Why the Greek left might give the conservatives a smooth sail to victory

The first round of voting in Greek elections last month showed the conservatives beating expectations and leaving the main, left-wing opposition party, Syriza, by 20 points.

While many focused on the extent of the Conservatives’ victory, one of the biggest takeaways from the May 21st vote was the resounding defeat of the opposition.

Nick Malkutzis, editor of Greek independent data and analysis website MacroPolis, explained that polls showed that about 40% of voters chose New Democracy because they thought it was the least bad option, noting that Syriza missed an opportunity to convince those voters to endorse it. her party.

A lack of a unified message, particularly on the economy, and a poor campaign strategy have been cited as one of the reasons for the result.

As the country heads to the polls again on Sunday, there is concern about what a potential big victory for the conservatives, combined with a weak and bright opposition, could mean for the future of democracy in Greece.

Opposition fails to deliver ‘coherent campaign message’

Analysts attributed Syriza’s poor performance in part to the lack of a clear strategy. Experts said Syriza has focused more on fighting neo-democracy and pointing out the failures of the conservatives than promoting its own vision for the country.

“Syriza had a hard time articulating a clear or coherent campaign message given that it was always a close second in all the polls,” Harris Milonas, an assistant professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, told HuffPost. As a result, she had to consider several coalition government possibilities that may have upset many voters.

The first round of voting took place under a system of proportional representation, following a law passed by Syriza in 2016, when it was in government. Despite knowing that this law makes it really difficult for any party to secure an outright majority, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras spent the next seven years making little effort to build the concept of coalition in the minds of voters and failed to meaningfully reach out to other parties in Parliament. It could help him form a progressive coalition and a possible coalition government, Malkotzis explained.

Niko Evstathiou, deputy editor at LIFO, an independent news outlet in Athens, echoed Malkotzis, telling HuffPost that Syriza’s apparent inability to find common ground with other center- or left-wing parties drove wavering voters at the last minute to snap. Towards a new democracy.

“I think this is something that has really hurt the left,” Efstathiou said.

Separately, SYRIZA waged a negative campaign, failing to recognize that the Greeks were ready to turn the page after years of austerity.

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the New Democracy Party, holds a pre-election rally in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Achilleas Chiras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Efstathiou added that Syriza’s strategy contrasted with the conservatives’ “business school-like campaign”. New Democracy “successfully set the agenda, mostly around economic issues,” reflecting the priorities of the electorate.

Dimitris Christopoulos, a professor of political science and history at Pantheon University, said Tsipras’ strategy of being all things to all by reaching out to right-wing voters not only proved convincing, but also ended up alienating left-wing voters, leading to his significant defeat. in Athens.

For example, conservatives He launched a campaign to expand the wall that guards the country’s land border with Türkiye He constantly pressed Tsipras to clarify his position on the issue.

Tsipras did not offer an alternative, which Christopoulos said was a strategic mistake.

“If you want a fence, if you feel threatened by immigrants, you will never vote for Syriza,” he said. You will vote right.

The left fails to capitalize on government-related scandals

ill-treatment of asylum seekers

The country’s geographic location means that Greece is at the forefront of the migrant crisis in Europe.

The Greek government has come under scrutiny for its treatment of asylum seekers.

Just days before the first election last month, it was The New York Times reported That the Greek coast guard transferred 12 asylum seekers, including young children, from the island of Lesbos to the central Aegean Sea and left them there in an emergency boat in violation of both European and international law.

The migrants were later rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

The Greek government did not comment on the report.

“It is this harsh treatment of immigrants that helped New Democracy boost electoral support in part,” said Marina Brentoulis, Associate Professor of Politics and Media at the University of East Anglia. wrote in The Guardian.

a BBC report Monday’s post also raised questions about the Greek coast guard’s account of the deadly migrant shipwreck earlier this month.

The country’s coast guard claimed the boat was on its way to Italy and did not need to be rescued, while British Broadcasting Corporation has records showing the ship had not been moving for seven hours.

But none of these reports seem to have shaken support for the new democracy.

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A fatal train collision in February led to protests and calls for changes to improve safety.

Nicholas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Greece’s deadliest train disaster

The accident that killed 57 people – mostly young university students traveling after a bank holiday weekend – was “Greece’s deadliest train disaster,” According to the Associated Press.

Mitsotakis vowed to investigate the cause of the tragedy. He also promised that his government would draw up a plan to improve safety and later appoint a commission to investigate the mismanagement of the country’s rail network.

In the end, voters blamed the train’s derailment on “the chronic problems of the Greek state, and not [New Democracy] By itself, Mylonas explained.

greek “watergate”

Last year, a wiretapping scandal involving the government, dubbed in Greek “Watergate”, generated negative headlines for the prime minister.

Mitsotakis asserted that Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the center-left socialist PASOK party and former member of the European Parliament, had been wiretapped by Greece’s intelligence service under a special order obtained for reasons of national security. Androulakis also discovered that his phone was infected with the Pegasus spyware, but the Greek government said that was a “coincidence” and that the country’s intelligence service does not use Pegasus, The Times reported.

Two people, including Mitsotakis’ nephew, to resign From the government because of the wiretapping scandal.

Financial reporter Thanassis Kokakis, whose phone was discovered to have been hacked with a Pegasus device in 2021, was also likely to be monitored by the country’s intelligence service. Monitoring reporters has led to a decline in the country’s press freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders. Greece has it now Lowest ranking in Europe in the list.

After the information was revealed, Mitsotakis passed a bill last year banning the sale of spyware, but he provided few details on how this would be enforced.

In general, “people tend to believe that the current government, however problematic it may be in certain circumstances, has been the best handler of crises,” said Efstathiou.

Conservatives with the help of a favorable media environment

During the aforementioned crises, Malkotzis said, conservatives were able to deploy an effective communications strategy that relied on accepting part of the blame while shifting the rest of the responsibility onto others, including their predecessors. He added that the conservatives then propose solutions to address the situation at hand.

Combined with a “fiercely pro-government media environment”, this left the opposition at a disadvantage and struggling to control the narrative throughout the election, he said.

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Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras speaks to supporters before the second round of the Greek parliamentary elections.

Nicholas Koutsokostas/NurPhoto via Getty Images

fractured opposition

The first round of voting also saw Androulakis’ party, PASOK, come in third with over 11% of the vote. Despite representing the same side of the political spectrum, in theory SYRIZA and PASOK are far apart, and many PASOK voters dislike Tsipras.

Meanwhile, MeRa25, another left-wing party set up by former finance minister and former Syriza deputy Yanis Varoufakis, has yet to reach the 3% threshold to enter parliament in the first round and is unlikely to do so in Sunday’s elections, according to opinion polls. .

Freedom Path, a new progressive party led by former Syriza MP Zoe Constantopoulou, is expected to secure around 4%, while the KKE is expected to get 7% of the total share, According to a Politico poll of opinion polls.

Efstathiou said he will monitor the dynamic between the left-wing parties entering parliament.

Will they choose to coordinate and work together on some issues on which they agree? Afstatio asked. “Are they going to compete over who ends up increasing their voter base the most?”

“This will be very interesting,” he added.

Meanwhile, questions surrounding Tsipras’ leadership are also expected to surface after what is expected to be yet another defeat. But his departure is not taken for granted.

“Tsipras was synonymous with Syriza’s rise to power and her rise to prominence from an already marginal party,” Malkutzis told HuffPost. “So his leaving would be a great risk for the party.”

problem for democracy

Meanwhile, the far-right is set to have a bigger voice in parliament as three parties representing that end of the political spectrum are likely to cross the 3% threshold.

“If you add cumulatively all the far-right parties, or outright parties in Greece, it’s about 10-12% strong,” Efstathiou said. “Although it is very fragmented at the moment, if you add it all together, it would be a very large political force.”

Analysts also worried about what that might mean for democracy if the Conservatives win an outright majority on Sunday while the opposition remains divided.

“The lack of a strong second pole in the party system, the lack of a formidable opposition, is seen by many as a problem for democratic politics in Greece,” Milonas told HuffPost. “I would expect the center-left forces to focus on addressing this immediately after the election.”

We are entering a long period, Christopoulos said, “where the opposition is going to be very, very weak.” This phenomenon, he said, is not unique to Greece, but is nevertheless worrisome because one side will be in a position to exercise more and more control over the country’s institutions.

Christopoulos said: “What we are witnessing during the past years is the necessary materials that can lead to the process of transforming this country into the Hungary of the European south.”

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