The first round of elections on May 6 and the subsequent failure to form a coalition government threw Greece into political turmoil. This Sunday, June 17, Greeks take to the ballot for a second time in the hopes that, come Monday morning, a stable government capable of dealing with the economic crisis will be in place.
Here is a look at the main political parties in Greece (in the order of voter preference in the May election):
New Democracy (ND) is a conservative party that has served either as the government or the major opposition party since the party's inception in 1974. Currently under the leadership of Antonis Samaras, the party won the most votes in the May 2012 election with 18.85 percent of the popular vote, a steep fall from the 33.47 percent it garnered in 2009. ND is pro-bailout, seeing a deal as necessary for remaining in the eurozone, though it pledges to renegotiate some of the terms, adding measures for growth. Mr Samaras has also focused his campaign on a 12-point program tackling crime and illegal immigration. The party has also taken steps to recruit former party members to boost its electoral chances.
Syriza, or the Coalition of the Radical Left, is an alliance of left-wing parties led by Alexis Tsipras. The youngest political leader in Greece at age 37, Tsipras led Syriza to a second-place finish in the May 2012 election with 16.78 percent of votes, up from 4.6 percent in 2009. His party refused to partake in the November 2011 coalition government and was also unable to form a coalition following the May 2012 elections. Mr. Tsipras outright rejects the possibility of forming a coalition with pro-bailout parties. If it wins the June elections, Syriza pledges to reject the bailout and reverse austerity measures launching a "national regeneration plan" that will focus on economic growth and jobs. Though Syriza is viewed as an "anti-euro" party, it states that it will remain in the eurozone while negotiating a new deal since Europe cannot afford to let Greece fail. Syriza’s social agenda includes disarming policeman who patrol protests, disbanding the riot squad and allowing undocumented immigrants passage to the rest of Europe.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) is a center-left party, founded in 1974, that dominated the political scene along with ND until the May 2012 elections. Under former Prime Minister George Papandreou, PASOK signed the original bailout deal in 2010 and in 2011 subsequently implemented largely unpopular austerity measures. On November 10, 2011, Mr. Papandreou resigned as prime minister amid mounting pressure, paving the way for a coalition government under Lucas Papademos. In the May 2012 elections, under the leadership of Evangelos Venizelos, the party won 13.18 percent of the popular vote, a sharp decrease from the 43.93 percent it won in 2009. Mr. Venizelos has been trying to negotiate a broad coalition of “shared responsibility” made up of pro-euro parties to take power after the elections and renegotiate the bailout deal.
The Independent Greeks are a right-wing conservative party formed in February 2012 by Panos Kammenos, a former New Democracy MP, who was expelled from the party for voting against the coalition government. Ten other New Democracy MPs defected to join the Independent Greeks. The party is anti-bailout, deeming the bailout deal to be illegal and calling for the reversal of austerity measures. Mr. Kammenos also calls for Germany to pay reparations to Greece for World War II and for the re-examination of Greek debt, which he disputes. The Independent Greeks garnered 10.61 percent of votes in the May 2012 elections.
KKE, the Communist Party of Greece, was founded in 1918 and is currently under the leadership of Aleka Papariga. KKE came in fifth in the May 2012 elections with 8.48 percent of the vote. KKE refused to participate in any coalition government following the May elections. Ms. Papariga stated that no other party had her sweeping bailout overhaul agenda, meaning she would remain an opposition party. The party wants to remove Greece from the EU and NATO, placing power in the hands of the workers. Liana Kanelli, a KKE candidate, was attacked on live television by Golden Dawn representative Ilias Kasidiaris.
Golden Dawn, an ultranationalist party that has been largely characterized as neo-Nazi, a label it rejects, is led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos. It won 6.97 percent of the popular vote in the May 2012 elections, entering parliament for the first time. Golden Dawn is largely rejected by other parties, especially after a party member attacked a female rival candidate on live TV. Its campaign is focused against undocumented immigrants, with proposals such as raiding hospitals and kindergartens to remove immigrants “so that Greeks can take their place.” The party promotes self sufficiency as an economic model and has proposed placingland mines on the Greek border with Turkey.
The Democratic Left, a moderate left party mainly made up of former Synaspismos (the largest party in Syriza) and PASOK members, is led by Fotis Kouvelis. The party received 6.11 percent of votes in the May elections. The party wants "gradual disengagement" from the bailout terms while remaining in the eurozone. In May, the Democratic Left refused to join a coalition government that didn’t include Syriza, instead proposing an all-party government. However, the party has criticized Syriza’s bailout policies, stating that immediate cancellation of the bailout deal would lead Greece to default. Mr. Kouvelis has also set forth a proposal for a unity government following this week's elections.
Polls have been unhelpful in providing a clear picture of the election results. Most put the Syriza and the ND neck-and-neck,with the most polls suggesting ND has a slight lead. In Greece it is forbidden to conduct opinion polls in the two weeks leading up to elections.
Other parties such as LAOS and Recreate Greece (in alliance with Drasi and Liberal Alliance) will get a second chance to garner the 3 percent necessary to enter parliament.
More information on the political parties and their policies can be found here.