Syriza Retains Rule But Troika's "Financial Terrorism" Holds Power in Greece
The tumultuous political saga of the Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, continued Sunday night in Greece as the left-wing coalition party claimed victory in snap elections against their conservative rivals despite acceptance earlier this year of a new round of austerity measures imposed by the nation’s foreign creditors in exchange for new loan packages.
With nearly all votes counted, Syriza secured 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament with just over 35% of the vote compared to the center-right New Democracy’s 28% and 75 seats.
“With a gun to their head, most voters were convinced that there was no choice but to accept continuing depression, for this year and 2016. But there are in fact better choices than the major parties were offering.” —Mark Weibrot, CEPR
At a victory rally in Athens on Sunday night, Tsipras said the electoral victory was hard-won and that despite the difficult year in which his coalition fractured as it battled against the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and International Monetary Fund—the so-called “Troika”—Syriza has received a new “mandate” from the Greek people to turn its economy around despite projections that continued austerity will spell ongoing pain.
“This victory belongs to the people and those who dream of a better tomorrow and we’ll achieve it with hard work,” Tsipras declared.
On the streets, the mood so was not so upbeat.
“I am pessimistic,” Nikos Georgopoulos, a 40-year-old civil servant in Athens, told the Associated Press, “because we already knew which line of politics will be followed—the politics of the third (bailout). So we know that there is nothing good for the Greek people to wait for.”
As Helena Smith and Graeme Wearden report for the Guardian,
Acknowledging the anxiety of those, like himself, who simply could not back Syriza’s acceptance of a third bailout package and new rounds of austerity measures, former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis—who resigned in protest over Syriza’s failure to reject such a deal—said that despite his previous role within the party, he could no longer support it politically.
In a statement released just prior to Sunday’s election, Varoufakis explained how the snap elections had a “double-purpose” that must be recognized:
In the end, however, the Communist Party ended up with just 5.5% of the vote while Popular Unity failed to achieve even 3%. Meanwhile, the rightwing and neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party showed its rising strength by coming in third-place overall, claiming 19 seats in parliament and almost 7% of the popular vote.
Viewing the landscape from afar, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., said that Sunday’s election results will change little for most Greeks now that the fresh round of austerity is about to begin.
“Financial terrorism by the European authorities has succeeded, for now,” Weisbrot said in a statement. “With a gun to their head, most voters were convinced that there was no choice but to accept continuing depression, for this year and 2016. But there are in fact better choices than the major parties were offering, and there will likely be a number of battles ahead against the implementation of further austerity.”
Recognizing the low-turnout as a factor, Weisbrot said it was still notable that Syriza was able to claim such a commanding victory over its more centrist and right-wing rivals, especially given the extreme measures taken by Syriza’s enemies, including direct sabotage of the economy, in order to discredit them and drive them from power.
“It is not surprising that, within the framework of surrendering to the European authorities, that voters would choose Syriza, which had at least made an attempt to save the economy from [the Troika’s] destruction,” said Weisbrot.
“No country ever has to accept a prolonged depression and mass unemployment of this magnitude,” he concluded. “This was a lesson learned during the Great Depression 80 years ago, and the European authorities are trying to make people unlearn it.”
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