Yesterday’s election results showed that the left-wing party Syriza led by a 40-year old former communist Alexis Tsipras has won . As an aside, I was encouraged to see that he departed from tradition and rather than being sworn in by the archbishop as tradition dictated, he had a civil ceremony.
His party has formed a coalition government with the populist but rightwing Independent Greeks party. It will be interesting to see how those strange bedfellows work out the relationship.
With 36.3 % of the vote, Syriza fell two seats short of the 151 MPs it needed to govern alone. The Independent Greeks, who have huge ideological differences with the leftists but are bonded by the desire to end biting EU-IMF-mandated cutbacks, won 4.75% of the vote and 13 seats. The conservative New Democracy party – the dominant force in a coalition lead by the outgoing prime minister Antonis Samaras – suffered ignominious defeat, collapsing to 76 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
Although ideologically different, both parties campaigned on an anti-austerity platform, opposing the policies that had been imposed on them by the other Eurozone countries, particularly Germany, and that has resulted in much hardship on the people.
After five years of austerity-fuelled recession that has driven the vast majority of Greeks into poverty and despair, Syriza cadres described the new administration as a “national salvation government”.
With more than 26% of the population out of work, and more than a third at risk of poverty, the new government was assuming the reins not only of a broke state but a broken society.
This is undoubtedly going to cause great turmoil in the European Union with questions about whether Greece will remain part of it or choose to leave or be kicked out. If a separation is to occur, how such an unprecedented move would take place will also have to be worked out.