Greek Voters Give Boost To Far Left, Neo-Nazi Parties In Rebellion Against Bailout
Apparently upset with the austerity conditions necessitated by decades of government profligacy, Greek voters have opened their political system to some potentially dangerous forces:
ATHENS — Greek voters appeared to radically redraw the political map on Sunday, bolstering the far left and neo-Nazi right in a wave of protest against the dominant political parties they blame for the country’s economic collapse.
The parliamentary elections were the first time that Greece’s foreign loan agreement had been put to a democratic test, and the outcome appeared clear: a rejection of the terms of the bailout and a fragmentation of the vote so severe that the front-runner is expected to have extreme difficulty in forming a government, let alone one that can either enforce or renegotiate the terms of the bailout.
The elections were seen as a pivotal test, determining both the country’s future in Europe and its prospects for economic recovery and the outcome, along with that in France, could resonate far beyond Europe, possibly leading to more upheaval in the euro zone. The early results were also a clear rebuke to European leaders that their strategy for Greece had failed.
An exit poll made public just before 9 p.m. nearly two hours after the polls closed, indicated that center-right New Democracy party was in first place with 19 to 20.5 percent of the vote, much less than the 34 percent it won in 2009. But in a major shift, the Socialists, who dominated for decades, won 44 percent of the vote in 2009 and were in power when Greece asked for foreign aid in 2010, appeared to have 13 to 14 percent of the vote, putting them behind the Coalition of the Radical Left, called Syriza, which opposes Greece’s agreement with its foreign lenders. Syriza appeared to be drawing 15.5 to 17 percent of the vote.
A projection by the Interior Ministry based on votes counted at a quarter of the country’s 20,000 polling stations broadly reflected the results of the exit poll.
The two main parties could still form a coalition if the findings of the exit poll, which was conducted by several firms on behalf of four television channels, are reflected in the official results. Representatives of the two main parties were quick to express their opposition to the prospect of a second round of elections.
The Socialists’ leader, Evangelos Venizelos, called for a national unity government, saying that a coalition with only the Socialists and New Democracy would not have legitimacy.
Mr. Venizelos said that Sunday was an “exceptionally painful day” for the Socialists. He added that the results in France showed that the “balance” in Europe was shifting and that Greek political parties that had said there was an alternative to the loan agreement had misled voters. “God of Greece, help us,” he said.
Exit polls also showed the far-right Golden Dawn party, whose symbol resembles the swastika and whose members perform Nazi salutes at rallies, attracting 5 to 8 percent of the vote, enough to enter Parliament for the first time. The ultimate expression of a protest vote, the party has gained ground by campaigning on the streets of Athens, where many residents fear a sharp rise in illegal immigration and where politicians from mainstream parties have had trouble walking for fear of violent attacks from angry voters.
In a triumphant televised statement issued after the exit polls, the party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, pledged to “fight the memorandum of the junta inside and outside Parliament,” a reference to the country’s debt deal with creditors.
This kind of radicalism is what hardship breeds, of course, even when that hardship is made necessary by the utter economic collapse of the Greek state. What this means for the future of the Greek debt deal, not to mention the Eurozone as a whole, only time will tell. On the whole, though, I can’t say it’s ever a good thing when actual Nazis start winning elections.