In this piece, we see ideas about how the Greens can introduce an alternative narrative to the current political discourse.
The Greek elections that took place on 6th May 2012 signalled cataclysmic political changes that mark the end of the two-party political system that ruled Greece from 1974, when Parliamentary democracy was restored, until now. Since May 6th, ‘political time’ in Greece seems extremely compact and for someone to express expectations or project future events in such a fluid environment seems a dangerous exercise.
In the most recent elections, the political collapse of the Socialists and the Conservatives, the two major supporters of the memoranda signed with the infamous Troika, paved the way for the rise of SYRIZA, a coalition of radical left-wing parties, ranging from former socialists’ cadres, former eurocommunists, reformed communists, eurosceptic left-wingers and Maoists to supporters of Leon Trotsky. SYRIZA was the clear winner of these elections.
The rise of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn with almost 7% was a (wrong) reaction to mass migration and the inability of the state to provide basic security for ordinary citizens in the urban ghettos of Athens. A number of smaller parties received almost 20% of the vote but were not represented in the short-lived Greek Parliament due to Greek electoral law
Oikologoi Prassinoi (Ecologists Greens), did not manage to pass the 3% threshold and remained outside the Greek Parliament. With a 2.93% of the vote – almost 4,000 votes short of our target – we received 15% more votes than the 2009 national elections but still failed. During our campaign we remained crystal clear on our European orientation. We explained that our ‘no’ to the memoranda signed by the Greek government and the Troika does not bear the same significance to those of others. This means that Greek Greens do not romanticise the pre-memoranda era of high consumerism and widespread corruption. Having produced a concise program, we made clear that there was no room on our part to support a Socialists and/or Conservatives-led government as it had been both parties’ suicidal policies that had led Greek society to its knees.
Although it is way too early for one to draw definite conclusions as to why Ecologists Greens did not succeed, I dare to suggest that: a) The Greek Greens lost votes in predominantly urban areas especially after SYRIZA made its final and crucial move in the last days suggesting a left-wing government. The Greens could not respond due to their minimal organisational capacity and their non-existent relations with mainstream media, b) Ecologists Greens increased their votes in rural areas and on the islands, either because of our proposals suggesting a rural renaissance or because of the fact that the socialists of PASOK used to score very high in those areas and we had a higher share of those votes, c) the expectations of winning Parliament seats had many of us launch rather individual campaigns instead of focusing on the greater target that was a sine qua non for the rest, d) Greek Greens lost votes to two small liberal parties ‘to our right’ that received 2,15% and 1,80% respectively and finally e) they lost votes to the newly appeared Pirates’ Party that scored 0,51%.
Right after the elections, the Greek Greens called for a party conference that was marked by the decision not to collaborate with any left-wing party before the elections as was proposed by some of its members. Running in elections on our separate list was voted in by 78% of the party members. A number of tactical and strategic measures were taken in order to correct mistakes or shortcomings in the party’s previous campaign.
The upcoming elections on June 17 seem to be of crucial importance not only for Greece but for Europe as a whole. The recent election of socialist Francois Hollande to the French Presidency initially gave some hope for a rearrangement regarding the stability pact. Unfortunately though, the new electoral milieu in Greece is characterised by a false dilemma between the so called “pro-euro” and the “anti-euro” forces. This dilemma is reinforced by statements by European Union officials who willingly or not end up fuelling fear under which the Greek citizens have been living for the past 2 ½ years. What EU officials seem not to understand is that a country with 21% unemployment rate, a collapsing health system in which cancer patients cannot find drugs for their chemotherapy and a constant degradation of public services cannot make clear decisions and its citizens fall easy victim to populist ideas. Opinion polls show that an overwhelming 80% support Greece’s membership in the eurozone. The suggestion that being pro-euro equals being pro-memorandum is simplistic and myopic as it equates Europe to economic neoliberalism. This equation is mostly promoted by right wing and social-democratic governments alike across Europe.
The Road Ahead
Another issue that dominated the post-May 6th elections has been the governability of Greece, as political parties did not manage to form a coalition government. SYRIZA, believing it could perform even better in the next elections, used every excuse to avoid forming a Government. The Conservatives and the Socialists, although holding a majority of seats, declared they could not form a government without one of the two left-wing parties, SYRIZA or Democratic Left, a splinter party from SYRIZA. For many bystanders of Greek politics this was a déjà vu, as political parties once again put their parties’ interest above national interest.
Election polls in the past two weeks suggested that the Conservatives and SYRIZA are neck and neck for first place. This is of extreme importance as under Greek electoral law the first party receives a 50 MPs bonus, mainly taken from the second party. This two-party system in the make seems to squeeze smaller political parties such as Ecologists Greens. As we approach the election day, those two parties as well as PASOK’ socialists have started the traditional recipe of promising ‘anything to anyone’. A desperate electorate that is used to such tactics and is in a search for hope is called to decide on the future of a country that has lost its orientation within a European Union that is on a standstill. For those who claimed from the beginning that Greece is a peculiar case, the cases of Spain, Italy, Portugal and others suggest the need for a thorough and in depth analysis of the current situation within the E.U. In the final analysis, if many patients do not seem to recover following the same remedy it cannot be the patients’ fault. On the contrary one needs to reconsider the medication and most importantly… the doctor.
In this political environment the Greek Greens have decided to portray themselves as a political force that is not pro-European but European! Ecologists Greens are a political force that gives importance ‘to the next day’ and proposes a reorientation of the country toward a sustainable and green path. Greek Greens having been against the memoranda right from the start think that it is the very application of it that is leading Greece back to drachma! To what extent Greek voters will vote based on reason or emotion is of acute importance. In the May 6th elections Greeks voted mainly “against”. They voted against austerity measures which are leading to a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions for generations of Greeks, they voted against those parties who have been responsible for today’s situation. In the June 17th elections they are asked to vote for a government which should be able to offer tangible solutions within a very short period of time.
The international environment within which all these developments are taking place is not helpful. We should not turn a blind eye to the fact that Greece’s failure is not the sole responsibility of Greeks and the same applies to the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Italians. The euro might nominally be our common currency but its role and function within our societies is not in the hands of us all, European citizens. It is high time we Europeans demand to have a say, breaking our ‘national cocoons’ and thus move forward for a federal Europe in which solidarity is a sine qua non!
Those who studied Greek mythology remember that Sisyphus had been compelled to roll an immense rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. Today’s Sisyphian torture is for the Greek society to serve as the guinea pig of neoliberal economic policies that seem to sacrifice Europe, our common vision, to a ‘re-nationalisation’ of European politics. What we need to do is to stop the blame game within the European Union, to stop focusing on numbers and statistics and to start paying visits to poverty-hit areas throughout our Union, to stop adding more austerity measures and come up with a plan that can revitalise our common vision. The road ahead is not paved with roses, but hey, did anyone say we Greens in Greece or elsewhere are made for the easy?