The Socialist 27 September 2007 |
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Greek elections: Support slashed for New Democracy and PASOK
Major gains for left parties
THE RESULTS of the Greek elections, on 16 September, represent the biggest blow for many years against the governing right wing New Democracy and the opposition social democratic, pro-capitalist PASOK party.
Andros Payiatsos, Xekinima (CWI, Greece)
New Democracy won a majority of just two MPs in parliament (gaining 152 out of 300 MPs). The party got less than 42% support from those who voted (abstention and blank votes were around 29%). It lost about 380,000 votes (representing 11.5% of its electoral support), compared to the 2004 elections.
The PASOK opposition got just over 38%, losing 10% of its electoral support since 2004 (ie 270,000 votes). This "achievement" comes after PASOK has been in opposition for the past three-and-a-half years, during which the ND government viciously attacked the working class and youth, was mired in huge scandals and held responsible for the massive fires disaster, during July and August.
Shift to the left
At the same time as rejecting the pro-big business policies of ND and PASOK, hundreds of thousands of Greek workers and youth made an important shift to the left, by voting for the left parties, the CP (the Communist Party of Greece - KKE) and the left alliance, SYRIZA. Their growth in support was much higher than estimated by the polls. The CP got over 8% and SYRIZA over 5%. The CP won about 140,000 votes and increased its electoral support by about 32%. SYRIZA increased its support by about 120,000 votes (an impressive 48% increase!)
In total, the CP and SYRIZA won 260,000 votes, nearly 13.5%, compared to 9% in the 2004 elections. Along with other left parties, they got 14%. That is a total of about 1 million votes! This is the highest vote that these parties have won since 1990.
The growth of the left parties is even more impressive in the big cities and particularly in working class areas. For example, in inner-city Athens, the CP and SYRIZA got 20%, compared to 13.5% in 2004. In greater Athens, the two parties got over 21%, compared to 14% in 2004. In greater Piraeus they got 21%, compared to 15% in 2004.
ND and PASOK
Despite the serious blow it received, the New Democracy speaks of a "great victory" but ND got endorsement from only 28% of Greek people. They only got back into government because the electoral law gives a bonus of 40 seats to the 'first party', so that it can form a government.
The ND claim their support dropped a little because they did not move fast enough with the 'reforms' needed by Greek society. In other words, the ND claim they lost support because the working class in Greece wanted more determined attacks against them!
The theatrical and hypocritical speeches made by ND officials and by Prime Minister Karamanlis, only show they are determined to go ahead with the same anti-working class policies they applied in the last years.
PASOK is now in a major crisis. Its leader, George Papandreou, minutes after publicly accepting defeat, was accused of being responsible. However, the deeper causes of PASOK's defeat are not the personal characteristics of Papandreou but the lack of policies of this party.
In opposition, PASOK focused on one main slogan: "This government is non-existent, Karamanlis as an absent prime minister". For the working class, this kind of talk is empty and nonsensical.
PASOK never put up any real opposition against the ND attacks on pensions, wages, jobs and services. Even on the question of creating private universities in Greece (which caused an important university students' movement, from May 2006 to April 2007), Papandreou was openly in favour of the governing ND proposal, up to January 2007. Then he was forced to execute a full U-turn, under the huge pressure of the students' movement and the PASOK youth, who threatened an internal civil war in the party.
However, PASOK's problem is that all possible leaders of the party are of the same political type as Papandreou. Youth who joined PASOK for a career now claim the party leadership. This is a reflection of the complete transformation of the character of PASOK over the past decades, to become an openly capitalist party.
LAOS – a far right party
One of the negative developments in these elections has been the increase in the electoral support of LAOS, a far right populist party. It rose from about 2.3% support, in 2004, to 3.8% and entered parliament. More worrying, perhaps, is that three out of its ten MPs are quite openly semi-fascist.
However, it must be borne in mind that the additional votes LAOS received do not represent an increase or a strengthening of neo-fascist ideas in Greek society. This is not to underestimate the dangers of the electoral rise of LAOS. But the increase in LAOS's support is fundamentally a protest vote.
LAOS is not a fascist party. It is a far-right, populist party, which uses slogans like "Give the establishment a punch". Its leader, Karatzaferis, proudly displays a Che Guevara poster on his office wall.
The political programme of LAOS, in particular, was hidden from the electorate (they supported the handing over of forests to 'private initiative' but they were fortunate enough not to distribute this policy in writing before the recent devastating forest fires, and then the offending text was removed from LAOS websites).
Not everybody who voted for LAOS must be considered as a reactionary fascist. However, the left parties have an obligation to use the presence of three semi-fascist MPs in parliament to expose the policies and the real character of the LAOS party.
Despite the desires, hopes, and determination to struggle of about 1 million left voters, there can be no confidence that the present leaders of the left parties will be able to use this advantageous situation.
The leadership of the Communist Party, which is Stalinist to the core, has as their model the former Soviet Union, with its one-party dictatorship and its 'infallible' leaders. Within the CP ranks anyone suspected of disagreement with the leadership can find themselves expelled.
The CP leaders reject any kind of collaboration with any other left party because they consider (and openly accuse!) every other left organisation as being "traitors". They refuse to conduct united front-type action amongst the working class, even when workers are on strike. During industrial disputes, the CP organises separate rallies and separate marches under their party banner. They consciously promote splits in trade unions and the union federation.
These are criminal policies against the interests of the working class and there can be no illusions that the present CP leaders will change this approach.
However, the rank and file of the Communist Party of Greece is a different matter. Developments - like last year's university student movement in which the CP leadership attempted to play a strike-breaking role, but also the big rise in the electoral support of the left alliance, SYRIZA, which established itself as a growing party of the left in Greece, and which has an open, friendly and collaborative attitude to other left organisations - are bound to create doubts in the minds of the CP rank and file.
The problems with SYRIZA are different but equally serious. Not only does SYRIZA refuse to call and fight for the removal of the capitalist system but there is an open right wing inside SYRIZA's ranks - which wants to enter a national government, together with PASOK.
SYRIZA is an alliance, made up of 'Synaspismos' (a reformist party of the left), from 'Eurocommunist' origins, and other left groups, some originating from PASOK and others belonging to the far left.
However, there is a significant left wing inside SYRIZA, which asks what kind of programme is required to take the left forward, and to re-establish socialist ideas and a socialist vision. Under the pressure of this left current, Synaspismos went ahead and collaborated with far left organisations, and thus established SYRIZA, albeit against open attacks and attempts to sabotage the initiative by the right wing of the party.
During the 15 day election campaign, Xekinima (CWI in Greece) campaigned for a vote for the left parties, proposing SYRIZA got first preference. The election outcome vindicates this position.
Xekinima has no confidence in the leaderships of either SYRIZA or the CP but it has a lot of confidence in the rank and file of these parties, as well as in thousands of working-class activists and youth who remain outside the left parties.
Xekinima above all has confidence in the power of the movement of the working class and the youth, which under conditions of struggle can push the left parties further to the left, despite the leaderships. This can help many workers and youth searching for genuine socialist and Marxist ideas.
Xekinima will continue the struggle for the further strengthening of the left in Greek society, not as an abstract slogan but by explaining the factors which can make this possible.
For the left parties to be able to have a decisive effect on the Greek political scene, and on the lives of Greek workers and youth, they need daily involvement in the problems of the working class, they need a united approach to the struggles of the working class, and they need to have a programme that calls for the end of the capitalist system and for a socialist society, based on workers' democracy. In other words, they need a bold, socialist programme.