The Greek election results have come in and it seems far-left party SYRIZA has won a significant victory on an anti-austerity platform.
The results of the snap elections are almost complete.
Results with 86% of vote counted:
SYRIZA: 36% 149MPs
New Democracy:27% 76MPs
Golden Dawn:6.3% 17MPs
KKE(Communist Party of Greece):5.4% 15MPs
Independent Greeks:4.7% 13MPs
Seven parties appear to have won enough votes to get MPs into the 300 seat parliament with SYRIZA out in front as the clear winner. We need to await the full results to see whether SYRIZA has managed to win an absolute majority or if another coalition government is needed. Should a coalition be necessary, any government at some point in the future has to get 180MPs to elect a new president, the most likely candidate seems to be the nationalist right Independent Greeks. Despite nine of their current MPs being in jail, fascist Golden Dawn have managed to retain their third place.
The first thing to note about the election result is that Greece now has its fifth different PM in a little over five years. In that time governments have been from the centre-left, centre-right, technocratic unity, right-wing led coalition and now a government of the left. A number of parties have risen and then disappeared. It seems former coalition partners DIMAR(Democratic Left) will not enter parliament just as far-right LAOS lost out in 2012. Though these elections were billed as the most critical in the state's recent history it is notable that the abstention rate is around 36%. Just as many people didn't vote as voted for SYRIZA. Should SYRIZA fail to gain a majority it will be the second consecutive government to do so. These elections then are another sign of the polarization and fragmentation of parliamentary politics in Greece.
Many people are labelling SYRIZA's win as historic. In the context of the history of the Greek state they are correct. For whatever happens next SYRIZA has broken the rule of the two previously dominant parties New Democracy(centre-right) and PASOK(centre-left). These two parties shared power between them for forty years. They took over when the military Junta fell in 1974 and have ruled since. This period, known as the metapolitifsi(change of regime), has perhaps now come to an end. It must be noted that many of the key and founding figures of New Democracy and PASOK were active politicians before the Junta took power in 1967. As such they represented a continuation of the post-civil war politics of the 1950s and 60s. Their downfall is rightly being celebrated.
It can also be said that SYRIZA is further to the left than any previous Greek government. In a state which has a long history of repression aimed against the left and radical movements this is not without significance. In the election campaign a number of government figures alluded to the civil war between the left and the right of the 1940s in order to try and play on these historical divisions. Whilst the Centre Union and PASOK election victories in 1965 and 1981 were hailed as the victory of the left neither started out from SYRIZA's position.
The results are also significant for Europe. Aside from the obvious clash over debt and austerity that is to come, it is of significance that a long standing two party system appears to have broken. For perhaps one of the only times in Western European politics the political centre has crumbled. This may have implications for upcoming elections in Europe, notably Spain, where the political centre is weakening. Clearly these results are a huge vote against austerity and neoliberalism. Samaras, the leader of ND, was much loved by Europe's rulers with his coalition being seen as the best party to represent the interests of the EU and the IMF in Greece. They have now been resoundingly beaten. If nothing else the results are a clear indication of anti-austerity feeling.
None of this means that we should get carried away with this election, it is after all just another election. Outside of left intellectual circles, SYRIZA generates relatively little enthusiasm and patience with them may be short lived. Clearly SYRIZA's programme is to fix the Greek state and better manage the crisis. It is a role they have played well since their rise to prominence after the 2012 elections. Having become the main opposition during a time of increasing radical action they did their best to divert energy from the streets back into parliamentary politics. Their strategy of waiting and playing games in parliament meant two and a half years of standing around and waiting for a government to fall. After all that, much of the enthusiasm for SYRIZA which the media is reporting is overstated. More than catching people's imagination, SYRIZA has won because it is at least a different group of people.
The danger is of course that a left government will attempt to recuperate the revolt on the streets and give a humanitarian covering to further austerity. This danger aside, the anarchist movement could benefit from the changed situation. A more sympathetic government may have implications for the newly created high security Type C prisons and the immigrant detention camps. The movement of occupations and squats which suffered a number of losses under the previous government may be able to get some ground back. The possibility of police reform may also change things on the ground. So perhaps a government of the left may provide a bit of breathing room for the movement.
SYRIZA's honeymoon is likely to be short. Within the next few weeks a Greek government needs to carry on negotiations with the EU and IMF over the continuation, or not, of the bailout programme. Already they have toned down their radical rhetoric and aim instead to make a new deal with the EU. There is still a good chance that a major clash with the EU and IMF is on the way. SYRIZA's ability to manage the crisis and store up the Greek state will be quickly tested.