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Greek elections insight by Burson-Marsteller


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Greece gets a government, and eurozone breathes a sight of relief.

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Greek elections insight by Burson-Marsteller

  1. 1. Much of Europe and the world held its breath as the Greeks voted on 17 June. This was an election that was widely perceived as determining Greece’s future in the eurozone. In the end, New Democracy, a pro- European and pro-bailout party won a mandate to form a coalition government, taking nearly 30% of the vote. Antonis Samaras, the ND leader (pictured), has now been sworn in as prime minister. SYRIZA, the radical left party that came second in the inconclusive election in May, won more than a quarter of the vote - up from an already impressive (and record) score of 16.78% a month ago. With such a large proportion of the Greek population voting for a party that wants to renegotiate the terms of the bailout agreement, and others voting for parties that would quit the eurozone altogether, the Greek and European political and economic landscape remain fragile. which was led by ND, considered Greece’s participation in the eurozone to be an absolute priority, and warned against the disastrous consequences of a potential withdrawal from theThe Greek elections in May marked the collapse of the two-party single currency area.dominance of the centre-right New Democracy (ND) and the The other major political discourse was championed by SYRIZA,Socialists (PASOK) as well as the emergence of more radical and focused on messages of change in the Greek politicalforces - the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the extreme right (Golden landscape and the need to rebalance Greece’s relationship withDawn). The outcome of the election was paralyzing its European partners.fragmentation. In essence, the election - even more clearly than the May poll -The latest elections revealed a shift in electoral attitudes. Under presented a choice between a ‘pro-Memorandum’ direction andthe pressure of a looming currency default and the failure of the an ‘anti-Memorandum’ direction; it was a question of whether toMay elections, parties and voters became more risk-averse and stay in the euro at all costs - or not.half-heartedly regrouped. The majority of Greeks see the eurozone as a protective shield and were therefore reluctant to take the risk of potentially goingWhile May’s election was seen as a punishment vote against back to an immensely devaluated drachma. The June electionestablished parties, who are considered responsible for the putched the people’s fear of an unknown future outside thecurrent crisis and a brutal austerity programme, the June results eurozone and their anger at the deteriorating standards of living.could be seen as reflecting an overall expression of fear. Fear of the unknown was a decisive factor.The numbers speak for themselves: both ND and SYRIZAincreased their share of the vote by more than ten percentagepoints, and there was a clear dwindling of support for the centre- This electoral preference was reflected in parties’ rhetoric. SYRIZAleft and extreme left (for example, the Communists dropped from attempted to shift from its unilateral denouncement of thethe fifth-largest representation in parliament to the smallest, memorandum towards a more moderate strategy focused ongoing from 26 to 12 seats. renegotiations while also trying to stay in the euro.This polarisation is indicative of the June electoral discourse, This shift, along with wide popular support for SYRIZA, led thewhich was represented by two arguments. The first argument, other parties to mitigate their positions and to declare that they
  2. 2. would also seek a renegotiation of the Memorandum, in effect Parliamentary elections dampening the discourse and the divide on this issue.Votes The New Democracy (ND) leader, Antonis Samaras, initiated discussions to form a coalition government. In his victory speech he said that he would pursue the establishment of a ‘national salvation’ government with all political forces willing to work towards this direction, and pledged to meet the country’s international obligations. The SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, immediately turned down Samaras’s proposal to join a coalition government, stating that SYRIZA would remain the main opposition party. A third round of elections was out of the question, and against the backdrop of domestic and international pressure to form a government without further delay, negotiations were successfullyComposition of Parliament concluded between ND, the Socialists (PASOK), and the Democratic Left (DIMAR). Talks focused on defining the policy framework for the new administration and the cabinet line-up. Mr Samaras was sworn into office late on Wednesday 20 June and his cabinet is to be named the following day. Although neither PASOK nor DIMAR will provide any frontline members for the cabinet, they have asked for ideologically- aligned figures to join the new government. PASOK in particular requested the creation of a ‘national negotiation team’, to lead the renegotiation of bailout terms. DIMAR focused on policy proposals, such as the extension of the fiscal adjustment programme and the revocation of certain exceptionally tough austerity measures.Electoral attitudesExit polls following the elections have provided importantinsights on electoral attitudes: Renegotiating the terms of the Memorandum, while respecting 42.4% of voters cast their ballots to express their opposition to the Memorandum. the country’s commitments to its creditors, is going to be the top priority of the new government. Further priorities include 37.9% voted in order to ensure Greece’s position in the eurozone. boosting market liquidity and putting in place growth policies, 45.4% of those who cast an ‘anti-Memorandum’ vote made a supporting the unemployed and lower income groups, enacting a positive choice to support their party. structural public administration reform, proceeding with 45.9% of those who cast a ‘pro-eurozone’ vote supported a privatisation, and making optimal use of EU funds to finance party mainly out of necessity to support the country’s major infrastructure projects. European course. Due to anticipated intra-coalition frictions and fierce opposition 83.4% of ‘pro-eurozone’ voters were mainly interested in the formation of a strong government. They wanted the from anti-Memorandum parties, the coalition is expected to be a government to implement further reforms deriving from the rather fragile government of limited duration, probably until the EU/IMF bailout programme so that political and financial stability can be restored. European elections of 2014.Election facts The extreme-right Golden Dawn party retained its share of the vote, a score that is largely seen as reflecting an anti- system vote of anger, even though this time party representatives were exposed to the media, and voters had the chance to get acquainted with their rhetoric and practices. In one TV debate, a Golden Dawn member hit a female MP. Parties failing to overcome the three per cent threshold to enter Parliament accounted for only 5.98% of the total vote, compared to 19.03% in May. DIMAR will take part in the coalition government to prevent further elections and as a result has turned it into a key player. Its participation will provide the coalition government with a broader popular mandate and Original text by the team at Advocate/Burson-Marsteller, Burson- wider legitimacy. Marsteller’s affiliate in Greece. Visit