The Greek Left: Into the Ice Age?

Georgios Samaras

5 mins - 6 de Septiembre de 2023, 09:15

It has been more than two months since the Greek general election on June 25th, which took place in an intensely polarized political climate. The outcome dealt a severe blow to the Greek left, marking its most significant setback since the political changeover of 1974, resulting in SYRIZA and centre left PASOK collectively controlling a modest 79 out of 300 seats in the Greek Parliament. 

In contrast, the far-right has gained substantial representation with three parties, whilst New Democracy's dominance over Greek politics has been consolidated for the foreseeable four years. In light of these developments, the question arises: what viable measures could potentially salvage the Greek left from its current state of decline?

The answer has become considerably more intricate in light of the unprecedented results witnessed after June's election. The initial shock was felt during the first round of elections in May 2023, where SYRIZA experienced a significant decline in popularity and eventually suffered even more substantial setbacks in the subsequent round held in June. Both SYRIZA and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) categorically rejected the prospect of any future collaborations, thereby exacerbating the existing political tensions. 

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Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Greece has remained resolute in its stance, emphasizing its unwavering commitment to maintaining a presence in the Greek Parliament, though it is adamant about its decision not to engage in collaboration with any other political factions.

And then we turn to Spain. A highly motivated and self-aware left turned out in large numbers, responding to the possibility of a right-wing shift in politics. The voter turnout of 66% highlighted the effectiveness of their communication strategies in mobilizing support and spreading their message. Meanwhile, Greece experienced a less encouraging voter turnout of only 53%, indicating that effective communication might have been lacking in motivating the electorate.

When examining the outcomes in both Mediterranean countries, one cannot help but ponder the reasons behind their contrasting results in the region. The key to understanding this lies in how Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez managed to overcome daunting challenges, negative polls, and criticism from various quarters, while left-wing parties in Greece struggled to achieve comparable success. The explanation, in essence, can be found in the concept of rallying voters to the polls.

Left-wing parties in Greece encountered significant challenges in effectively presenting a cohesive and compelling narrative that resonated with voters. Several factors contributed to this predicament, including divergent communication strategies, inadequate presentation of the far-right danger, and an insufficient ability to counter criticisms effectively. As a result, the political landscape saw a strong right-wing shift, and comprehending this shift requires examining the left's strategic planning against the looming threat of ultranationalism in Greece.

Both Spain and Greece share a history of grappling with the emergence of authoritarian strongmen and their subsequent downfall in the 1970s. The legacies left behind by figures like Georgios Papadopoulos in Greece and Franco in Spain were marked by violence and class struggle. Despite the relatively recent termination of authoritarian rule in both countries, the Spanish left skilfully managed to reverse negative perceptions and effectively communicated to voters about the potential dangers of lingering remnants of that era. A notable example of this dynamic can be seen in the fate of the far-right Vox, whose far-right attitudes appear to have turned off many Spanish voters.

The political landscape in Greece now faces the rise of concerning ultranationalist tendencies. The presence of Spartans, perceived as the continuation of the now-convicted neo-Nazi criminal organization Golden Dawn, introduced an element of unease and apprehension. The far-right political groups NIKI and Greek Solution also gained prominence. The future political scenario seems uncertain, with the question of which party would act as the primary opposition for the next four years left unanswered.

It is crucial to note that the rise of ultranationalism posed a clear and imminent danger in Greece during the fiscal crisis too, with its roots tracing back to historical legacies and unresolved societal tensions. However, in the face of this mounting threat, the left-wing leadership, exemplified by Alexis Tsipras, was seemingly hesitant to engage in open dialogue and communicate the potential benefits of a left-wing coalition between SYRIZA, PASOK Diem25, and the Communist Party of Greece. This lack of a unified front and coherent messaging contributed to voter scepticism and uncertainty.

The Greek left plunged into a harrowing era reminiscent of an ice age, where it faces the chilling winds of uncertainty and decline. The departure of Tsipras marked a significant turning point, leaving a void that demands a profound reassessment and reconstruction. While some view this leadership change as a glimmer of hope, promising the potential for a political metamorphosis within the Greek left, the shadows of doubt loom large.

Efi Achtsioglou has emerged as the next leader, casting an enigmatic figure against the backdrop of SYRIZA's fading influence. Yet, the burden falls squarely upon her shoulders to orchestrate the party's revival, navigating treacherous waters of internal turmoil and external challenges. Should her efforts prove inadequate, SYRIZA's fate seems sealed – a downfall inevitable, with the dawn of a new, unsettling era in Greek left-wing politics.
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