By Satyaki Chakraborty
Greece is going for national election on May 21 this year as the Prime Minister of the Centre Right New Democracy Party Kyriakos Mitsotakis met the President and proposed the dissolution of the Parliament. The President accepted and fixed May 21 as the date for elections. Next month’s legislative elections will be the country’s first under a proportional representation system.
Greece had for some had a coalition government headed by the leftwing Syriza with the support of the Communist Party of Greece known as KKE. The KKE differed with the major Left party Syriza on a number of issues related to workers rights and austerity measures. The coalition government could not continue. The present centre right government is in power since then.
Latest opinion polls show that the present centre right New Democracy Party will not be in a position to get a majority on its own and it will require the support of the other non Left parties. Most of the surveys indicate a difference of 4 to 6 percent between the present ruling party and the opposition, the main of which is Syriza. The present prime Minister led a single party government but he might not get this advantage next time after the polls even if his party emerges with largest single majority.
Apart from Syriza, the opposition parties include Panhellenic Socialist Movement and the fourth largest party is the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). But with the declaration by the KKE that the Party will not take part in any coalition with Syriza after the polls, has dashed all hopes of a solid left wing government after the May 21 elections. In fact, this stand of KKE is sure to help the ruling centre right prime Minister to improve his position in the coming days before the elections as without KKE as partner, Syriza has little chance to form a new government.
KKE general secretary, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, told the Athens media “The fact that we do not take part in an anti-popular government with Syriza or any other party of the system does not mean that we do not embrace popular people, honest militants who believed in those parties in the past, were disappointed by them and today see hope only in the KKE.”
In fact Prime Minister Mitsotakis exuded confidence while announcing the decision at the cabinet meeting by saying ‘the country and its citizens need clear horizons. The national elections will be held at the end of the four year term as I had committed from the start”. The conservative New Democracy Party Government’s four year term expires in July this year.
While opinion polls show Mitsotakis’ New Democracy in the lead over the main opposition left-wing Syriza party, the gap has narrowed following a rail disaster on February 28 that killed 57 people, stirring public anger. The government’s lead has narrowed to 4 percent, according to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls.
The May 21 vote will take place under a new proportional representation system, making it difficult for any party to gather a majority. Two rounds of voting are likely, as Mitsotakis has repeatedly said he will try to secure a parliamentary majority — without resorting to a coalition government. “If a second round is needed to cancel the adventure of proportional representation, it will take place by early July at the latest,” Mitsotakis said.
Numbers suggest that based on current polling it will be almost impossible to form a majority government even after the second round and a coalition will be needed. The first party would need to get around 38 percent of the vote in the second round to form a thin majority.
Public anger following the deadly train crash joins other issues the Greek government is dealing with, including high inflation and food prices, financial wrongdoing by conservative MPs, a wiretapping scandal and a secret offer by Saudi Arabia to pay for football stadiums for Greece and Egypt if they agreed to team up and host the 2030 World Cup.
Many left wing observers feel that the Greece Communist Party is taking too rigid a position by ruling out any coalition with the left wing Syriza after the elections. The differences in programme between the Syriza and KKE are certainly there but there are commonalities also and they both fought against the austerity measures of the centre right government. In Spain, the communists are a part of the coalition and the communist labour minister is recognized as the most successful minister in the coalition headed by the Socialists. KKE could have followed that taking into account the present right wing tendencies in the European politics.
In fact, the same mistake was done by the Portuguese Communist Party some years back by withdrawing its support from the coalition government led by the Socialists.. In the national elections thereafter, the ruling Socialists did far better while the Communists lost heavily. Even the working class base for protecting which the PCP withdrew by refusing to agree to the budget, shifted to the Socialists in the elections. It is time that the Communist Parties of these countries take a wider view on Left unity against right on the line of the Spanish Communist Party. (IPA Service)