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Many in Greece and throughout Europe are celebrating Syriza's "victory" in Greece's elections for the European Parliament.  Though Syriza indeed finished in first place, a careful analysis of the election results and a comparison with the 2012 parliamentary elections in Greece reveals that talk of a "historic victory" is woefully premature.

By Michael Nevradakis
Reporting from Athens

The European parliamentary electoral contest in Greece on May 25 was accompanied by high hopes, both within Greece and abroad.  Within Greece, there were many who viewed the European elections as a "referendum" on the current governing coalition and on the austerity policies that it has been imposing, at the behest of the troika, for the past several years.  In many other European countries, voters looked towards Greece in hopes that a clear victory of left-wing and anti-memorandum forces could fuel a continent-wide turn away from the politics of austerity, as well as a rejection of the far-right, which has been making electoral inroads of its own throughout Europe.

As the results of the exit polls were announced, followed by the first electoral returns, many on the left, in Greece and in Europe, began to celebrate.  The exit polls predicted a first-place finish for Syriza, with a difference of 3 to 5 percentage points over the right-wing (some would say far-right wing) majority coalition partner Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy).  The vote count in the early morning hours of May 26 corroborates the predictions of the exit polls: Syriza is ahead by over three points and is poised to finish in first place in this most crucial of electoral contests.

There are many in Greece, particularly from many of Syriza's supporters and from many of the upstart online media outlets who have adopted a much more favorable tone towards Syriza compared to Greece's mainstream media outlets, who are declaring this not just a major victory for Syriza, but of the left in general.  Foreign news outlets, who have often shown their ignorance of Greek politics and the workings of Greek society, have parroted this claim.  For instance, the BBC heavily emphasized the major "gains" Syriza made compared to the European parliamentary elections of 2010, when it received just over 4% of the vote.

These celebrations and the accompanying declarations of victory for the "left" and for "anti-European" forces are not just premature, they are silly and come in conflict with reality.  Let's look at the facts:

- Compared to the most recent national electoral contest in Greece, the Greek parliamentary elections of 2012, Syriza has actually declined, falling from 26.89% of the vote in the elections of June 2012, to 26.5% with approximately half of the ballots counted in the 2014 European elections.  Even if Syriza manages to catch up to its June 2012 percentage or even slightly surpasses it in the end, this can hardly be seen as a success.

- Nea Dimokratia, after two years of harsh austerity, after having broken each and every one of its campaign promises from prior to the 2012 elections, after being rocked by scandals and after supporting numerous hugely unpopular measures, still finishes comfortably in second place, and only 3.5% behind Syriza.  Syriza's "victory," if it could be said to be a victory, is hardly a landslide, nor is it a clear mandate for change.

- "Elia," the coalition which is mostly comprised of and supported by members of co-governing PASOK, surpassed perhaps even its own expectations, as well as the predictions of many polls (which are usually seen as being generous towards the governing and pro-memorandum parties), surpassing 8% of the vote and finishing in fourth place.  This result has given a new burst of energy to a party which many in Greece had written off as being on its deathbed.

- "To Potami" (The River), a political party that can best be described as a creation of Greece's corrupt media moguls, and whose founder and leader, Stavros Theodorakis, has enjoyed a long career working for the aforementioned media owners, looks like it will secure 6.5% of the vote and two seats in the European parliament.  This is a party that came into existence only a few months ago, a party which has not articulated any specific political platform but which is clearly seen as being favorable to many of the same corrupt interests which have traditionally supported Nea Dimokratia and PASOK.  While there are numerous other new and upstart political parties which participated in this year's elections, none of them had the media support of To Potami, support which enabled this new party to become widely known to the electorate in a very short time.

- Altogether, the combined total of Nea Dimokratia and Elia (PASOK) surpasses 31% and garners 7 out of Greece's 21 seats in the European Parliament.  When To Potami is added to the tally, the three parties surpass 37% and represent 9 seats.  If DIMAR and LAOS, two smaller parties which have previously participated in coalition governments with Nea Dimokratia and PASOK, are added, the total percentage of voters who supported parties that have a pro-memorandum track record reaches 42%.  And that's without including the almost 9.5% which voted for the far-right Golden Dawn, which if added to the total, brings us to over 50% of voters selecting a pro-memorandum and/or far-right political party, subsequently representing 12 of Greece's 21 seats in the European parliament.

It should be evident to anyone with half a brain that this is not a "victory" for Syriza.  A decline in real numbers from the national elections of 2012 and a result which gives pro-memorandum and far-right forces in Greece over half the vote can only be seen as a victory for the status quo, for parties that are supportive of the crippling austerity that has resulted in a 25% reduction of Greece's GDP, in an official unemployment rate of almost 28%, in salaries and pensions and the social state being obliterated, and in tens of thousands of Greece's best and brightest young minds emigrating to other countries, most likely never to return.

If the above isn't enough, let's look at some of the results from Greece's local and municipal races, which were also up for grabs in this year's elections.  Syriza earned a clear victory in only one of Greece's 13 prefectures.  In the Attica prefecture (which includes the city of Athens), Syriza's candidate, Rena Dourou, is neck-and-neck with her PASOK and Nea Dimokratia-supported incumbent challenger, Ioannis Sgouros.  As of the time of this writing (2:30 am on May 26), Dourou is ahead by slightly over 5,000 votes with approximately 55% of the ballots counted.  Syriza's candidate lost the Athens mayoral race, and Syriza equally failed to win the mayoral races in most of Greece's major cities.  In most cases, Syriza's candidate did not even finish in the top two, forcing a runoff.  

A lot can be said in an attempt to explain these results.  Factors ranging from entrenched political mentalities amongst the voters, to the evident barrage of pro-government propaganda by each and every one of Greece's major print and broadcast media outlets, all certainly played a role.  But whatever the factors explaining the electoral results may be, it is clear that the claims of a "historic victory" boasted by Syriza's leader Alexis Tsipras are not supported by the results.  At best, Syriza has treaded water since 2012, failing to make any gains whatsoever despite the supposed unpopularity of the current coalition government and the harsh austerity measures that it is implementing.

Indeed, if national parliamentary elections were held today, these results would call into question Syriza's ability to form a coalition government.  Even with the 50-seat "bonus" that it would receive for finishing in first place, Syriza would be hard-pressed to form a coalition.  The anti-austerity Independent Greeks, who made a debut with approximately 10% of the vote in the May 2012 parliamentary elections, have fallen to just over the 3% threshold for getting a seat in the European parliament (the same threshold also exists for gaining seats in the Greek parliament).  The communist party, KKE, has continuously and rigorously rejected any suggestion of ever forming a coalition with Syriza.  This leaves political forces such as To Potami, which are far more favorable towards current policy and towards the European Union, and Nea Dimokratia and Elia.  And though Alexis Tsipras, in a recent statement, did not seem to rule out a future coalition with "good" members of both of the current governing parties, one has to question if such a development could be considered a "victory" for the left in any way, shape, or form.

On the other hand, today's results would have provided some obvious coalition partnerships for a clear-cut, pro-EU government, in the event of a national parliamentary election.  It is also likely that if a government was not able to form based on such results, a new election would see pro-austerity forces merge their support towards their strongest choice, Nea Dimokratia, who would then have an excellent shot of finishing first and being in the "driver's seat" for the formation of a new coalition government.  PASOK and To Potami are obvious partners, while Nea Dimokratia has also often flirted with the far-right Golden Dawn.  In 2012, Nea Dimokratia, PASOK, and DIMAR formed a coalition with approximately 48% of the total vote.  It is not far-fetched to think that such a scenario could repeat itself, especially if Syriza continues to remain at its 2012 electoral levels.  

All of the above results point not to a "historic victory" of Syriza, but to a failure.  A failure to capitalize on the anger and disgust of a significant percentage of the Greek populace towards the current government and towards the troika.  A failure to inspire many people who are indeed so disgusted with the status quo that they abstained from voting.  A failure to make any gains at all compared to the June 2012 elections, despite two additional years of economic depression, unemployment, harsh cuts, and a continued "brain drain."  

To all those within Syriza who celebrated, and to all of those journalists--Greek and foreign--who jumped the gun and declared this a "historic victory" of the "left" and of "anti-EU" forces (of which Syriza, in reality, is neither): the election results are neither historic, nor do they represent a victory.  A long road lies ahead for Syriza, if it ever hopes to take power and to govern Greece.

Wed May 28, 2014 at 6:40 PM PT: It is unfortunate that certain trolls have seen fit to destroy what had been a very constructive discussion in the comments section.  I stand by my writings and post eponymously while others attack and hide behind pseudonyms.  What is even more disconcerting is that double standards seem to apply as well.  As a member of the site for over two years, and having responded to many other criticisms and disagreements before, discussions never once went out of hand.  It took a very special group of "privileged" users to accomplish this.  For all those readers who want no part of the undercurrent of sewage that lies below, my apologies.  And if anyone who reads this piece is still interested in engaging in a more constructive discussion, that is more than welcome.  Thanks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Greece is actually "governable"? (0+ / 0-)

    My sense from the coverage is that the entire region is teetering on the edge of chaos.  Not anarchy, mind you, but outright and total chaos.

    •  Quite calm actually (0+ / 0-)

      Greece is actually quite calm.  The percentage of the vote that the "status quo" received in today's election confirms that.

      •  "Calm" as in... (0+ / 0-)

        ..."calm before the storm"?

        Or as in "calm at the barrel of a gun"?

        Or as in "calm as a graveyard"?

        Between the insanely high unemployment level, the continued decimation of the public sector services, and the Eurocrats effectively calling the shots (with no regard to the human costs), I can't escape the feeling this is just a prelude to another eruption.

        •  Calm as a graveyard (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Phoenix Woman, psnyder, unfangus

          What I meant was that with 50%+ voting for the status quo, and Syriza's supporters in their own universe thinking that they "won", there isn't much hope of an eruption anytime soon.  And yes, a lot of people actually believe the government propaganda about the "economic success story," even while their sons and daughters are packing their bags and preparing to leave, if they haven't left already.  Some success story that is.

  •  Thank you for the news from Greece as I didn't (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, mzkryz

    that Stavros Theodorakis of the "River Party"was a tool for the corrupt media moguls as I had just watched a BBC short story on him, and he seemed to be an authentic type of politician.

    Oh well.....  BBC never mentioned anything about just who he represents.

    “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:10:49 PM PDT

    •  Potami (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Phoenix Woman, psnyder, unfangus

      All the media, Greek and international, portrayed this impostor as some sort of "breath of fresh air" when, in fact, he was a journalist who was very much pro-government for years and who was on the payroll of the biggest media outlets in Greece, the same media outlets that gave him an incredibly inordinate amount of airtime and column space in the newspapers, while other new parties on both the left and the right could barely even get a sound bite of theirs heard.  You really had to be here to see it, though the "reputable" international media did plenty of cheerleading of their own, just as they did for Samaras and his "responsible" and "pro-European" party prior to the 2012 elections. Theodorakis and his party are a media creation, nothing more.

  •  Thanks for a concise and clear analysis. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm not terribly concerned about the elections to the European Parliament, since, IIRC from school, most actual policy is set by the European Council and the Council of Ministers, and one of the deep flaws of the EU is the fecklessness of the Parliament.

    The local and other Greek election results are more telling, though, and more concerning, and they really underscore your point that, whatever sort of party Syriza is, it's a much weaker political force than the triumphalist reporting claims.

    Marx was an optimist.

    by psnyder on Sun May 25, 2014 at 10:17:52 PM PDT

    •  Agreed re: Europe (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      psnyder, unfangus

      I think we all agree that the European Parliament is a fairly insiginficant party and that one of the EU's many flaws is that the real policymaking does not come from its parliament.  The main problem is that this year's election, at least in Greece, was seen as important more for the message that it would send to the Greek government and to the EU.  And, for me at least, that message is not that of a resounding rejection of the austerity policies, but rather, a tame acceptance of it and a tepid "victory" of the left, while the real majority voted for one of the governing or pro-austerity parties.

  •  So all of Europe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    was an unbroken sweep by the right and far right, with no redeeming factor at all?  Sucks.

    Pay no attention to the upward redistribution of wealth!

    by ActivistGuy on Mon May 26, 2014 at 02:34:48 AM PDT

  •  A case of "learned helplessness" perhaps? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neo11, unfangus

    The Greek economy is basically decimated, and yet the populace are electing to remain in the very framework that caused the mess?  Doesn't that exemplify the phenomenon of "learned helplessness", whereby the subject has concluded (correctly or not) that they cannot break free of an intolerable situation.  First time I can think of that an entire society has been broken like that.

    Rather scary and not a little tragic.

  •  That article posted is confusing (0+ / 0-)

    You can't total up former PASOK people as somehow an anti-left vote, since they are largely on the left themselves, and you certainly can't throw them in there as on the side of ND and the right.

    I do agree that the vote is status quo however.

    I just don't see the addition adding up to a right-wing win when the sides are divvied up.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:29:14 AM PDT

    •  Wrong (0+ / 0-)

      PASOK has co-governed with the right/far-right Nea Dimokratia for the past several years.  They also co-governed with the far-right LAOS political party.  Their policies are entirely aligned with those of Nea Dimokratia and, by extension, the troika.  There is absolutely nothing confusing about this, and they have absolutely nothing to do with the "left."  I suggest you brush up some more on Greek politics before commenting further.

      •  OK. I'll talk to everyone here in Paygrati (0+ / 0-)

        who voted for Elia that they are right wingers. You know, the unionists who want the euro or they'd otherwise be voting for Syriza. They will be glad to know that Mr. Neo at DailyKos thinks they don't follow Greek politics.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Mon May 26, 2014 at 04:35:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Clueless (0+ / 0-)

          Fascinating analysis, Mr. Upstate NY who claims to be in "Paygrati" (please remind me where that is, it must be some new region I don't know about).  Never mind that the "leftist" Elia has fully supported the RIGHT-wing led austerity government of Nea Dimokratia for years now, and the austerity measures being imposed by the IMF and the RIGHT-wing German government.  Also never mind that Syriza has fully supported Greece remaining in the Eurozone, and even the maintenance of many of the austerity policies.  I would recommend that these "unionists" and friends of yours in "Paygrati", and you as well, Mr. Upstate NY, brush up a bit more on Greek politics before trolling.

          •  You don't know where that is? (4+ / 1-)
            Recommended by:
            Brecht, cville townie, Skaje, Lost and Found
            Hidden by:


            Strange that you got hung up on a typo like that. I am in Pangrati NOW. Are you really so clueless that you have never seen that before?

            The people voting for left-wing parties, no matter how much they want to stay in the eurozone, are leftists. Oh the stupidity of this discussion.

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Tue May 27, 2014 at 03:12:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Uprated against HR abuse. (4+ / 0-)

              Your comment was a bit rude, but less rude than the comment you replied to.

              I think you should both just let it go and drop the attitude, regardless of whose fault this argument is. You're both in Greece and interested in politics - you could have interesting discussions, if you weren't bickering.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Wed May 28, 2014 at 12:07:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Someone is trolling, and someone isn't (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                It's pretty obvious who is trolling.  Pretending to be an "objective" bystander doesn't always help.  Mr. "Upstate NY", who I doubt is actually in Greece and who cannot even get the name of a well-known neighborhood in Athens correct, is spouting nonsense and is being quite nasty about it too.  If he disagrees, he should write his own diary and say whatever he wants instead of insulting others.

                •  Looks like you can't handle criticism at all here. (4+ / 1-)

                  This mess is clear enough from outside your biased feelings, that three separate kossacks independently chose to HR you and to uprate upstate NY.

                  I've never talked with upstate NY before, don't know him from Adam, I'm just going by the clear evidence in this one case. The most salient fact is, you've broken two of the biggest rules about HRs in one swoop. It's never OK to HR in your own diary, and it's never OK to HR someone 28 hours after engaging them in back-and-forth conversation.

                  You're also being hypocritical, and not taking responsibility for your own rudeness here, which is greater than upstate NY's. He did start off expressing civil disagreement: although he agreed "that the vote is status quo", he disagreed with other conclusions, and found the article you posted confusing.

                  You came right back with heavy-handed condescension and in-your-face rudeness. Your first comment is titled "Wrong" and ends, "I suggest you brush up some more on Greek politics before commenting further." Wow, what a polite way to handle different opinions and encourage participation in your diaries! Such a gracious host you are.

                  Not surprisingly, once you smacked him, he came back with light sarcasm. So you up the ante, with a comment titled "Clueless", which accuses him of being a liar, stupid, wrong on every count, and trolling.

                  If you still refuse to admit and take responsibility for a fight you created, then I'll give your opinion all the disrespect you've earned here.

                  "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                  by Brecht on Wed May 28, 2014 at 11:04:08 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Do me a favor (1+ / 1-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Hidden by:
                    Lost and Found

                    Get a life.  Upstate NY comes in and begins trolling, calling Elia a "leftist" party and insulting me for disagreeing otherwise.  He brought it upon himself and apparently brought in "friends and family" to agree with him.

                    12 people saw fit to uprate my article and over 70 have shared it on Facebook.  They don't seem to have found the article "confusing" nor did any of the many other comments on this page express any confusion, or any disagreement over lumping "Elia" with right-wing parties like Nea Dimokratia.

                    It seems to me that both YOU and "Upstate NY" are trolls, and very nasty ones at that.  Please, take your nastiness elsewhere or go and write your own diary, where you can praise Elia to your heart's content.

                    •  Well Trolled! That's the triple axel of HR abuse! (5+ / 0-)

                      You've just HRed me in retaliation, over disagreement, during an ongoing discussion, and within your own diary - thus breaking 4 distinct rules at once.

                      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                      by Brecht on Wed May 28, 2014 at 12:56:06 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Might want to check those rules again (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        Interestingly enough, the "rules" say nothing about what I did, but include these fine tidbits:

                        "The core of the Daily Kos behavior guide is simple: don't be a dick."

                        "Uprating personal insults is as bad if not worse than making the insult itself."

                        "Threadjacking" (under dont's)

                        "Pack Behavior" (under dont's)

                        "Insults" (under dont's), which began with Upstate NY's uncalled-for comments.

                        In the meantime, my article and my opinions have earned so much disrespect that absolutely none of the comments here were negative until you and your friends came along.  One such comment: "Thanks for a concise and clear analysis." Not to mention a couple of polite give-and-takes with other Kossacks above, before the "pack" came along and decided to chime in.

                        I also have the guts to stand by my opinions with my real name visible instead of hiding behind a pseudonym.  

                        So please, cry me a river.

                        •  You can't both be right about the site rules. (5+ / 0-)

                          Here's a hint: check your profile page and that of everyone you're arguing with. Who still has TU status and who has NR? To anyone who knows what the rules actually are this outcome is entirely predictable.

                          In the meantime, my article and my opinions have earned so much disrespect that absolutely none of the comments here were negative until you and your friends came along.
                          Despite what you may have heard, Daily Kos is not an echo chamber. If you're unwilling to tolerate any form of disagreement then this is the wrong site for you.
                          •  Your way or the highway (0+ / 0-)

                            So what you are saying is that it's okay for some people come in and to spout utter nonsense, to spout insults towards the author, who up until that point had received mostly positive feedback and no nasty replies, while the author is the one who gets punished?  Brilliant.

                            I should note, however, that the conduct of the users in question has also been brought to the attention of site admin, so that "TU" status may not last for much longer.

                            As I mentioned in my earlier comment, I've been here for over two years.  Until this "discussion" I've never HRed anyone, or been HRed.  And as I pointed out above as well, there are many other community guidelines, above and beyond the HRs that everyone is obsessed with, which have been clearly and flagrantly violated by the users in question.  One of those, incidentally, refers to a "pack behavior" and that is exactly what is taking place here against me.

                            If you go back and read all of my previous diaries, you'll see that there were often disagreements and differences of opinion.  They never got out of hand, because contrary to what you and your friends seem to believe, I welcome both constructive feedback and constructive criticism.  What I don't welcome are personal attacks against me and ignorant remarks about my knowledge or supposed lack thereof.

                            Also, as I mentioned above and which I will repeat again, I stand by all of my diaries and comments with my real name visible, which is more than can be said for any of the participants in this "dialogue."  It's easy to be an internet tough guy when you hide behind a handle and an avatar, and when you have two or three other such users to "provide backup."  I'm not looking for an echo chamber, but I am also not looking for a site where certain users are allowed to troll and to insult at will and then to hide behind the supposed "letter of the law" (which they themselves have violated), and to come out clean on top of it as well!  And I am referring to comments such as these, which apparently are A-OK:

                            "They will be glad to know that Mr. Neo at DailyKos thinks they don't follow Greek politics."

                            "Are you really so clueless that you have never seen that before?"

                            "Oh the stupidity of this discussion." (Incidentally referring to a discussion which he himself started)

                            And interestingly, Brecht in one of his earlier comments asked both me and Upstate NY to "drop the attitude."  In later comments, however, he seemed to forget about the latter user's "attitude" and focused squarely on me.  Hooray!

                            I guess the rules are applied to differently, depending on who the user is.  I also guess all of the other readers who shared this article, recommended it, uprated it, and who conducted a constructive dialogue are clueless too.  Only Lost and Found, Upstate NY, Brecht, and apparently, their silent partners (cville and skaje) are the arbiters of all that is good and right and moral here.

              •  "Impartial" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                By the way, Brecht, by "recommending" "Upstate NY's" abusive post but not mine, it seems that you have a horse in this race.  So much for objectivity.

              •  Wow, my apologies for stoking this mini-war here (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Brecht, Lost and Found

                Should know better. I think I've been on this site since 2003.

                Still say Syriza and Pasok and derivatives thereof such as Elia are leftwing.

                There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

                by upstate NY on Thu May 29, 2014 at 09:32:28 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Moving on (0+ / 0-)

                  If I knew this would turn into a brouhaha I would not have responded either.  Let's just agree to disagree, though I believe the political realities of today support my position.

                  As for the other users, it still seems that they are hitting the reload button, waiting for the next comment to respond to or uprate.  And, it seems that they are still here despite their own violations of several rules and community norms.

            •  "Leftist"? Not a chance. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              A party that for years has been part of a governing coalition with a RIGHT-wing party, which has supported all of the RIGHT-wing party's policies, and which is implementing the policies of the troika and the RIGHT-wing is not "leftist" no matter how much they or their voters insist they are.

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