The political landscape in Greece is about to undergo a drastic shake-up according to preliminary results from Sunday’s parliamentary elections. With 98% of the votes accounted for, the center-right party New Democracy party has won about 18.9%. Left-wing coalition Syriza — which had campaigned fervently against austerity — is in second place, with about 16.8%and the Socialist party PASOK, led by former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, is trailing in third place with about
In contrast, New Democracy won 33.5% of the votes in 2009 and PASOK, 43.9%. The two parties have been in coalition since November of 2011 after Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou resigned following months of acrimony over passing a series of austerity measures. These had been demanded by the “troika” — the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank — in order for Greece to receive the next installment of 11 billion euros in bailout funds, to help the country pay off its massive debt.
In a troubling trend, the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party, which champions an anti-immigrant platform and whose symbol represents the swastika, has won about
The new right-wing Independent Greeks party has won 10.6%, according to preliminary results. Its leader, Panos Kammenos, has said that his party will not cooperate with New Democracy and PASOK.
Crucial Elections For Greece’s Future
The elections, called by technocrat prime minister Lucas Papademos, are the most crucial in Greece since the restoration of democracy in 1974. The results of the parliamentary elections are, say analysts, what ensues when a country is pushed into successive rounds of austerity measures. Greeks have said that they are losing their sovereignty to outside powers: The EU and IMF are demanding that the government cut $15.5 billion over the next two years, if Greece wishes to secure the next installments of bailout funds.
Greece is in the fifth year of a recession and unemployment is at 21%.
Othan Anastasakis, director of south-east European studies at Oxford University, told the BBC that it would be “unprecedented” if no one party wins more than 20% of the vote. If one party fails to win a majority to form a government, the victor must seek to form a coalition with rivals, says the BBC. If the party in first place cannot form such, it falls to the party in second place to seek to do so, and — should it fail — then to the party in third place. If no coalition can be formed, another election can be held — an outcome that will not be well-regarded by Greece’s international creditors, especially if parties opposed to the bailout form a coalition together.
Greece’s membership in the euro zone, often in question over the past year, remains unresolved. Both New Democracy and PASOK have dominated Greek politics for the past forty years and have been at the forefront of pushing for austerity measures. New Democracy leader Anton Samaras says that, while his party will seek to form a “national salvation government” to keep Greece in the EU, he will also work to “amend” the EU-IMF bailout agreement to boost growth. But prominent Syriza MP Panaghiotis Lafazanis has said that his party will keep its pre-election promise of forming a government of “the united left” that will seek to end the fiscal remedies demanded by the EU and the IMF.
Volunteer lawyers working at the election booths reported a somber mood among voters, many of whome appeared dressed in their Sunday best, says the Guardian. People were said to be taking an “inordinately long time” choosing which candidates to support at a time when the future of Greece hangs in the balance.
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Photo of the Parthenon in Athens by the author