Greek elections show mounting discontent

ATHENS, Greece — The Sept. 16 parliamentary elections here handed the conservative New Democracy Party a 4-percentage-point re-election victory over the liberal opposition PASOK party.

New Democracy won 42 percent of the vote and PASOK got 38 percent. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) won 8.2 percent, an increase of 2.3 percentage points over 2004, and Siriza, a left-wing coalition party, got 5 percent of the national vote.

LAOS, a populist, religious-oriented right-wing party, got into Parliament for the first time with 3.8 percent.

Only 74 percent of the nearly 1 million registered voters cast ballots. The lower turnout reflects a steadily increasing trend towards abstention by Greek voters, which polls have linked to disillusionment with the two-party system.

The KKE nearly doubled the number of deputies it will have in Parliament, to 22. In large city centers, the vote for the KKE was 10-12 percent, reaching as high as 18-19 percent in some working-class neighborhoods. The KKE vote was highest among working people in the private sector and among youth, the unemployed, the self-employed and small farmers.

In the countryside, in villages that put up strong resistance to the Nazi occupation during World War II, the Communist vote was particularly impressive. Along the same lines, islands that were used to exile Communists by the postwar, right-wing dictatorship also posted high vote tallies for the KKE. The former exile island of Ikaria (Dodecanese), for example, handed the KKE a first place showing with 36 percent of the vote.

The election results represent a victory for KKE, which has been slowly but steadily increasing its political power in the post-1991 era, having doubled its percentage of the vote since that time. The party said its vote tally reflects support for the actions and struggles it has led over a period of years, combined with a widening radicalism in Greece, with many voters casting a ballot for the KKE for the first time.

While the ruling-class parties, New Democracy and PASOK, still command the lion’s share of the electorate’s support, they lost significant votes to KKE and to the other alternative parties.

Young voters particularly, age 18-24, turned their backs on the two-party system. This reflects the shift in voter consciousness, as working people increasingly turn away from center-right and center-left positions.

Both New Democracy and PASOK push the neoliberal agenda of “free trade” and privatization that is dictated by the European Union. These policies are steadily forcing the vast majority of working families here into economic ruin and, as one KKE election poster warned, the worst may be yet to come.

The incumbent New Democracy Party also came under criticism during the election for its mishandling of the fight against widespread wildfires last month.

What is clear is that the high vote for the two dominant parties does not correspond to the level of strong popular discontent.

As a result, the KKE calls for “organized and intensive action in cooperation with radical forces that are developing to build a strong popular front against the anti-people measures New Democracy will promote.”

It said that through mass action, “forces that are still entrapped in the two-party logic” can be won to more left-wing positions.

laurajopetricola @yahoo.com