Greece After Second Round Polls: Harder Struggles Ahead

Following the inconclusive ballot of 6 May, the 18 June elections confronted the people of Greece with three basic platforms to chose from: to remain in the Eurozone and the EU and renegotiate the bail-out conditionalities, as espoused by New Democracy (ND) and PASOK, the traditional ruling parties; to remain in the Eurozone and the EU, but default unilaterally on debt and reject the Memorandum (the conditionalities) as proposed by SYRIZA, the rapidly developing militant Left; to reject the debt, the whole EU project, and the NATO with it, as espoused by the Communist Party.

The first position meant continuation and deepening of the socio-economic crises that have already produced five years of negative growth, over 23% unemployment, an astronomical rise in poverty (from less than 15% to over 40%) and mounting suicides. The third position was revolutionary in strategic terms, but generated concerns about the harsh consequences of a sudden decoupling from the Eurozone. The second platform strove to strike a golden mean: rebel against the most onerous injustice and exploitation but don’t get isolated from the European alliance.

The Greek and international bourgeois media sought to terrorise the electorate with a picture of economic chaos and collapse if Syriza were to win the elections and implement its programme. And it worked. The fear of being kicked out of the Eurozone funding and capital markets, with hardly any reserves in national coffers to cover salaries, pensions or public services, proved a bit stronger than the anger over continuing austerity. This was what catapulted the ND into the first place. It vastly improved its vote share from 18.9% in the May 6 polls to 29.6%. PASOK was further punished by the electorate and got 12.3%, down from 13.2% in the last round. SYRIZA finished a close second, taking the second leap from 16.8% six weeks ago to 26.9% this time. On the downside, the neo-fascist Golden Dawn (which advocates, inter alia, forcing immigrants into work camps) retained its nearly 7% vote share despite the fact that after 6th May there was much more evidence (such as a recent TV chat show where one of its notorious leaders physically attacked another panelist) regarding its fascist nature, even as the radical left Communist Party of Greece (KKE) saw its share plummeting to 4.5% from 8.5%.

No doubt the most significant element in the election outcome is the steady progress recorded by SIRYZA, which had won just 4.6 per cent of the vote in the October 2009 elections. It has decided to oppose the forthcoming coalition government, to be headed by ND with the participation or support of PASOK and the Democratic Left (with 6.26% vote share) within and without the parliament.

As expected, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel immediately praised the election results. Euro exchange rates jumped and a mini-rally in equities markets took place. Germany has also said there could be a slight extension of the deficit- cutting deadline. But ND has promised more, such as a freeze in pension and salary cuts, and there will be great pressure on the new government to at least partly remove the austerity measures. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had this in mind when she warned, “Elections cannot call into question the commitments Greece made. We cannot compromise on the reform steps we agreed on”. Obviously, political turbulence on these issues will grow once the government is formed.

For the time being, imperialist powers can heave a sigh of relief to see the threat of “Greekxit” and implosion of the Eurozone, recede into the background. But they know pretty well that the government in power will find the going extremely tough in the face of mighty public protests. Radicalisation of Greece, a member of the European Union and NATO, will only accelerate in the months to come and this will have great contagion effect across Europe and the world. If Syriza and the KKE duly play the role of resistance expected of them, the rightist victory of 18 June will surely open up the road to new victories for the Left in electoral as well as parliamentary battles.

Liberation Archive