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The situation is favourable for New Democracy but Greeks may give Tsipras a second chance

04 September 2015 / 23:09:06  GRReporter
2835 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

For a week now, Greece has been amidst one of the shortest election campaigns in recent years. Polls show that the fight for the first place between SYRIZA and New Democracy will turn into a derby, as the conservatives have recently prevailed.

It seems that the next parliament will involve at least seven parties, but the composition of the next, certainly coalition office, remains unclear.

Greek voters will have the opportunity to watch two election debates. The first one, which will take place on 9 September, will involve all party leaders and the second, on 14 September, the two contenders for the premier's chair, namely Alexis Tsipras and Evangelos Meimarakis.

Political analyst Sakis Moumtzis considers things easier for the leader of New Democracy, as his party will run in the elections with a clear political line. In contrast, Alexis Tsipras relies solely on the negative attitude of voters towards the old political system, without presenting to them a clear plan on how he would govern the country after the complete change in his policy and the signing of the third memorandum of financial assistance.

In an interview with GRReporter the analyst presents his assessment of the election results and the possible government coalitions.

Mr. Moumtzis, SYRIZA and New Democracy have emerged as the leading political forces in Greece. Whichever of them wins the elections, the difference between them will be small. Therefore, they will probably have to govern together. Do you think there will be such a coalition, and if not, what will be the other options?

It seems that the next government will involve three parties. The main one among them will be the party that wins the majority of votes. I suppose the other two will be Potami and PASOK.

If we consider the statements of SYRIZA representatives, there is a small chance of the party deciding to form a government based on the opposition to the memorandum of financial aid, i.e. to seek for coalition partners Panagiotis Lafazanis’ Popular Unity and the Communist Party. I do not know whether the number of seats will allow this scenario but it is possible.

I think Potami and PASOK will be able to enter the next parliament, and they will have 30 MPs in total. If they are added to the 125-130 members of the party that wins the elections and accordingly to the bonus of 50 seats, forming a three-party government will be quite possible.

The probability of forming a government involving all parliamentary forces seems to me both difficult and dysfunctional.

If SYRIZA wins the elections, it will go through the painful process of forming a government. A very strong trend is apparent inside the party against forming a coalition with the old parties or parties that voted for the memoranda. This trend is bringing SYRIZA closer to a coalition with Popular Unity, the Communist Party and any other force that opposes the memoranda and will be able to enter parliament.

Personally, I do not see how both trends could survive within SYRIZA. The group of 53, which is supposedly united around Alexis Tsipras and whose leader is former Minister of Finance Efklidis Tsakalotos, states it is against a coalition with PASOK and other parties that have voted in support of the memoranda. The situation is very unclear.

Could things get to a total impasse?

It will be very probable if SYRIZA wins the elections. If New Democracy wins them, there will be no problem. It will form a coalition with PASOK and Potami. And the coalition may involve Vassilis Leventis’ Union of Centrists, if it enters parliament.

But I do not think that New Democracy wants SYRIZA to participate in such a government coalition. Its leader Evangelos Meimarakis is making pre-election statements in this direction. He wants to create an image of unifier. Actually, there is no need to join SYRIZA. Antonis Samaras had a very painful experience with Democratic Left. It put obstacles to almost all decisions of his cabinet. However, the next government should implement the memorandum at a very fast pace and therefore it must be homogenous.

That is, new elections will be possible if SYRIZA wins the upcoming ones.

Yes, it is very likely. They will be the third elections within one year.

Are there financial resources available for them?

I had also expected the country to collapse but things are going on in some way. We have capital controls, yet pensions are paid, etc. I suppose that having new elections by the end of the year will not be a problem. Furthermore, our foreign partners already know us perfectly well and show understanding. By this, I mean that we should not think that elections would entirely solve the problem.

It is still early for a forecast despite polls. I do not even know how they reflect the actual proportion between the parties, in view of their failure to predict the referendum outcome.

My feeling is that the dynamics of New Democracy is growing as we are approaching the elections. It has a political line, while SYRIZA does not have one. This is the main problem of SYRIZA. The strong hand of the radical left is Alexis Tsipras but he is no longer so "fresh" in the eyes of voters.

On the other hand, Evangelos Meimarakis is a pleasant surprise for New Democracy and I think that, albeit with a narrow margin, the conservatives will win the elections and the 50-seats bonus. If we take into account the internal problems that SYRIZA will face after the elections, New Democracy will set things in the right direction.

Did you expect SYRIZA to disintegrate so quickly? Today, 83 other members announced they would leave the party to join Popular Unity. Nevertheless, the percentages of Lafazanis’ party are not increasing in the polls. Why is this so?

As I already stated, it is still early to draw conclusions based on poll results. I think the real dynamics of Popular Unity will become apparent in 10-15 days.

I think it will win 5-7% of the votes. Any rate below 5% would surprise me.

What impresses me is SYRIZA’s endurance and it remains to be seen how it will affect the vote. My expectations were that the radical left would have much lower rates in the polls because of the unprecedented events and twists that occurred while it was in power.

Why is this happening?

I think SYRIZA arranged a number of issues that affect the lives of thousands of citizens during its six-month governing. An example of this is the introduction of 100 instalments for the payment of overdue tax liabilities. Thus, it returned thousands, if not millions, of people back into the economy.

Another similar measure is the introduction of a higher threshold for proceedings initiated against debtors to the state, namely 50,000 euro instead of the previous 5,000 euro, which also has relieved thousands of citizens.

These things have their importance. In addition, SYRIZA has formed a very powerful social network that I think explains its endurance. I do not know if this unity will be expressed by 20-25% of the vote in the elections but it certainly is a solid base.

Do you think that New Democracy is ready and determined to implement the reforms envisaged in the memorandum? For example, the party is now saying it will not vote on the introduction of taxation for farmers.

It will implement them anyway. It has no other option, unless it decides to self-destruct.

If it were at least a bit serious, it would immediately find a way to set below 1.2 billion euro the amount of 2.6 million euro that is expected from the property tax on urban properties alone. If they want to collect this amount from this tax, the rest must be obtained from agricultural lands. I do not mean cutting taxes for farmers, but increasing them. I do not know if they can do this and whether the party representatives are able to pass through this Golgotha.

Nevertheless, this has already happened. Antonis Samaras demonstrated enviable endurance while he was in power. I think now, with PASOK and mostly Potami, which have valuable staff, it will be able to implement the reforms.

I am not sure if New Democracy believes in those things, which it is now saying to secure a large number of voters, and if it considers renegotiating them with creditors. I however think that creditors will not tolerate such arbitrariness.

It is also not clear whether Meimarakis has the determination of Samaras, who I think was a good Prime Minister. He was not good at communication, his personality was not attractive to the majority of society, while Meimarakis is the opposite. Yet Samaras did a great job. If Meimarakis follows his path, Greece will be able to stand on its own two feet in a very short time.

Could the upcoming elections have been avoided? Could SYRIZA have continued to govern with the support of the parties in the previous Parliament?

No, I think Tsipras’ move to announce elections was correct. He learnt from the vicissitudes faced by George Papandreou, who did not want to confirm the policy change through elections. We should not forget that Papandreou was elected with the slogan, "There is money." In 2010, his advisers had proposed to him to call parliamentary elections together with the local ones, accounting for the fact that the government had signed the first memorandum of financial aid and the reality was different. Papandreou did not listen to them and his government fell after six months.

Tsipras, however, seems to have learnt a lesson and he has announced elections to be sure whether the voters will adopt the change in his policy. This is correct because he would not have been able to continue to govern otherwise.

Do you consider Zoe Konstantopoulou a transient phenomenon? How should Greek society counteract her?

I do not know whether she is a transient phenomenon. I have a theory that I have supported for a long time. It is that the more the state of the national economy improves, the more such decadent phenomena will disappear. That is, if Samaras were not faced with presidential elections and if he were able to govern until the end of his mandate, all these phenomena would have disappeared.

Such phenomena did not exist in Greek society in the 1980s and 1990s and after that. They emerged during the crisis.

Today's situation is totally unprecedented for Greek society. It has also created unprecedented political behaviours.

Mrs. Konstantopoulou and others like her will continue to exist. An example is Vassilis Leventis, whom society has suddenly remembered, after 20 years of oblivion. Putting aside her personality, she is smart and capable. If she sets the right goals, she will survive on the political stage. If she wants to take advantage of an anti-memorandum rhetoric, she will disappear, because, as I said, as the economy improves, her figure will fade.

Zoe Konstantopoulou has the chance to be active in another direction. She has the ability, audience and ties in politics. Apparently, she has political ambitions, as she has not joined Panagiotis Lafazanis’ party and prefers simply to cooperate with it.

It remains to be seen what action she will take, but I do not think she is a phenomenon that should occupy Greek society. This was understandable until now, because she was the chairperson of parliament and could not take the stand required by her institutional role but as an ordinary MP her words will mean nothing more than the words of the other 299 MPs.

I must say that I do not applaud such phenomena.

How will the 62% of the negative referendum votes be distributed in the elections?

They may vanish. To be precise, the rate of 61.3% was not homogeneous. The opponents of memorandum, the supporters of drachma, the opponents of budget cuts and so on gave the "no" vote.

However, the positive vote of 38.7% was very compact. All were for Europe, the euro, the memoranda.

After the change in Tsipras’ policy, the percentage of the negative vote will most likely disappear. I do not think that the forces that make up the front against the memorandum will achieve this result. The numbers show this as well. While the sum was 51% in previous elections, it would hardly exceed 40% this time.

Do you think that the voters who actually support the idea of ​​Greece leaving the European Union and NATO form a high percentage? Because the negative vote expressed just that.

Yes, that is right. The trend was strong. My opinion is that the people who want Greece out of the EU and NATO account for 25-30% of the voters.

How will they vote? Will they vote for SYRIZA?

Well, 5-6% support the Communist Party, 6-7% Golden Dawn, 7% SYRIZA, as indicated by recent polls. Add to them the percentage of Panagiotis Lafazanis’ Popular Unity party and the result is 25%. We can add to it the percentage of far right Antarsia and all others and we will have almost 30%.

This percentage is very high for a European country. To it, we must add the supporters of Independent Greeks too.

Will it be able to enter the next parliament?

I think it will. Panos Kammenos is like cats - he has seven lives. However, a strong current in favour of New Democracy may form on the eve of elections and it may leave Independent Greeks outside parliament.

What will the votes of Greek voters determine in these elections?

The question is a very good one but it is hard to answer. After SYRIZA’s turn to the memorandum Greeks have difficulty in choosing the party for which to vote. I think that outside the compact party cores the bet is whether voters will want to punish Tsipras for having changed his policy and for having rejected all the promises, which means they will vote for New Democracy or Popular Unity. It is possible, however, to give him another chance because he is young and more or less, they consider him "not used up" and forced to pay for past sins, and so on.

I am saying this with great reservations, as the differences in percentages are very small. Currently no data allow us to say that the electorate will vote in a specific way.

Tags: PoliticsEarly electionsSYRIZANew DemocracyCoalition cabinetPolls
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