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August 3, 2012
August 3, 2012

Greece’s 2012 election and the democratic dead-end

Author: Sofia Tipaldou Translator: Anna Papoutsi
Category: On the crisis
This article is also available in: eselplpt-pt
Greece’s 2012 election and the democratic dead-end

The 24th of July 2012 signaled 38 years from the fall of the military dictatorship in Greece. Many refer to this date as the anniversary of “the restoration of democracy”. The election of last June, however, offers many reasons to doubt the quality of today’s democracy.

The conservative party (Nea Dimokratia) and the so-called socialist party (PASOK) managed to gather together only 41,94% of the total vote, fact that raises serious doubts as to the legitimacy of their coalition. Taking into account the high abstention rate of the June election we could easily recon that the country has found itself in a democratic dead-end.

The rising popular discontent with PASOK’s policies caused its percentage to drop dramatically from 42,92% in 2009 to 12,28% in the June 2012 election. The same happened to the percentage of ND that fell from 33,47% in 2009 to 18,85% in May 2012 to rise again to 29,66% in June 2012 – 4 points below the 2009 percentage.

PASOK and ND are the parties that voted unconditionally in favor of the bailout plans, and later on, during the electoral campaign, used an unclear and ambiguous discourse on how they would handle the issue after the election. It ranged from adopting rhetorical elements from their biggest opponent SYRIZA, renegotiating the austerity measures imposed by the ECB, EU and IMF to apocalyptic declarations like “euro or death” (statement of prime-minister Antonis Samaras).

Let us not forget that ND and PASOK are the parties that have been governing the country for the past 35 years, that have committed the country to the Eurozone, and that have broken the rules while in it. MPs of ND and PASOK, who were implicated in huge financial scandals not only have they remained unpunished, but were actually included in the party lists. All these years both ND and PASOK – exchanging the roles of government and opposition – have systematically avoided and are still avoiding a parliamentary debt audit, in order to find and punish those responsible.

The other five parties that gained representation in the Parliament, despite their strong ideological differences, are basically asking for a re-examination of the bailout conditions. There are three different tendencies within this category. First, the internally and externally divided left-wing forces: the left-wing SYRIZA (26,89% of the vote), the centre-left DIMAR (6,26%), and the communist party KKE (4,50%) all together gaining a total of 37,65% of the vote. Second, the newly-formed conservative party – mainly composed by ex-ND members – Aneksartiti Ellines (Independent Greeks) that gained 7,51%. And, finally, the surprise of the “crisis election”, the extreme right-wing party Xrisi Avgi (Golden Dawn) that won 6,92% of the vote.

Some of these parties, or tendencies within these parties, are against the “Europe-imposed” austerity measures and in favor of a sovereign Greek economy, even if this would presuppose a return to the Drachma. The majority, nevertheless, wants to remain in the Eurozone, but not at any cost. This majority stands for the renegotiation of the bailout conditions in order to repay the loan loosening at the same time the unbearable austerity measures imposed on Greeks. However, the majority of the European, international, and pro-governmental Greek press refers to these polymorphic tendencies as “anti-European” and “counter bailout”.

I would call them “pro-reformists” as opposed to the “conventional” governmental elites of ND and PASOK. “Pro-reformist” parties gained a total of 52,08% of the popular vote, whereas the “conventional” parties gathered 41,94%. These percentages clearly show that the majority of the Greeks is unsatisfied with the bailout plan and wants to change its terms.

Nevertheless, the electoral law that ND passed in 2008 (3636/2008) allocates a bonus of 50 parliamentary seats to the wining party. So, in terms of parliamentary representation, ND and PASOK should have gained a total of 112 seats out of 300. That would leave 188 seats for the “pro-reformist” parties. However, with the 50 bonus seats for the first party, ND and PASOK managed to control together 162 seats – the majority of the Parliament!

Apart from the controversial electoral law, the high abstention rate is another critical issue. 37,53% of Greeks – almost the same percentage that voted for the “pro-reformist” parties – did not vote. This percentage includes all Greek expats because they are not allowed to vote from abroad (voting in embassies and consulates is still far from the Greek reality, not to mention internet voting). In the last decade hundreds of thousands of youths have fled the country in search of a better future (550.000 from 2000-2010). In other words, the Greek state turns its back on the very same people it dismissed by denying them their constitutional right of choosing for their country’s future, for the lives of their families and friends back home, for the conditions that would enable them to return some day. And voting is supposed to be the ultimate political right; the practical expression of people’s will.

Thomas Jefferson wrote back in 1775:

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes (…)”

Life? Suicides and suicide attempts have increased by 22% since 2009.

Liberty? A minority of 41,94% rules over a “pro-reformist” majority of 52,08%.

Pursuit of Happiness? 23.800 Greeks immigrated to Germany in 2011 (a 90% increase since 2010), 100.000 Greeks have been searching for a job in the EU through EURES (a 100% increase since 2010).

Prudence? Indeed, for our European partners the electoral result is not only a positive outcome but a welcoming one for Greece to remain in the Eurozone.

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Greece’s 2012 election and the democratic dead-end by Sofia Tipaldou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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