Can Europe Make It?

European elections: Greek reactions, SYRIZA’s victory

Ioanna Karamitrousi
6 June 2014

The results of the European election in Greece must be viewed through the lens of the ongoing harsh austerity measures imposed by the Troika and the Greek governments post-2009. Hence, the victory of the Left party - SYRIZA - was not particularly surprising, although undeniably historic.

In order to fully grasp the significance of this result, we need to factor in the successes of the left represented by SYRIZA in the municipal and provincial elections that took place on May 18 and 25. SYRIZA managed to secure a victory in the largest province of the country (Attica), where Rena Dourou marginally yet decisively beat the government-supported candidate, who has held the post for 12 years. Perhaps even more impressively, Gabriel Sakellaridis, a young economist supported by SYRIZA, secured an unprecedented 48.60% in the municipality of Athens, a traditionally conservative constituency. Furthermore, candidates supported by SYRIZA managed to come first in the second round of the municipal elections in a number of working-class neighborhoods.

Crucially, it is the first time in Greek political history that a left-wing party has clearly come first in the European elections. Given that the political debate prior to the elections was heated and polarized, it is fair to say that this was not specifically a protest vote. The result accurately reflects the domestic balance of political power and constitutes a vocal message of disapproval of the current government and its aggressive austerity policies. The victory of SYRIZA acquires added political and symbolic value given that it constitutes an anti-austerity vote with clearly left-wing characteristics, contrasting with a wider European trend of far-right success.

In any case, the victory of SYRIZA must be understood as a victory not simply against New Democracy, but a victory against a powerful nexus of pro-austerity, pro-establishment actors ranging from an implicit coalition between most political parties, to the mass media and corporate interests. SYRIZA managed to gain such extensive support despite the generalized sense of fear that was being cultivated by the media and the current government steadily playing the card of “destabilization” that they insist will occur after the rise of the left. Thus, we can reasonably assume that SYRIZA has developed deep roots in those parts of the Greek society most influenced by the crisis (the unemployed, traditional working-class neighbourhoods, the youth) - parts that also constitute the nucleus that is capable of bringing about political and social transformation.

Last but not least, in Greece there were not only positive results but negative ones too. It became evident that the far right vote, the neo-Nazi far right included, is stable at around 15%, exerting considerable influence upon traditional working-class areas. The neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, is now the third biggest party in Greece (9.40%) electing three MEPs for the first time in modern Greek political history.

Addressing supporters as the results rolled in, Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA’s leader, called for general elections to be held immediately, saying the outcome robbed the government of any “political or moral legitimacy” to continue enforcing policies that were overwhelming rejected.

Overall, I was really satisfied with the fact that SYRIZA won on an anti-austerity platform. It seems to me to be a progressive step forwards for Greek society. My experience in openDemocracy was magnificent! It was the first time that I participated in a project like this and I learnt so many things about Europe and European elections. It was an unforgettable experience!!! I would like to thank all of you who had this amazing idea about “Can Europe make it”. The results showed that Europe can make it!!!!

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