Where Greece stands
Opinions differ among opposition parties on Papandreou's bold move.
Leader: Antonis Samaras
Since Greece’s first bailout memorandum was signed in May 2010, New Democracy, the main opposition party, has been vociferous in its criticism of the terms of the deal. To the chagrin of its European sister Christian Democrat parties, it has voted against all the austerity packages but has shown some flexibility in voting for specific policy measures that it agreed with, such as privatisations.
Mr Samaras now has his focus set on elections – he believes a strong rejection of Pasok will allow him to negotiate a better deal for Greece. He has dismissed the referendum plan as “blackmail” and says that by asking the people to vote in such a divisive climate, Mr Papandreou is risking Greece’s very presence in the EU.
But he has also warned that a Yes vote would frustrate a renegotiation of the bailout. Sources say Mr Samaras is even contemplating calling for a cross-opposition boycott of the referendum to deprive it of the 40 per cent turnout that it requires to pass.
COMMUNIST PARTY OF GREECE
The third-largest entity in parliament, the Communist Party (KKE) is an orthodox, Marxist-Leninist party, which wishes that the collapse of communist regimes in eastern Europe never happened.
In the last regional elections, the party took almost 11 per cent of the vote and could expect even more support if the country went to the polls, which the KKE demands.
Resolutely anti-EU, which it sees as a tool of the “plutocracy” and the “monopolies”, it sees in the referendum a form of “crude extortion” in which the government and the EU will use “ideological terrorism” to “extract” a Yes vote. The party sees in the crisis the contradictions of capitalism and will do everything in its power to exacerbate them.
For this reason, it is certain that the KKE will call for a No vote if the referendum is held.
POPULAR ORTHODOX RALLY
The Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) is a mixed bag of nationalists and populists. As its parliamentary presence has successively grown, it has shed – or stopped mentioning – some of its more extreme policies and has tried to cultivate a more moderate image in an attempt to make it suitable as a junior coalition partner.
Very much a party by and of Mr Karatzaferis, it surprised everyone by voting for the first memorandum agreement in 2010, although he voted against the midterm fiscal plan this summer.
Laos also wants elections – it stands to benefit from conservative voters dissatisfied with Mr Samaras’s leadership of New Democracy.
Mr Karatzaferis is opposed to the idea of a referendum, which he says will cast the country into a long process of stagnation, which “would be catastrophic”. If it does come to a referendum, Mr Karatzaferis might surprise everyone again and call for a Yes vote.
RADICAL LEFT COALITION
Leader: Alexis Tsipras
The Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) believes political struggle must take place inside and outside parliament. Comprising a collection of parties, ranging from new leftists to Trotskyists to former Maoists, its main force is the Left Coalition (Synaspismos), the successor of the Eurocommunist breakaway from the KKE.
It has always called for a referendum on the bailout deal, and is thus the only party to have openly welcomed Mr Papandreou’s move, although it would prefer immediate elections. It has
said it will treat the poll as a “historic opportunity” for the people of Greece to give hope and bring salvation to the “other peoples of Europe”, by saving them from the bankruptcy that it says is guaranteed by the euro zone’s decisions of October 26th. On that basis, it is certain That Syriza will actively campaign for a No vote.
As it has less MPs than is required, the Democratic Alliance is not officially recognised in parliament, but that is something that its leader, Dora Bakoyannis, is desperate to change after the next elections. A daughter of former New Democracy leader Konstantinos Mitsotakis and a former foreign minister herself, she was expelled from New Democracy after breaking ranks to vote in favour of the first memorandum agreement in May 2010.
Democratic Alliance followed, which Ms Bakoyannis has profiled as a liberal, business-friendly party. But like Laos, her party has failed to back Pasok in subsequent austerity votes. A long-time advocate of a government of national unity – in which she would expect to play a major role – she has come out in favour of elections.
If push comes to shove, and Mr Papandreou gets his referendum, then Ms Bakoyannis – who has often criticised the slow pace of reforms – will most likely call for a Yes vote.
A breakaway from Synaspismos, the main component in Syriza, this Europhile and reformist leftist party has long hinted at a coalition between itself and Pasok.
More recently it has joined the chorus for elections and would certainly stand to gain greatly from any anti-Pasok backlash. It has criticised the referendum idea for “increasing the dilemma” facing Greek society and for risking its European future.
While it believes that Greece’s problems can only be solved at the European level, it was critical of the mention of permanent external supervision in the Brussels agreement. It sees that a general election would be the easiest and quickest way to give the people their say and to choose a way out of the crisis.
However, it is possible that this party will vote in favour of the referendum as the lesser evil.
The Greek parliament has seven independents and two one-man parties. All can be expected to vote against the referendum, with the exception of a former New Democracy MP who has voted with Pasok on all austerity measures.