinged by tragedy.”


Article one


Following is the political backdrop to Greece’s parliamentary election on Sunday. Opinion polls show former Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party winning by a wide margin over the leftist Syriza party, which ruled in 2015-2019 at the peak of the Greek debt crisis.


May election


New Democracy won May 21 vote with a 20-point lead over Syriza, a margin Greece has not seen since the 1970s. But it fell short of the majority needed to rule alone due to a proportional voting system in place for that poll.


Mitsotakis did not seek coalition allies, saying Greece needs a strong and stable government to push on with necessary reforms. The other parties decided against forging their own coalition, leading the country to a repeat election.


Mitsotakis then stepped aside for the country to be run by a caretaker government, as required by the constitution.


Opinion polls


Opinion polls conducted since then show New Democracy (ND) widening its lead further ahead of Sunday’s vote.


A poll conducted by RASS polling agency published on June 19 put ND at 42.9% versus 17.9% for Syriza, and showed it winning a comfortable 166-seat majority in the 300-seat parliament.


The Socialist PASOK party ranked third with 12.3%.


Opinion polls suggest that up to seven parties could enter parliament, including the leftist Plefsi Eleftherias, founded by former Syriza lawmaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, and a newly set up far-right party called Spartans.


The system


The repeat election will be held under a semi-proportional representation, or reinforced proportionality, with a sliding scale seat bonus.


Parties need to secure at least 3% of the vote to enter parliament for a four-year term.


Under the new system, the winning party is awarded a bonus of 20 to 50 seats. It receives 20 seats outright if it gets at least 25% of the vote, and can get up to 50 seats if it gets about 40% of the vote.


Over 9.9 million Greeks aged over 17 are eligible to vote. CURRENT PARLIAMENT  (as formed after May 21 election) Parties in the current parliament (with number of seats): New Democracy, centre-right. Leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis (146) Syriza, left wing. Leader Alexis Tsipras (71) PASOK-KINAL, centre-left. Leader Nikos Androulakis (41) KKE, communist. Leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas (26) Hellenic Solution, right-wing. Leader Kyriakos Velopoulos(16)


The leftist Mera25 party, founded by former finance minister under Syriza’s rule Yanis Varoufakis, did not make it into parliament on May 21.




Article two


Sunday’s election is being held in the shadow of a migrant shipwreck on June 14 in which hundreds of people are feared to have perished. One of the worst migrant disasters in years, it has shown the parties’ divisions over migration.

Opinion polls show New Democracy with more than 40% percent of the vote, with Syriza headed by Alexis Tsipras trailing at about 20%. Mitsotakis, prime minister since 2019, stepped down in favour of a caretaker premier following the inconclusive May vote as required by the constitution.

Analysts said a row over who was to blame for the shipwreck had likely slightly boosted Mitsotakis, who tore into his archrival Tsipras for suggesting Greece didn’t do all that it could to prevent the disaster.

“(The debate) has helped New Democracy because Syriza’s first, instinctive reaction was to voice doubts over the coast guard (and its handling), while New Democracy appeared to be protecting the borders,” said Apostolos Pistolas, a voting behaviour analyst.

Rescuers found 104 survivors but up to 750 people were thought to have been packed on the ramshackle vessel that had sailed from Libya and was heading to Italy. The boat had been shadowed by the Greek coast guard before it sank: the coast guard has said that the occupants refused all offers of help.

Mitsotakis, whose administration has taken a hard stance on migration, said “wretched traffickers” were to blame for the disaster and praised the coast guard for rescuing people.

Tsipras has questioned why the coast guard did not intervene earlier. Under the previous Syriza administration, more than one million refugees and migrants reached Greek islands as they tried to come to Europe in 2015 and 2016.

The disaster sidelined other issues in the run-up to the election, including a cost of living crisis, and a deadly rail crash in February that exposed shortcomings on the public transport system.

Repeat vote, different rules

Sunday’s vote takes place with different rules to the May election – the front-runner wins bonus seats in the 300-member parliament allowing it an absolute majority.

Behind the bigger names are a number of smaller parties, including MeRA25, headlined by Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister noted for unconventional tactics at the peak of Greece’s debt crisis a decade ago.

Leftist Zoe Konstantopoulou, another veteran of Greece’s turmoil remembered for making hours-long speeches ripping into Greece’s lenders while speaker of parliament, is also seeking a seat.

Also running are the Spartans, named after the formidable warriors of Sparta in ancient Greece, who say the country is threatened by uncontrolled migration. The nationalist group was catapulted from relative obscurity after support from Ilias Kasidiaris, a frontman of the now-banned Golden Dawn far right party. He is currently in jail.


As I said, it’s a significant election.



No comments:

Post a Comment