Greece is living a new political panorama, completely different from January, after the elections held on last September 20. Tsipras, who was elected in January to break with the Memorandum, now leads a government whose only objective is to implement all the measures demanded by the Troika.
This is the third electoral event in the year, and happened after most of the people said OXI (NO) in the referendum and Tsipras ignored its results. In the September elections, Tsipras’ campaign highlighted that “there is no other alternative but to go along with the Troika” and he got the desired aftermath from the votes of a disillusioned people. So, the aim now is to organize the struggle against the Tsipras’ new government measures.
The victory of Syriza with 35.46% of the votes takes place in a context of the party split, the exit of thousands of members, and the resounding NO to the referendum.
The anticipation of the elections ended the project of a “left wing government”. To reassure its majority in parliament, a snap election was called before the measures agreed with the troika had consequences for workers.
The new SYRIZA-ANEL government has provided a profound sense of relief to the Troika. The result was in accordance with its needs and is the warranty to push through the plan in two respects: on the one hand, the signing of the third Memorandum and, on the other, the “cleaning” of the parliamentarians who voted against the signing of the Memorandum.
The new cabinet formed by Tsipras is a continuation of the previous government, with only eight posts changed.
Syriza-Tsipras triumphed with 35.5% of the votes, beating expectations and doubts. Even though it has lost 320,000 votes compared to January 2015, it reached 42% in the working class neighborhoods of Athens and 40% among youths between 18 and 24 years old.
New Democracy: 1,526,205 – it loses 200,000 votes; the coalition PASOK-DIMAR: 341,340; and To Potami (The River): 222,166 – it loses 80,000 votes (obtained in January 2015); ANEL: 200,423 – 93,000 less from January 15.
Golden Dawn was an inconvenient distant third, with 379,581 votes, losing 9,000 votes compared with January 2015. It continues to decline, although keeping around 7%. The highest rates were obtained in the islands such as Mitilini, where there is the unsolvable problem of the refugees.
The fifth place that the Greek Communist Party (KKE) continues to hold is not less inconvenient. With 301,632 votes it lost 37,000 votes, but preserved its presence in the parliament. Its role of “opposition” and “abstention” in the Memorandum left it delocalized before the masses at the height of the mobilization for the NO, but reaffirming its counterrevolutionary apparatus role.
The Popular Unity did not make enough to erase the six months it was part of the government and of the signed Memorandum. Its campaign for “No until the end” attracted only 155,242 voters (2.82%) and it fell short of the required 3% threshold to win parliamentary representation.
The left parties also did not reach 3% of the votes. The the coalition Antarsya-EEK obtained 46,096 votes (39,497 in January) and the OKDE had 2,370 compared to 1,854 in January; the P.C.-M.L. (Maoist Communist Party), with 8,944 against 7,999 in January 2015.
Left organizations have failed to appear as an alternative in this election, despite having been at the forefront of the campaign for the NO. It prevailed the uneasiness, the disenchantment and the confusion before the fall of the “left wing government”, which people believed to be the alternative that would fight capitalism.
The low turnout
Turnout was exceptionally low at 56.6%, the lowest ever recorded in a Greek legislative election since the restoration of democracy in 1974. Voters’ apathy and disaffection with politics after seeing that Tsipras turned the 62% votes for NO into a YES to the troika were likely causes for the low turnout.
There were 600,000 voters less than in July and 780 thousand less than in January. From the comparison a question arises: why such a high turnout in the referendum and such a low turnout in these elections? The difference occurs, in part, by the way the people experienced them: a great willingness to fight expressed in the campaign for the NO and the apathy they received the call for a snap election no one asked for, unless the government.
Certainly, it was not the summer day, a quite hot day, which encouraged voters to go to the beaches, but the weariness after being continuously called to the polls (January general elections, July referendum and the snap election on 20 September) and the remarkable disappointment of people, who in different ways said, “we know what awaits us”.
It could be added the need to travel to the places of origin in order to vote, at a time when everyone is looking to save money, so that the wages, already reduced by so many cuts, can make a living.
Comparative tables between September 20 and January 2015 elections
JANUARY 2015 ELECTION
PARTY SEATS VOTES
Syriza 149 36,34%
New Democracy 76 27,81%
Golden Dawn 17 6,28%
To Potami 17 6,04%
KKE 15 5,47%
Pasok 13 4,68%
Independent Greeks 13 4,75%
SEPTEMBER 2015 ELECTION
PARTY SEATS VOTES
Syriza 145 35,5%
New Democracy 75 28,1%
Golden Dawn 18 7,0%
Pasok 17 6,3%
KKE 15 5,5%
To Potami 11 4,1%
Independent Greeks 10 3,7%
Union of Centrists 9 3,4%
The “legalization” of Tsipras’ plan
The plan is born, thereby, for the second time, bringing back Syriza’s coalition with the nationalist party Independent Greeks – ANEL -, for a “four-years term, because this is the mandate”, even though the euphoria had been experienced only at the Syriza’s head office.
The Greek people do not expect anything new, they know really well the conditions of the last bailout, the cause of the “terrible” indecision until the last moment, as some people have expressed, “that evening we looked to our own eyes and we did not know what to do”. One thing is very clear for them: they do not want the right-wing parties ruling.
What comes next, and as soon as possible, is the beginning of the reform plan, that requires the loan of 86 billion euros.
The difference between the first campaign and this one is that this time Tsipras neither has said a single word about “renegotiation” nor has made promises about any kind of rupture with the Memorandum, or about the recovering of the minimum wage, or on the collective bargaining agreement, or about the recovery of the 13th month’s salary [a kind of Christmas bonus, equivalent to a month salary].
The “new” government comes with the package under its arm, with planned retirement cuts, new career plan in the State, further increases in the tax system, end of benefits, seven-years increase of pension age, and privatization – which had been on hold – of all that remains to be privatized.
It is still unclear whether all this will proceed or not. It will depend on whether the workers and the Greek people will fight back, on how workers will resist the capitalist plunder by the Greek employers, supported by their unquestionable partner Tsipra. It will also depend on the possibilities of coordinating and organizing these fights.
Beyond the figures
Syriza’s final rally on Friday, September 18 at the Syntagma Square, was attended by around 5 thousand people. It was a demonstration with lots of lights and a lot of empty spaces. Sofía and Georgia are teachers; they tried to explain to me it had not been so in previous demonstrations, referring to the NO campaign.
“… It was the first time I cried in a demonstration. We have always been leftist, this is a leftist government and we will support it. Before the January elections, we were experiencing a terrible situation at the schools. They wanted to impose the ‘Assessments’ to begin the dismissals. We felt the persecution and threats; there was an enormous fear of losing our jobs. It was one of the last fights before the election: to bar the Assessments and we managed to do it. The vote on Syriza was for democracy and human rights. Nothing can be changed in a sudden, signing the Memorandum was something we all knew it would happen, and we need to give it a time. We could not do anything else, and the worst we had already experienced: from 2011 until now we have lost 45% of our earnings“.
On Saturday evening, before the polls, at a meeting of trade union and human rights activists, for the first time, there were discussions regarding different positions about Syriza. It was a visceral discussion, but the unanimity was broken and the votes were split among Tsipras, UP, Antarsya and abstention.
Greece has the highest anti-capitalist Left in the world and there are a great number of organizations, groups and political parties claiming for the revolution. There were also countless meetings held during the first week after the polls. Organizations like Antarsya and OKDE that participated defending the Greek and Euro exit with an anti-capitalist program, were able to make more objective assessments regarding their results and how to prepare for the coming struggles.
The split that had happened in Syriza extended to the remainder of the broad spectre of the Left. The situation gets better defined: on one side are the sectors that will continue to support the government; on the other, separating themselves from the government supporters, are those who speak of “Tsipras betrayal” and propose the “need of reorganization”.
This is an open process and the richest one taking place nowadays, especially by many young activists who believed in the “Syriza’s revolutionary program” who are now in search for an alternative.
On the other hand, the sectors that were in struggle went into a “deadlock”, which began after the elections of January 2015. In meetings with hospital unions activists, teachers union groups, the INTRACOM factory, there is a common point of view in the description of their workplaces: it is possible to feel the disappointment, the struggles that happened in the previous period – during the hardest blows of the cuts – they had a break, and now they will depend upon the pace at which the measures make progress.
On the other hand, the workers struggles reached a “stalemate” after the first Syriza’s government, in January. In meetings with health union activists, union groups of teachers, of INTRACOM factory workers there is a common point of view regarding their workplaces: there is a great disappointment of the people, the struggles in the previous period – during the toughest attacks – went on a break, and now depend on the pace of implementation of the new austerity measures.
Everyone also agrees that a new stage is open, that the signing of the Memorandum will bring more attacks and that the situation is open to what kind of answers will be given in each workplace.