After this weekend's election, the country's Right is on the march
The Greek people went to the polls yesterday — just one month after their last general election. The result was a disaster for the Left, a triumph for the Right and a resurrection for the far-Right.
Syriza — the radical Leftist party that ruled Greece from 2015 to 2019 — was humiliated. After losing 15 seats last month, it lost a further 23 yesterday. The conservative New Democracy party took 158 seats, giving the current Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, an absolute majority in the 300-seat Hellenic Parliament.
But what really seals his triumph is that the opposition is now divided between seven different parties. Three of those are to the right of New Democracy, including the national conservative Greek Solution party, the religious conservative Victory party, and the ultranationalist Spartans. Together they have 34 seats, meaning that, after an interruption caused by the collapse of Golden Dawn, the radical Right is back in force.
Even among the four Leftist parties, there’s not much hope of progressive unity. In addition to the rapidly shrinking Syriza, there’s a small centre-Left alliance, an unreconstructed Stalinist outfit, and a breakaway group of Left-wing nationalists. As for Yanis Varoufakis, that darling of international socialism, his party once again failed to clear the 3% threshold — and is thus excluded from parliament.
Ironically, it was Varoufakis who warned us that Greece is in the process of being “Orbanised” — meaning that Mitsotakis is set to become as all-powerful as Viktor Orbán is in Hungary. The similarities between the two countries are now unmistakable — a party of government that fuses conservatism and populism, a political system that embeds the dominance of that party, and a hopelessly incoherent opposition.
Yet another parallel is that both Hungary and Greece are economic vassals of the EU. The commanding heights of Hungary’s industry are owned by German and other foreign companies, and Greece’s policies are imposed on by the European Central Bank. In both countries, voters have made a rational — if despairing — choice: for local strongmen who can negotiate the best deal available from the imperial overlords, while salvaging what’s left of national pride. Other parties continue to exist for the sake of democratic appearances, but their role is to provide a safety valve for discontent — not an effective opposition.
It’s a far cry from the heady days of 2015, when British Left-wingers like Owen Jones hailed Syriza’s rise to power as a “historic watershed” and “cause for hope”. But, of course, a serious challenge to neoliberalism could not be tolerated. On pain of expulsion from the single currency, the Eurozone authorities ordered an end to the new Greek socialism. The Syriza prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, capitulated — thus condemning his country to permanent austerity and his party to permanent irrelevance.
The EU was, as a result, exposed not as an alternative to the neoliberal order, but instead as its chief enforcer. And yet, across Europe, most progressives pretended not to notice. For instance, when British voters dared to vote for Brexit, the Left largely sided with Brussels. They’ve now made their choice — and the Greek election result is further evidence of the consequences.