//Greek Elections: new party system (probably) here to stay

Greek Elections: new party system (probably) here to stay

2015 was the year Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA (GUE/NGL) could not lose. 2019 seems to be the year they are going to lose everything.

After the mayoral, regional and European Parliament elections that took place in May, SYRIZA is left weakened.  New Democracy (EPP) gained a lot of momentum after coming first in the 26th of May European Election, which also saw the collapse of many smaller parties and the rise of some newcomers.

New Democracy’s success was not limited to the European elections as the party won 11 of the 13 regions in the regional elections. One of the remaining two was also won by a New Democracy member.

Greece – 2019 Regional Election Result

Source: Singular Logic

Following these results, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for snap elections to be held on July 7th, with Greeks being asked to return to the polls to elect the 300 members of the Hellenic Parliament.

With SYRIZA already having a poor performance in May’s elections, the upcoming national election will most likely bring an end to the transitional period of the party system that began with the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the 2012 electoral earthquake.  This election saw the two major parties, New Democracy (EPP) and especially PASOK (S&D), lose much of their electoral power, SYRIZA rise to be the official opposition to the New Democracy-led coalition government, and a number of smaller parties, including the neo-nazi Golden Dawn, represented in parliament

SYRIZA: No longer the party of hope

SYRIZA (GUE/NGL), while running a mostly negative campaign and after a major defeat in the European Parliament election, seems to no longer believe in its chances of turning things around.  Instead, SYRIZA is focused on achieving a strong second place in order to establish itself as one of the two pillars of a new two-party system. SYRIZA is running in this election as “SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance”, which can be interpreted as a step towards the full transformation of the once left-wing coalition towards a centre-left and progressive party. According to the current polls, SYRIZA is expected to gain around 24-32% of the vote and about 69-87 members of parliament.

Will New Democracy have a majority?

After the 2019 European Parliament election result in which it came first with 33.1% of the vote, New Democracy (EPP) is a clear favorite to secure a majority in parliament. This has not been achieved since 2009 when PASOK (S&D) with George Papandreou elected 160 members of parliament. According to the current polls, New Democracy is expected to gain around 35-44% of the vote and about 149-174 members of parliament. Depending on the number of parties that succeed in passing the 3% election threshold, the number of MPs could alter significantly.


Fun Fact: This election will probably see the return of George Papandreou in parliament as an MP with KINAL (S&D), restarting the family dynasty that had at least one member of the family in parliament from  1923 to 2014.


KINAL and KKE: The Survivors

Movement for Change, or KINAL (S&D), is in essence the continuation of the once prominent and all-powerful PASOK.  KINAL is set to come third in the upcoming elections, making it one of the few political parties to have survived the crisis and the upheaval of the greek party system. Movement for Change has suffered its own crisis, not being able to agree on which parties should be viewed as potential allies. With former leader Evangelos Venizelos sidelined, KINAL seems to want to avoid repeating the 2012-2014 coalition government with New Democracy. It has, however, left open the option of supporting a New Democracy minority government. On the other hand, after the elections KINAL will be pressured by SYRIZA to co-operate in a centre-left, progressive opposition to New Democracy, especially with SYRIZA attempting to transform itself into a centre-left party. According to the current polls, KINAL is expected to gain around 6-10% of the vote and about 16-27 members of parliament.

KKE (NI-communist) is expected to once again hold its vote and come fourth, surviving the changes in the party system and the concentration of support between the two major parties. While it has failed to capitalise on the fall of centre-left and left-wing parties, it has succeeded in presenting itself as the only anti-capitalist option. KKE will, according to the current polls, gain around 4-7% of the vote and about 11-20 members of parliament.

Europe Elects poll of polls

A Nazi-less parliament?

Golden Dawn or XA, clouded by the never-ending trial with accusations of being a criminal organization, responsible for multiple murders, hate crimes and assaults, has been in a downward spiral, even having trouble finding candidates. New Democracy’s expected win appears to have a bandwagon effect on some of Golden Dawn voters, with the prospect of a right-wing majority government enticing some of them to support once again the party that has historically represented the whole right-of-centre wing in Greece. It is, however, expected to narrowly pass the election threshold. XA will, according to the current polls, gain around 2-5% of the vote and, if it manages to reach the 3% election threshold, about 9-15 members of parliament.

Europe Elections seat projection

The (not so new) newcomers

MeRA25 (GUE/NGL – European Spring), Yanis Varoufakis’ party, failed to elect an MEP in May by only 392 votes. While that is a gut-wrenching loss, it gave the new party enough exposure that will most likely help it pass the election threshold and be part of the new parliament. Varoufakis is not a stranger to the parliament, having been a high profile MP and Minister of Finance for much of 2015. According to the current polls, MeRA25 is expected to gain around 2-5% of the vote and, provided it reaches the 3% election threshold, about 9-14 members of parliament.

Greek Solution or EL (ECR) managed, as Europe Elects predicted, to pass the election threshold in the 2019 EU election. This doesn’t guarantee a strong enough performance in the national elections, since New Democracy’s expected win and some of Kyriakos Velopoulos’, Greek Solution’s leader, controversial statements have contributed in EL losing steam. Velopoulos is also not a stranger to the Hellenic Parliament, having been an MP with LAOS (EFD) from 2007 to 2012.  Greek Solution is expected, according to the current polls, to gain around 2-5% of the vote and, if it manages to pass the 3% election threshold, about 9-14 members of parliament.

What can we expect from the other parties running in this election?

Union of Centrists or EK (RE – EDP) failed to elect an MEP and based on their poll numbers will not be able to re-enter the Hellenic Parliament, joining the fate of many small parties that failed to retain their support throughout the transition of the crisis-ridden party system. EK is expected, according to the current polls, to gain around 1-3% of the vote.

Course of Freedom or PE (*) is challenging a national election for the first time and is looking to reach the coveted 3%. It is an uphill battle and most likely a failed one at that. PE is expected, according to the current polls, to gain around 1-3% of the vote.

Independent Greeks or ANEL (ECR) will not run in this election following the fate of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and Democratic Left (DIMAR) as the small party in a coalition government that ended up losing support and not managing to be re-elected.

To Potami (S&D -> RE) will also not run in this election marking the return to a Greek party system without centrist liberal parties.

For a better understanding of the political parties that will play a role in the upcoming July 7th election, Europe Elects has also created an introduction to the main political parties of Greece.

The next day

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, New Democracy’s leader, has revealed that changes in the electoral law would be one of his government’s first actions, undoing the last electoral reform, passed by Alexis Tsipras’ government, that would have all 300 parliament seats distributed proportionally. It should be noted, that the July 7th election will be held in accordance to the previous electoral system, with 250 of the 300 seats being distributed proportionally and the remaining 50 being awarded as a bonus to the largest party. With the imminent win of New Democracy, it looks like there will be a return to some form of enhanced proportionality, probably with a smaller and conditional bonus.

Other priorities of a New Democracy government include lowering taxes, attracting foreign direct investments and reforming the criminal justice system by creating a tougher police force, stricter laws and distinct high-security prisons. 

Lastly, it is important to note that the next parliament and government will be responsible for the election of the next President of Greece and the next Governor of the Bank of Greece. They will, in general, be a part of many important and historic decisions about the future of Greece and its relations with the European Union. Decisions that include amending the Constitution of Greece with regards to, among others, the relations between church and state, the election process of the President of Greece and citizen participation in decision making when it comes to the delegation of sovereign powers to international organisations.

(Edited by Mathew Nicholson and Euan Healey)

Polychronis Karampelas covers polls and elections in Greece. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations and a MA in Global Risks, Politics and Analytics. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Political Analysis at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.