Greek voters give Syriza second chance to govern

Leftist party may need a third coalition partner as bailout measures kick in

Greek voters returned Alexis Tsipras to power with a strong election victory on Sunday. Photograph: Michalis Karagiannis/Reuters

Greek voters returned Alexis Tsipras to power with a strong election victory on Sunday. Photograph: Michalis Karagiannis/Reuters

 

As they made their way to cast their ballot in the 72nd primary school in central Athens, some voters were frank in admitting they still had to make up their minds.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to make, even more difficult than the one I made in the January election. At the last minute I opted to stick with the same party I chose eight months ago, to give them a second chance,” said one, Georgia, who like many Greeks was cagey about divulging her full name to interviewers.

It was a strong indication that she had voted for Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza party won a second general election in a year yesterday.

Another voter arrived on his motorbike, still undecided. “I really don’t know who to vote for. Who would you pick if you were in my position?” asked Nikos (32).

“I may give Tsipras another go of it or maybe I’ll give my vote to the Union of Centrists,” he added, the latter a reference to an idiosyncratic party whose fortunes have risen in line with the increasing disillusionment with politics.

Emerging from the gates of the school 10 minutes later, he said he had voted for Syriza.

As the results of the election filtered through, it seemed thousands of people like Georgia and Nikos had made a similar decision when they reached the ballot box. Syriza’s 35.5 per cent share of the vote was considerably larger than the most optimistic pre-election opinion poll would have predicted before the election.

Renewed vigour

Evangelos Meimarakis

But with abstention levels at a historical high of 44 per cent, the general election also reflected the widespread political fatigue in a country that has been put through two general elections and a referendum this year.

With a lower turnout in areas traditionally associated with the right, it was clear it was New Democracy that had the difficulty in mobilising its natural base.

But the low turnout is also a manifestation of the disillusionment, even anger, among many Greeks at the way their resounding No vote in July’s referendum – they were told they were voting against an unacceptable bailout proposal from the country’s creditors – didn’t stop the country from entering a third bailout agreement, with harsh conditions attached.

Slightest of majorities

That may force Tsipras to invite a third party to join the government, which, in any case, can expect to enjoy the support of a constructive opposition, as it did during the summer when it passed the third bailout agreement through parliament.

With Syriza ruling out any formal co-operation with New Democracy and centrist Potami seemingly resolute that it cannot work with Syriza, that third element may be Pasok, which can be satisfied with its election performance. Running a joint election ticket with Democratic Left, Pasok managed to increase its share of the vote from 4.7 to 6.4 per cent.

The coming days will reveal the composition of the new government and whether it has the potential to last a full four-year term.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.