After Greece’s second parliamentary election this year (June 2012), there was a collective sigh of relief in Europe. The political parties that negotiated the bailouts of Greece in 2010 and 2011 had secured a majority in the new parliament and formed a government that was committed to avoiding a Greek default. Europe’s political leaders could now hasten to damp down the next brush fire in the Eurozone, the crisis of the Spanish banks.
What those political leaders overlooked was that the Greek political scene has undergone a revolution.
To be precise, Greece’s conservative New Democracy party (ND) had narrowly defeated SYRIZA, the leftist alliance, and formed a government with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), its old rival, and the Democratic Left.
SYRIZA had campaigned for repudiation of what Greeks call “the memorandum” (to mnimonio), that is, the program of drastic financial measures to which the preceding Greek governments had agreed in exchange for the bailouts.
Other parties in the new parliament also opposed the memorandum: the veteran Greek Communist Party and, on the right, the chauvinist Independent Greeks and the New Dawn. This last is a party whose symbols and manifestations are unashamedly reminiscent of Nazism. In the elections of 2012, it succeeded in supplanting LAOS, a religious nationalist party.
So what is the revolution? Ever since the restoration of Greek democracy in 1974, the New Democraty party and Panhellenic Socialist Movement had dominated parliament and alternated in government. Between them, they regularly held over 80% of the seats. That constant of Greek politics has vanished. Now the New Democracy party is challenged on the right and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement has been eclipsed by SYRIZA, which exemplifies the Trotskyite doctrine of permanent revolution.
SYRIZA sympathizers are prominent in violent and destructive demonstrations. Their baleful influence in Greek universities, which they have turned into permanent bases of operations, was recently documented in the Times Higher Education Supplement. Not surprisingly, the dedicated website permanentrevolution.net urged the Greeks to vote SYRIZA.
Compare the results of the Greek elections from October 2009 and those recently held June 2012. (There was also a May 2012 election, but that can be seen as merely transitional.) Note that the Greek electoral law sets aside a number of the 300 seats in the parliament as a bonus for the party that polls highest. The remaining seats are divided in proportion to the votes cast among those parties which receive at least 3% of the total votes.
In October 2009 the result in seats and percentages was as follows:
Panhellenic Socialist Movement 160 (43.92%, plus a bonus of 40), New Democracy party 91 (33.47%); Communists 21 (7.54%); LAOS 15 (5.63%); and SYRIZA 13 (4.60%). By contrast, the election of June 2012 went as follows:
New Democracy party 129 (29.66%, plus a bonus of 50); SYRIZA 71 (26.89%); Panhellenic Socialist Movement 33 (12.28%); Independent Greeks 20 (7.51%); Communists 12 (4.50%); Golden Dawn 18 (6.92); and Independent Left 17 (6.26%). The figures speak for themselves. SYRIZA, coming from almost nowhere, has largely supplanted the Panhellenic Socialist Movement on the left. Considering that in the election of March 2007, the New Democracy party won 152 seats (41.83%, bonus of 40), the right has also been seriously split. Indeed, the New Democracy party “won” the latest election with a smaller percentage of votes than when the percentage it received when it lost in 2009. MOST PEOPLE will conclude that this is a purely Greek phenomenon, reflecting the dire situation of the Greek state and economy. They could not be more wrong. The Netherlands has one of the three strongest economies in the Eurozone, up along with Germany and Finland. Nevertheless, the same fundamental shift in the political landscape is underway there.
The Dutch parliament has two chambers; the more important second chamber has 150 seats. For decades, most of them were won by three parties: the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA), the Liberals (VVD) and the Labor Party (PvdA). In the election of June 2010, the CDA went down from 41 to 21 seats, losing out to its upstart rival on the right, the Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, which jumped from 15 to 24 seats.
Another election is scheduled for September 12, 2012. Recent opinion polls suggest that the Christian Democrats will drop further, to a humiliating 13 seats. But the big surprise is that on the left the Labor party will drop from 30 to 15-17, while its rival, the Socialist Party (SP), will jump from 15 to 38.