Greek voters enraged by economic hardship mauled traditional ruling parties in an election on Sunday, putting the country’s future in the euro zone at risk and threatening to revive the region’s debt crisis.
The latest official results, with over 50 percent of the vote counted, confirmed projections showing the only two major parties supporting an EU/IMF bailout that keeps Greece from bankruptcy would struggle to form a workable coalition.
Conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK, who have dominated Greece for decades, were holding less than 35 percent of the vote. That would likely give them under the 151 seat threshold needed for even the most fragile majority in parliament.
Once mighty PASOK looked set to be pushed into third place by the anti-bailout Left Coalition party, in a stunning vote against austerity policies that have caused deep hardship in one of Europe’s worst postwar recessions.
New Democracy was polling just over 20 percent and PASOK a humiliating 14 percent with the Left Coalition on 15.8.
In the previous election in 2009, PASOK won a landslide victory with 44 percent and the Left Coalition had just 5 percent.
“I cannot take it anymore, living as beggars in our own country. The Left Coalition can shake them up, and wake them up,” said Kate Savvidou, 65, a pensioner who deserted PASOK.
Left Coalition leader Alexis Tsipras, at 37 Greece’s youngest political leader, hailed a peaceful revolution and said German Chancellor Angela Merkel should understand that austerity policies had been defeated.
“Greek people gave a mandate for a new dawn with solidarity and justice instead of barbaric bailout measures,” he said.
In another indication of the extent of public anger, the extreme right Golden Dawn party was poised to take nearly 7 percent of the vote. This would allow such a party to enter parliament for the first time since the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras called for a pro-European national salvation government that would keep Greece in the euro zone. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos also called for a unity government, saying his party had paid the price for handling the sovereign debt crisis.
But the small parties who gained in the election are all against the bailout, while being too divided to form an alternative coalition.
If the results are confirmed, the election could plunge Greece into new political turmoil, reigniting a euro zone debt crisis first detonated by Athens in 2009, and starting it down a path that could take it out of the euro.
Several analysts said the unprecedented fragmentation of the vote could bode weeks of instability and force another election.
But a New Democracy source said the party would not ask for repeat elections if it finished up as the largest party.
“This election was suppose to punish major parties and if they didn’t manage to get a majority it was a punishment vote indeed,” said Blanka Kolenikova of IHS Global Insight.
Greeks angry at record unemployment, collapsing businesses and steep wage cuts seemed to ignore warnings that a vote against the harsh terms of the bailout would push Greece towards bankruptcy.
“The exit polls confirm what has been patently clear for some time: there’s no political consensus for the kind of reforms that Greece must implement if it wants to remain in the euro zone,” said Nicholas Spiros of Spiro Sovereign Strategy.
Othon Anastasakis, director of southeast European studies at Oxford University told Reuters: “Greeks are sending a very strong message abroad, which is enough with austerity.”
As they voted, many Greeks expressed their rage at the parties who accepted the harsh conditions of two bailouts that have kept the country from bankruptcy.
“My vote was a protest vote because they cut my pension,” said 75-year-old pensioner Kalliopi, her fists clenched in anger.
“I live in a basement but pay the same (property) tax as someone who lives in a penthouse,” said Kalliopi after voting.
“I voted for Left Coalition, even if this means elections again in a month. I feel vindicated, things are changing little by little because people decided to speak up,” said 22-year old student Klelia Avgerinopoulou.
International lenders and investors fear success for the small anti-bailout parties could lead to Greece reneging on the harsh terms for the program, risking a hard sovereign default and dragging the euro zone back into the worst crisis since its creation.
Euro zone paymaster Germany has warned there would be “consequences” to an anti-bailout vote and the EU and IMF insist whoever wins the election must stick to austerity if they want to receive the aid that keeps Greece afloat.
Samaras: ‘Greece will not be left ungoverned’
New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras on Sunday evening tabled a proposal, under two conditions, following the announcement of partial results of a general election held in the country the same day.
The first condition, Samaras said, is for Greece to remain in the Eurozone and the second is the changing of the Memorandum’s (bailout package) policies, “so as to have growth and relief for Greek society.”
Samaras said the policies implemented previously by PASOK have reached their limits as regards Greek society’s endurance, charging that such policies did not include measures for growth, which he had repeatedly proposed, both in Greece and in Europe.
“New Democracy party is emerging as the first party, something that increases its responsibilities, I understand the people’s rage, but our party will not leave Greece ungoverned,” Samaras added.
Tsipras: voters dealt crushing
defeat to austerity policies
The election result in Greece was a strong message of radical change in both Greece and Europe, a message of “peaceful revolution” showing that the people of Europe could not settle for “barbarous memorandums” and bailouts, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said late on Sunday, after elections results showed SYRIZA in second place.
He stressed that the parties that had supported the policies of the memorandum were now a minority, who would only be able to scrape together a marginal majority in Parliament because of a skewed election law that distorted the people’s will and the election outcome.
Tsipras said that Europe’s leadership, especially that of Germany, had to understand that the result was a crushing defeat for austerity policies, with the Greek people “giving their mandate for a new day in our country, without memorandum of barbarous measures but with solidarity and justice in a path out of the crisis that will in any case be difficult”.
He also stressed that voters proved through the ballot box that the path out of the crisis did not pass through bailouts and austerity.
He said that SYRIZA understood that its meteoric rise in this election did not reward a party or particular person but a proposal for a leftist government that would arrest the course of austerity policies and bailouts and promised that SYRIZA would do everything in its power to bring about a government that would terminate the Memorandum and loan agreements.
Tsipras said his party would immediately seek to reach an understanding with forces on the political left, initially, so as to exhaust all possibility for “developments in a progressive direction”.
Venizelos: PASOK to
call for nat’l unity gov’t
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, speaking after initial results showed his party struggling between second and third place (roughly 15 percent), said PASOK will propose a “national unity” government, as foreseen in the constitution.
“All of the forces with pro-European direction should participate in such a government in order to have political legitimacy and acceptance abroad,” as he said, adding that with the results of the May 6 poll preclude a government of the “old two-party system”.
According to party spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata, PASOK will await statements by other parties, particularly leftist SYRIZA.
Independent Greeks rule out
cooperation with ‘memorandum’ parties
The head of the Independent Greeks party Panos Kammenos ruled out cooperation with either PASOK or New Democracy, the two parties that put their signature to the Memorandum and austerity measures, in statements after the results of Sunday’s general elections in Greece showed his party entering Parliament with roughly 10 percent of the vote.
Kammenos insisted that he would table his party’s policy platform in Parliament and leave it up to individual MPs to decide whether they wanted to support it, including individual MPs from PASOK and ND that disagreed with their party’s leadership.
Similarly, he said he was not prepared to participate in any “special purpose government” serving bankers and the past but was willing to take part in a “national purpose government”.
On the prospect of cooperating with the left-wing Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which looked set to come second in the elections, Kammenos noted that he had the same positions as SYRIZA on economic issues but differed on issues of foreign policy, illegal migration and relations with Turkey.
Kouvelis: DI.MAR will
persist in pre-election commitments
The Democratic Left (DIMAR) party will honour the confidence that the Greek people have given it and will make it a force for Greece and society, party president Fotis Kouvelis said on Sunday night, after the announcement of partial results of general elections.
Kouvelis said the Greek people “have spoken and condemned those political forces that led the country to today’s impasses. They condemned the Memorandum’s policies, while election result depict the choices of the people, and overturns the two-party system.”
He added that his party will move along the axis of its pre-election commitments, namely, “disengagement from the Memorandum and a stable European orientation.”
Greek elections: who enters
Parliament as state deputy
The number of state deputies for each party that will enter Parliament was finalised late at night on election Sunday, with 47 percent of the vote counted throughout the country.
Based on the result, the New Democracy party will elect three state deputies, while the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), PASOK and the Independent Greeks each get two state deputies and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Golden Dawn-Chryssi Avgi and Democratic Left will each have one.
It is now extremely unlikely that there will be any change, because even if the marginal Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and Ecologists-Greens party do finally manage to get into Parliament their percentage will be too low to allow them to elect a state deputy.
In light of this, the state deputies that will enter Parliament will be Haralambos Athanassiou, Chrysanthos Lazaridis and Yiannis Mihelakis for ND, Manolis Glezos and Theano Fotiou for SYRIZA, Pyrros Dimas and Fofi Gennimata for PASOK, Terens Kouik and Mihalis Yiannakis for the Independent Greeks, Thanasis Pafilis from the KKE, Christos Pappas for Golden Dawn and Spyros Lykoudis for the Democratic Left.