GREECE Elections: a pyrrhic victory for the right-wing New Democracy party

Pensioners demonstrate in Athens against the decline of pensions.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his right-wing New Democracy (ND) party will be able to be alone at the helm thanks to the advantage given to the party which made it first at the post at the first round of the general elections on July 7th. Indeed, ND reaps almost 40 % of the votes (and 158 deputies out of 300). The turnout stood at 58 %, lower than the one at the EU elections last May. 

During his ten weeks’ campaigning, Mitsotakis multiplied electoral promises towards the “middle class” (a hackneyed phrase used to avoid mentioning social classes!): attracting more investments, stepping up privatisations, promoting entrepreneurship. 

Numerous discussions sprouted everywhere in the recent weeks on the question: Should one vote for Tsipras to prevent Mitsotakis from winning? 

The Tsipras government recently enacted several measures to ease the poverty of some layers of society: access to hospital care even for those who lack health insurance; lower contributions for self-employed people who, by the thousands, have been led to ruin; a promise to hire 5,000 teachers in the coming years; and a €50 raise of the minimum wage. But all those promises were conditioned in two ways: first, the needed funding had to be wrenched from the working masses through more taxes, and, second, the European Union had to give its blessing! 

Above all, Tsipras failed to restore the level of wages and collective agreements, rehire the hundreds of thousand workers 

who had been thrown out of their jobs, backtrack on privatisations, or restore hospitals and schools. All this had been destroyed by the European Union and the IMF after a ten-year spell of memoranda (austerity programmes). Tsipras betrayed the mandate that the Greek people had entrusted him with in July 2015, and that is the reason why his party, Syriza, received this electoral score. 

In January 2015, Syriza was still able to mobilise 2,246,000 voters. In September 2015, i.e. after the result of the referendum had been foiled on the orders of Jean-Claude Junker, then President of the European Commission, the party had already lost 325,000 votes. Today, a mere 1,781,000 people voted for the party, a drain of nearly 500,000 votes. 

Some voters however did vote for Tsipras as they worried about the consequences of the return of the right wing. And, as Le Monde emphasises, complete disaster has been averted: “After all, in 2019, Syriza only gets 4 % less than at its historic January 2015 victory”. 

The tvxs.gr information site headlined one of its articles: “ND scores highest in the bourgeois regions and Syriza in the lowincome areas”. This is only partly true as, even in the areas where Syriza was the majority party, abstention has gained ground. A record-breaking abstention rate was reported for instance in Florina, a northern town which (still) survives on lignite mining. Abstention rates nearly reached 63%! In the working-class areas 

and in the Athens suburbs, the turnout was noticeably lower. Whereas in January 2015, the turnout was an average 70 %, in Keratsini, the turnout now is 55 %, Perama, 51.5 % and in Pireus, 56 %. In the more prosperous districts of Athens, ND was in the lead as the turnout was the highest, reaching 67 %. 

But who can state that Mitsotakis is the winner when only a fourth of the population voted for him? Mitsotakis is going to try to hammer in all the measures that his predecessors had schemed with the European Union and the IMF. In his congratulation message, JeanClaude Juncker, outgoing President of the European Commission, warned Mitsotakis that “Much remains to be done”… 

Like all the previous governments, to act Mitsotakis has to get the green light from the trade union leaderships and the banks, and he is counting on the fact that the KKE (the communist party) – which won 5.3 % of the votes – is organising the division of the working class. 

Mitsotakis was not entrusted with the mandate to curtail our rights and living conditions! The challenge now is how to build the most far-reaching unity of the majority of workers with their organisations to halt the coming attacks from the Mitsotakis government. This raises another question: the independence of trade unions and parties from the government and from Capital. 

With our correspondent in Greece

July 7th 2019 (10 p.m.)