By Iakovos Makropoulos (University of Essex)
The results of the May and June 2023 Greek Parliamentary Elections confirmed the dominance of the Conservative Party in Greece, New Democracy, whereas showed the weakness of the radical left and the main opposition, SYRIZA, to re-gain power (Figure 1). A recent major review of the Greek electoral system (i.e. proportional representation) was the main ‘riddle’ for the 21 May Election, with New Democracy not being able to form a government despite winning 40.8% of the votes. Nonetheless, due to the implementation of a relatively less proportional law during the 25 June Election, New Democracy secured 158 parliamentary seats out of 300 managing to form a majority government.
Figure 1: Greek Parliamentary Elections Results (21 May & 25 June 2023)
Following a prolonged period marked by various crises, such as the economic crisis, refugee influx, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the prevailing unrest fuelled by inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Greek population needed a party that will provide to them security and safety for the next years. According to Maslow’s renowned hierarchy of needs theory introduced in 1943, individuals strive to fulfil their fundamental physiological needs initially, followed by their needs for social connection, and ultimately their aspirations for personal growth. With regard to the concept of safety needs, this encompasses various aspects such as physical well-being, personal security, and financial stability. Therefore, the New Democracy party’s conservative foundations, combined with its competent policy agenda, have propelled Kyriakos Mitsotakis to a second term, successfully persuading voters that Greece is poised to transcend its past crises. The key ingredients of this strategy were outlined in the post-election article ‘The Secret Code: Affective Polarisation and Electoral Behaviour in Greece’.
In contrast, the radical-leftist SYRIZA party’s performance in the 2023 elections fell short in convincing voters of its capability to deliver the desired stability and financial security. Although, the SYRIZA party had risen in popularity and governed Greece from 2015-2019 providing an anti-austerity programmatic agenda, the combination of a populist rhetoric and lack of innovative ideas and practical solutions on current societal issues left the party trailing in the race for governance. Indeed, the popularity of the party has witnessed a gradual decline following the economic crisis period and Alexis Tsipras’ management of the 2015 referendum outcome. Consequently, after the party’s defeat in May’s and June’s elections, Alexis Tsipras, stepped down from the party leadership.
On the other hand, PASOK, the socialist party that dominated during the years of bipartisanship prior to the economic crisis, has exhibited promising signs of recovery under its new leader, Nikos Androulakis increasing its voting share from 8.1% in July 2019 to 11.8% in June 2023. There is a renewed sense of hope that PASOK will now play a significant role. However, despite the significant setback suffered by the SYRIZA party, PASOK failed to fully capitalize on this opportunity and attract a larger share of SYRIZA’s voter base. Nevertheless, PASOK stands as the sole centre-left party capable of guiding voters with a pragmatic agenda that prioritizes both growth and security within a contemporary society.
The Communist Party of Greece, under the leadership of Dimitris Koutsoumpas, has experienced a significant surge in its vote share, climbing from 5.35% in July 2019 to 7.7% in June 2023. The party has distinguished itself from the governing New Democracy party by advocating for a distinct agenda. Traditional left-leaning voters have embraced the Communist Party’s ideology, rejecting the notion of prioritizing national security and instead emphasizing labour rights and human security as key concerns.
Contrary, in these elections, two newly far-right parties have emerged, in addition to the Greek Solution party (4.4%) that had a previous mandate in the Greek National Parliament. This development stems from two primary factors: the growing demand for security amidst ongoing crises and regional developments, and the New Democracy party’s programmatic agenda, which incorporates progressive “woke” issues that deviate from its traditional core right ideology, distancing it from its traditional right-leaning voters.
The far-right party, Spartans (Spartiates), in its debut for parliamentary elections secured 4.7% of the voting share. The party gained popularity following a tweet by Ilias Kasidiaris, a prominent member of the Golden Dawn, urging his followers to support it after the elections of 21 May 2023. Spartans align themselves with nationalist principles, with their focus lying in safeguarding the nation and Greek culture from the influence of migrants and other modern lifestyles (i.e LGBTQ community). The far-right party, Victory (NIKI), made a significant appearance with a 3.7% in June 2023 elections. With a strong emphasis on religious orientation, the party advocates for the primacy of the Church over the State, forming a central pillar of its platform.
In conclusion, Greece finds itself at a critical juncture where the decision to embrace change and progress is paramount in the aftermath of the crisis era. The prevailing sentiment reflects a need for security and stability. On one hand, New Democracy has capitalized on the crisis as an opportunity for growth and has emerged as the party capable of providing this security. Other parties must take note and follow this example if they wish to compete with New Democracy and serve as a robust opposition to a party that currently operates without significant challengers. On the other hand, this emphasis on security has attracted a wide spectrum of right-leaning voters who seek right-wing solutions. While the far-right space remains so far fragmented -limiting its impact on party competition- the newfound institutional representation of these parties may be critical. By addressing the pressing needs of the people and fostering unity and progress, Greece has the potential to move forward, diminish support for extreme ideologies, and build a brighter and more inclusive future for all its citizens.
Photo source: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/25/europe/kyriakos-mitsotakis-elections-victory-intl/index.html