It is impossible to know what events will define history forever. It is future’s uncertainty that should inspire us all to pay close attention to the world outside our borders. In that spirit, here are 5 points discussing the recent election in Greece.
1. PM Antonis Samaras And His “New Democracy” Party Got Roasted
If you get annoyed by how often we have to vote in the United States you should thank gyro that you don’t live in Greece, because back in 2012 voters were summoned to their voting booths twice in less than two months owing to an inability of any party to form a government. In Greece, like many parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the majority of the seats in a specific house of the legislature (Greece’s legislature is unicameral, so in their case it would be the Hellenic Parliament). Greece has a multi-party system, so achieving this majority can be a right pain in the ass, funnily the exact opposite problem we have in the United States with only two options.
Basically all three of the top parties each get a chance to form a government, and then finally the ceremonial President essentially gets to be like, “Come on guyyyyysss, can’t we all just get along??” and he tries to cobble together a governing coalition. If everything fails, a new election is scheduled and the bums have to go campaign again, which I would imagine as a little embarrassing.
In May 2012, I guess nobody felt like playing nice, so there had to be a second election in June. This is where Antonis got to shine. After that second election, Antonis Samaras managed to form a coalition and he became Prime Minister. PM Samaras pledged to keep the euro as the Greek currency and to fulfill Greek debt obligations. Just a few days ago, voters kicked Samaras’ New Democracy Party in the balls by delivering them their worst election result ever.
2. Alexis Tsipras And His “Syriza” Party Did The Roasting
With every loser there is a winner. Okay, not really, though it makes a pithy start to a paragraph, BUT in this case there was. While poor Antonis was packing up his desk, his successor, Alexis Tsipras, managed to form a coalition that would command a majority of the Hellenic Parliament.
Tsipras’ Syriza is a left winged party that had previously been on the fringes of Greek politics. The conventional wisdom was that Tsipras would fall short of victory; an excerpt from a Guardian article explains part of why he ultimately won the day:
“It’s small meetings like this, miles from the main towns, that have helped turn Syriza from a party polling 4% 10 years ago to, by the last week of campaigning, a party leading on 32%. ‘You journalists have come all the way up here to interview us,’ says one farmer. ‘Syriza is the only party that did the same. They came and talked to us. If we wanted to talk to the main parties, how would we find them?’”
By appealing to the common people (who by and large detest the conditions placed on Greece by the bailout), Tsipras was able to win a resounding mandate, and almost a majority of seats.
3. The Blatantly Racist “Golden Dawn” Party Came In Third
You know what scares the living shit out of me? When racist parties come in third in national elections. Yeah, that spooks me just a ‘lil bit.
Tsipras’ Syriza party wasn’t the only one with a good night on January 25th. Nikolaos Michaloliakos’ “Golden Dawn” Party achieved third place. The Golden Dawn Nikolaos is a downright delightful guy who has responded to those who label his party racist with boastful affirmation, once saying that, “Yes, we are racist and nationalist and we are not hiding that”. The party bigotedly proclaims that “Greece is for Greeks”, and offers fucking bizarre (not to mention deplorable) praise to figures of Nazi Germany. Basically, they are just fucking terrible and should find a nice big rock to rot under.
The silver lining here, of course, is that the Golden Dawn did not do as well as they could have. While this is their first time as the third party, they actually achieved a greater share of popular votes and actual seats in 2012 than 2015.
4. Austerity is Now Yesterday’s Bad Fashion
Have you ever been at a house party with no music or booze? That begins to describe what kind of party “austerity” is. Throw that boozeless party during welcome week at your university, and that’s getting at what austerity is like during the height of an economic recession. Basically it is stupid; it makes absolutely no sense, but when someone else is paying for the party venue and the hors-d’oeuvres, you throw the party they want.
That’s the kinda raw deal Greece got sucked into. The Greek government was treated to relatively low interest rates on their government debt immediately after the adoption of the euro because the world saw them as more trusty lenders due to the newly shared currency. Unfortunately, as the economic recession deepened the world, Greek interest rates shot back up. This is a smarty-pants way of saying that their debt became more expensive, so they essentially had a whole lot more of it.
This is where the rest of the Europe comes in to help Greece out. They approved a 145 billion (USD) rescue plan (i.e. “bailout”) to save the nation from default. Unfortunately, nothing in life is free, so the deal requires Greece to implement fierce austerity in the country. Basically, the bailout forces Greece to massively cut government spending during a recession, which is dubious economics at best.
But new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras isn’t about that life. While he has explicitly promised that Greece will not default on their debt, he also pledges to renegotiate the terms of the bailout, and will disregard the harsh austerity requirements that have pillaged the Greek economy.
5. The Old Fashioned is New Again: Are Leftist Parties Back?
Leftist Parties in Europe have, by and large, been on the decline since the 1980s. Parties have either moved to the center, or new “center-left” parties have passed them in overall support. Does Syriza’s victory change that?
Leftists in France, Scotland, and particularly Spain have been inspired by Syriza’s victory. While Greece’s result may just be a passing blip, it is also possible that it indicates a move back to “lefty” ideas in Europe and perhaps the world.
News to follow.