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Tsipras: A second chance

Yannis Papadimitriou / wsSeptember 21, 2015

Left-wing party leader Alexis Tsipras' victory in Greece's general elections was surprisingly clear. He has announced that he will continue to govern with right-wing populists ANEL as his coalition partner.

Griechenland Athen Wahlen Alexis Tsipras und Panos Kammenos
Image: Reuters/D. Michalakis

Before midnight, the ex-prime minister - and now premier-elect - appeared in front of his supporters in the center of Athens to celebrate a surprisingly clear victory. Despite empty state coffers, capital controls and internal turbulences, his Syriza party received more than 35 percent of the vote, while his biggest rival, the conservative New Democracy Party led by former parliamentary speaker Evangelos Meimarakis, garnered a mere 28 percent.

Contrary to all the opinion polls, the right-wing populist ANEL party - Tsipras' previous coalition partner - has also re-entered parliament as well. As a result, together with the right-wing populists, Syriza can claim 155 of the total 300 seats in the Greek parliament and will be able to continue to govern.

"This was a huge victory for Syriza, and not least a personal triumph for Tsipras," political correspondent Antonis Dellatolas explained in an "Antenna" TV broadcast. For the first time since the escalation of the debt crisis in Greece, a politician managed to get re-elected, despite giving his blessing to new austerity measures, the analyst pointed out. Apparently, this is also because Syriza's offshoot party, "Popular Unity," did not make it into parliament: The hard-left group was established by Syriza dissenters at the end of August; its aims being to reverse promised reforms and to restore Greece's own currency.

Conservatives disillusioned

Conservative opposition party Nea Dimokratia (ND) is looking at this development with mixed feelings. To be sure, after trailing behind Syriza by 20 percent in polls, opposition leader Evangelos Meimarakis was able to considerably reduce that gap within six weeks, which is a respectable achievement. In the end; however, his opponent Tsipras was simply out of the 62-year old's league.

Evangelos Meimarakis
Alexis Tsipras' rival: Evangelos MeimarakisImage: dapd

In a first statement following the announcement of election results, Meimarakis said he had voted for the agreement with Greece's creditors, but not for any specific budget cuts - which indicates clearly that his party will, in future, not issue blank cheques for reforms but will give its support to austerity measures on a case-by-case basis. According to ND politician Georgios Koumoutsakos, the time had now come to "renew" Greece's conservative party. This, he said, did not only require fresh faces, but new political concepts as well.

The good results achieved by radical right-wing party "Golden Dawn," coming out of yet another parliamentary election as the third strongest political force, were cause for amazement. It is indeed a remarkable result: After all, the entire leadership team of the radical right-wingers have been charged with racketeering, and recently party leader Nikos Michaloliakos accepted "political responsibility" for the murder of left-wing activist and musician Nikos Fyssas in September 2013. On Sunday evening, Michaloliakos said that his party would continue to "fight against illegal immigration." "Golden Dawn" is even hoping to grab the post of opposition leader in the Athens parliament, should left-wing politician Tsipras and conservative leader Meimarakis be forced to set up a Grand Coalition. This, however, seems to be an unlikely option at this point.

Alarming voter abstention

With a total of eight parties entering parliament, the political landscape in Greece is fragmented like never before after the restoration of democracy in 1974. A surprising new entry is Vassilis Leventis' "Union of Centrists:" Leventis, who has been a cult figure of Greece's trash TV programs for decades, had called for an abolition of all privileges for politicians during his campaign.

In total, ten million Greeks were called on to elect a new parliament. However, voter turnout was dismally low, with only 56 percent of those eligible casting their ballots, despite voting being compulsory in Greece. Only the European elections in 2009 saw an even higher fate of abstention: At the time, almost half of the Greeks failed to appear at the ballot boxes.