New Greek Government Takes Shape
The Greek elections held on June 25th witnessed a significant negative turnout, with voter participation reaching its lowest level since the restoration of democracy in 1974, providing a notable decline in civic engagement. However, amidst this context, notable political developments emerged, bringing forth a new government for Greece, led by incumbent party New Democracy (ND), the formation of a somewhat liberal-minded cabinet, the rise of far-right parties, and the undeniable decline of the main opposition party, SYRIZA.
Eight elected parties now make up the new Greek Parliament. With 40.55% of the vote and 158 seats, the New Democracy (ND) party won the election, ensuring Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis another term.
“New Democracy's key political argument in 2019 was the reduction of tax rates. This message was powerful in the overtaxed during the memorandum ear country. During the four years of Mitsotakis administration, dozens of tax rate reductions were legislated and implemented. This considerably contributed in its unquestionable victory.” said the Center for Liberal Studies (KEFIM) President Alexander Skouras, commenting on the election outcome.
Notably, the new administration includes many liberal-leaning people in important roles and ministries. This reflects a dedication to approaching important problems in sectors like finance, health, environment, and education from a more liberal perspective.
However, it is worth noting that the size of the cabinet, along with the appointment of 64 officials, 15 of which female, marks one of the largest in the history of Greek politics. With almost 2,700 state-paid employees working in cabinet and ministerial offices, questions regarding the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of such a large bureaucratic organization arise.
In the future, the Greek government will have to catch up on much-needed reforms while also dealing with migration challenges. However, despite these challenges, the country is poised to continue its upward trajectory, with expectations of sustained high growth rates, increased investment, and reduced unemployment. As Alexander Skouras aptly stated, "In the next four years, Greece can really take off economically. Greece's credit upgrade to investment grade, the money that will enter the market from the National Recovery and Stability Plan, can highlight our country in a success story of enormous symbolic value." This optimistic outlook underscores the potential for Greece to emerge as a beacon of economic progress, leveraging its newfound creditworthiness and financial resources to pave the way for a prosperous future.
Far-right and far-left entries in Parliament
The Greek elections also witnessed the entry of far-right and far-left parties into the political landscape. The emergence of the Spartans party (4,64%), witΤh strong connections with former member of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, highlights a concerning trend. Backed by a strongly anti-migrant stance, the Spartans party gained parliamentary representation alongside other right-wing factions like the nationalist party Greek Solution (4,44%) and the ultra-religious, anti-abortion Niki (Victory) party (3,69%). These three parties now collectively hold 34 seats, raising concerns about the return and stronger presence of a far-right bloc in Greek politics.
Simultaneously, the far-left Course for Freedom party (3,17%), with a distinct nationalist populist signature, also secured a place in Parliament, as did the omnipresent Communist Party of Greece, having slightly increased its percentage (7,69%). The presence of these extremes on both ends of the political spectrum introduces a new dynamic that warrants close observation.
A struggle for opposition
Under the light of the ND uprising, the biggest opposition party in the country suffered a significant decrease as a result of the election. SYRIZA suffered a series of election failures, falling below 20% of the vote, increasing doubts about the party's future and leadership. Although Alexis Tsipras, the party's leader, did not resign, he announced a party conference to determine a new leader, with himself as one of the candidates. While some prominent executives remain supportive of Tsipras, the electoral outcomes have prompted discussions on the party's direction and potential challenges ahead. Many political analysts in the country foresee that the wide rejection of SYRIZA as an alternative, consolidated its total upcoming collapse.
However, the bad news for the opposition does not stop with SYRIZA. With social-democratic PASOK receiving fewer votes than expected, the opposition is in a weak position, unable to exercise a number of institutional privileges such as the important motion of censure or establish a commission of inquiry, since SYRIZA, PASOK (or even if the Communist Party is added to this list) do not gather the necessary number of 120 MPs required.
In total the recent Greek elections have revealed a concerning trend that poses significant challenges to the principles of liberal democracy.
The rise of the far right, the surge in anti-systemic votes, and the consolidation of a one-party ruling system are developments that demand close attention in the years to come. The emergence of far-right parties demonstrates a growing appeal for extremist ideologies. As professor of University of Athens, and liberal intellectual Aristides Hatzis, underlines “The demand for far-right politics in Greece has been consistently high and increasing since 2012 and therefore leads to a corresponding supply. We must fight the roots of evil, deal with the formation of preferences.”Also, the growing number of citizens who opt for radical alternatives signifies a loss of faith in parties and institutions. This erosion of trust can undermine the legitimacy of the democratic system, leading to political polarization, and further instability.
Furthermore, the consolidation of a one-party ruling system, with the dominant New Democracy (ND) party securing a significant majority in parliament, raises questions about checks and balances, accountability, and the effective functioning of democratic mechanisms. While strong governance and stability are desirable, the absence of a robust opposition can hinder democratic discourse, stifle dissenting opinions, and limit the necessary checks on executive power, a need that became evident especially under the shade of the wiretapping scandal last year.
In light of these developments, it is crucial for stakeholders within Greece's political landscape, civil society, and international partners to remain vigilant and actively work towards safeguarding the principles of liberal democracy. Protecting democratic institutions, promoting inclusive dialogue, and fostering an environment that encourages participation and engagement remains essential to countering the rise of the far right, anti-systemic vote, and the concentration of power in the country for the years to come.