Yesterday's elections in Greece were much different from before. The results were so surprising that even the obvious winner – the radical left SYRIZA did not wish or dare to rejoioce over this. Hours after the first announcement of the election results, nothing showed that there had been elections in the country. Zappeion Hall where the winners usually give a press conference was empty.
A day later, it seems that the leader of the first party that won the highest number of votes Antonis Samaras will return to the President the mandate to form a government. The leader of the radical left SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras said he would fulfil his promise to try to form a left office, although the other left parties said they do not want to participate.
We talked to sociologist George Siakandaris about what is happening in Greece and where it would end up.
Mr. Siakandaris, how would you comment on the results of yesterday's elections?
There was anger in society that was expressed in the elections and dragged along the two major parties. They literally collapsed. The 13% of PASOK is lower than the percentage the party won in 1974 when it first participated in the election race. New Democracy has also received the lowest percentage in its history.
Many commentators argue that the two-party system has collapsed. I think that this might be true, but the "children" of this system have not only survived, but have gained the upper hand. Who are they? Populism, clientelist relationships and state control (the strong government influence in the economic and social life of the country). If there were any "enclaves" of resistance against them, this time they have collapsed too. We see that these "children" rule everywhere.
Will the attempts to form a new Greek government be successful?
What should happen is that Greece must have a government. What do I see happening? I see that no government is being formed. The ratios collected do not provide any opportunity to form a cabinet. The only option for it is to involve New Democracy and PASOK with the support of the Democratic Left. I am not sure, however, that this solution is the most appropriate at this time. I fear that this may cause an even stronger expression of people’s anger.
In my opinion, the best solution under the current conditions is to hold new elections. I think this should happen as soon as possible without any delays in giving the mandates. I do not think it is possible for SYRIZA to work with any other party, whether it is left or right.
In general, I can say that we are in a complete deadlock. I hope people will understand that populism and government control are the greatest enemies of the country's development and of Greek society itself.
How would you explain the high percentage of the radical left SYRIZA? What has made so many young people vote for the party?
Yes, many young people chose to vote for SYRIZA because the two-party system provided them and their parents with allowances, jobs, recruitment in the public sector, good pay and other benefits. It could not continue doing so after the crisis.
But here we do not have young people who join the left, because they imagine a different social system and different society. The specific difference here is that they join SYRIZA because its leader Alexis Tsipras promised them to continue that system which has taken the country to its present position. Alexis Tsipras said that we could continue to live as we lived. Before the elections, he promised 150,000 new appointments in the public sector against 150,000 redundancies, required by the Troika. This requirement is as crazy as the promise of the SYRIZA leader, because you cannot destroy a society by throwing out in the street 30% of the workers in the country. This is not rationality, but paralogism. In any case, there is not an increase of the left. It is only apparent. It is a rise of the logic of populism and state control that have brought us here, and a will for its domination.
Alexis Tsipras is the maestro in this game. I do not know whether he himself achieved this outcome or followed someone's advice, but grounded on an apparent left ideology, in 2012 he did nothing more than bring us back to what PASOK did in 1974 and 1981.
These misled young people, however, are the future generation of Greece.
I do not like the word "mislead" when talking about politics. They gave their vote and took a position. In practice, they voted as their parents had voted. Strange as it may seem but I believe that today, when the two former major parties collapsed, the citizens voted for the bipartisan nature of the system, i.e. for populism and state control. These young people voted for the same; they just found it under a different blanket.
The Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party managed to enter parliament with a high rate. What is your comment?
There is much talk about Golden Dawn and I think some of it is exaggerated. The people who hide behind the rate of 7% are not fascists. It would be ridiculous to suppose that 7% supporters of Nazism have suddenly appeared in Greece. On the other hand, 33% of the Germans who voted for Hitler in 1933 were not fascists either. But fascism existed in German society and the specific elections. Fascism exists in Greece too, although not everyone who voted for it is a fascist. They are not even the majority.
By this, I mean that the atmosphere of intolerance, of hatred to the other, different, dissident, left, etc. fell and grew in the soil of Golden Dawn.