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After the Greek election

Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Syriza will further increase its voting power. 

After an unprecedented campaign of scaremongering, blackmail and threats against Syriza by German, European and IMF officials, the pro-bailout party of New Democracy (ND, Centre-Right) won the electoral contest by a whisker and is poised to form a government with its brother in corruption, PASOK (Centre-Left). Will such a government last? I doubt it. 

Germany is under severe pressure by Obama and Hollande to change course and renegotiate with the embattled governments of the European periphery the bailout agreements. But the crisis in Spain and elsewhere, especially in Portugal and Cyprus, are very demanding and require deep reforms, such as a banking union and a transfer union via a pan-European redemption fund and the issuing of Euro-bonds, which means that Germany has to share its credit-card with the debtor countries. 

This, however, poses additional problems for any European government because these are policy proposals that completely surrender national independence to Germany (especially with the transfer union proposal). In addition, and regardless of whether or not these proposals receive approval, the austerity in the periphery will continue, the result being new popular mobilisations and social upheaval. The political bloc of the Right in Greece will govern on the basis of the programme dictated by the ‘troika’ (IMF, ECB, EU) in the hope of achieving a primary (budgetary) surplus, so that the country could default officially within the Eurozone. But this requires additional austerity, more taxation and wage cuts, more borrowing, in other words, a vicious circle of debt proliferation, unemployment and GDP contraction. On the other hand, Syriza is powerful.

In less than three years, its voting bloc rose from 4,6% (2009) to 16,5% (6 May 2012) to 27% (17 June 2012). This is a spectacular political and social course unparalleled in Greece’s and Europe’s post-war history and it is not going to stop. Now Syriza will have 71 MPs within the 300-seat Greek parliament. It is the strongest radical left party in Europe and has created solidarity networks and popular assemblies across the country. In all likelihood, it will form a shadow cabinet challenging every specific policy measure taken by the right-wing bloc and its foreign patrons in office. The ‘troika’ has already announced that it is ready to pay a visit to Athens once a government is formed. At the same time, and because of continuous austerity, Syriza will be attracting more and more social support, further eroding the class base of PASOK and ND. In other words, the right-wing, pro-bailout coalition government that is bound to result from the vote of 17 June has no prospects of lasting long. 

The key issue, however, is what the ‘troika’ is going to do. Will they give any room for re-negotiation of the bailout package to the new Greek government? If so, it is likely to be for the appearances only in order to appease Greek society. Such a re-negotiation will lack any real revisionist substance. But if this is the case, then the life of the government is bound to be much shorter. Given the stress Germany faces from every corner, the likelihood is that a fully-fledged implementation of the bailout programme will bring about a disorderly exit of Greece from the Eurozone, a scenario that should not be considered as unlikely. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Syriza will further increase its voting power. 

About the author

Vassilis K. Fouskas is Professor of International Politics & Economics at the Royal Docks School of Business & Law, University of East London and Director of STAMP (Centre for the study of States, Markets & People).


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