The start of voting in an early general election in Greece has not gone well for proponents of the European idea: After two years of austerity and financial crisis, the Greek public is turning away from the traditional conservative New Democracy party and the socialist Pasok, the two poles of Greek political life for decades. A desire to ‘break the corrupt political system’ as well as general austerity fatigue has led to the election of some of Europe’s most exotic parties in a modern democracy since the end of the Cold War.
Even though Greece has had a third of its debt retired, it is in its fifth year of recession with a fifth of the population unemployed. Pensions and salaries were cut in some areas up to forty percent and the Greek financial system remains on the precipice.
Corruption, immigration, and instability have led to fears that the neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ will not only be a member of the new parliament but could pull in significant votes. Early returns point to a 7% tally for Golden Dawn which has campaigned hard on a platform of anti-immigration and euro-skepticism.
The leader of the Golden Dawn, Nikolas Michaloliakos, proclaimed the early returns the beginnings of a revolution and declared the current politicians in power traitors, largely placing the blame for Greece’s economic situation on their mismanagement of the state.
In order to be represented in the Greek parliament, parties must obtain more than a 3% share of the overall tally – a bar that it is feared the Golden Dawn have easily surpassed.
They slandered us, slung mud at us and shut us out of all the news media – the TV channels of the corrupt elite – and we beat them. … The day of national revolution by the Greeks has begun against those who are selling us out and looting the sweat of the Greek people.
– Nikolaos Michaloliakos
Pasok and New Democracy, meanwhile, are pushing for the European Union, the IMF and the European Central Bank to extend to Greece even more slack in its bailout.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is not expected to be able to govern without partners, one of which could be Pasok. Chances that Greece could leave or be forced to leave the euro zone hang high over the early election results and place pressure on Greece’s traditional political system to adapt rapidly to the changing continental and global economic climate.