Pasok pays high price for taking austerity approach in Athens


The once-mighty party has lost 75 per cent of its seats and many of its ministers are gone, writes DAMIAN MAC CON ULADH

FOR PASOK read Fianna Fáil. The once-mighty Greek socialist party, which until Sunday had eight of the 17 seats in Athens’ A constituency, has been left with just one MP in the heart of the capital, having been pummelled at the polls by an angry electorate.

Voters knew the party faced problems, but no one anticipated the scale of the bloody defeat, which has left Pasok with 75 per cent fewer seats than it won in 2009.

Newspaper headlines hanging from kiosks spelt out what had happened. “Historic collapse of the mainstream parties,” proclaimed Kathimerini, while Ta Nea heralded a “Nightmare of no governance . . . new polls on the horizon”.

From early morning, the news came through that a string of ministers had lost their seats, a rare occurrence in Greek politics.

People arriving at work reacted in disbelief as colleagues filled them in on the latest cabinet casualties: at least six ministers had fallen victim to the wrath of voters, among them some of the closest associates of former party leader and prime minister George Papandreou.

Yiorgos Papakonstantinou, who was environment minister and the finance minister who oversaw the first bailout memorandum – gone. Culture minister Pavlos Yeroulanos – gone.

In all, Pasok managed to retain only three of its 10 ministers. The fate of finance minister Filippos Sachinidis was still unclear last night, as the count in his constituency had not been completed.

Even the parliamentary speaker was not spared the anti-austerity backlash. Party veteran Filippos Petsalnikos appeared shell-shocked as he formally announced the new parliamentary make-up to reporters after a meeting with the country’s president.

In the heady days of its founder, Andreas Papandreou, Pasok was almost the state, and the state was almost Pasok.

Now it’s the third party and, for those who made it happen, the reality had hardly sunk in.

“The eight voters in my extended family all voted for Papandreou in 2009 and always voted for Pasok,” said security guard Argyris, as he made his way to work yesterday morning.

“But on Sunday we went en masse to Syriza [Radical Left Coalition] because this austerity is choking us.”

Syriza’s spectacular success was the other factor that Greeks were still coming to terms with. Long a party of protest, most of it expressed on the streets, it is now parliament’s second party.

The Pasok-dominated media attacked Syriza with venom for much of the day, charging that it had no programme to get the country out of the crisis.

But that could be said for all Greek parties, no more so than for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, the most unpalatable surprise to emerge from the polls.

At a Sunday press conference, its bellicose leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, berated journalists, who had earlier been ordered to stand to attention when he entered the room – or else leave.

His message was chilling.

“To those who betrayed this country,” Michaloliakos thundered, “we say it is time for them to be afraid. We are coming for them.”