By Peoples Dispatch

May 22, 2023 


In the elections to the 300-seat Greek parliament held on Sunday, May 21, the conservative New Democracy (ND) party led by incumbent Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis emerged as the single largest party with 40% votes and 146 seats (-12), but fell short of a simple majority. The liberal-socialist PASOK-KINAL coalition and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) saw a surge in their popularity and won 41 (+19) and 26 seats (+11), respectively. The major opposition party Syriza led by Alexis Tsipras saw a decline in support and managed only 20% votes and 71 seats (-15). The right-wing Greek Solution (EL) party improved its tally to 16 (+10). Meanwhile, the European Realistic Disobedience Front (MeRA 25) led by Yanis Varoufakis lost all its nine seats in the house. The elections recorded a voter turnout of 60.92% (+3.14%) despite the fact that voting was compulsory.

According to reports, ND is unwilling to form a coalition with any other party and Mitsotakis has expressed willingness to go for a repeat election in June, hoping to secure an outright majority. According to the Greek electoral system, which is based on proportional representation, if the three leading parties choose not to try and form a government after the first round of elections, a another round of elections will be held where the single largest party is likely to get a bonus number of seats. Mitsotakis is anticipating that a similar result in the repeat election will give his party a comfortable majority.

The elections were held amid a great deal of dissatisfaction with the major political parties. Over the past four years, the ND government has mounted a massive attack on the rights of workers across sectors, especially in health and education. Trade unions regularly staged protests to defend their rights. The government also sought to crack down on dissent, especially at universities. There was a huge deal of anger against the Mitsotakis government in the aftermath of the railway disaster at Tempi with people’s movements and the left blaming it for negligence and cost-cutting. It also faced a backlash after news emerged of wire-tapping of the opposition and critics.

The ND government intensified the implementation of policies forced through by the troika (the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) after the debt crisis nearly 10 years ago. As a result of this, while the country has seen growth, workers have continued to suffer. Close to 30% of Greeks are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Only Romania and Bulgaria have worse poverty rates than Greece among EU members. The real wages of workers have actually declined by around 25% since 2007.

The Greek government was also an enthusiastic participant in the Ukraine war. It sent weapons, training personnel, and tank operators to Ukraine. Greece spends 3.5% of its GDP on defense, the highest among all NATO members, including the US. Progressives and trade unionists have staged protests against the country’s participation in the war and the access given to the US to its bases.

At the same time, the main opposition Syriza was unable to capitalize on the discontent against the government. Observers noted that the party has not recovered from what is termed as its betrayal of 2015 when it came to power on an anti-troika mandate but surrendered and implemented the policies that they mandated.

Responding to the election results and the improvement of his party’s performance, KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumpas said that “The result is the fruit of the experience of the workers and people’s forces that took part all these previous years in struggles and important actions together with the communists. The strengthening of the KKE’s political influence, especially in important urban centers of the country, in working class neighborhoods of big cities, in areas where a large part of the industrial and workforce, in general, is concentrated, such as Attica, are promising messages that pave the way for tomorrow.”

“The scenario of a repeat of the election is not because a government cannot be formed, but because they want to distort the people’s vote with blackmail dilemmas, by stealing both votes and parliamentary seats based on the new electoral law,” he added.

The KKE, the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), the All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), and students and other working class forces in the country have been leading struggles against the EU-dictated policies of the ND-led government that promoted austerity, privatization, and the imperialist interests of NATO.