THE BLOG
01/22/2015 11:47 am ET Updated Mar 24, 2015

7 Keys to Understanding the Greek Elections

ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Sunday at 7:00 p.m. in Greece when the ballots are closing and the first exit polls are released in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, London, Frankfurt and New York, all the political and financial decision-makers -- and people who assist in making such decisions -- will be staring at their computer screens, ready to read and interpret those numbers.

The upcoming elections in Greece are undeniably a global event, whose importance transcends Greece's borders. The importance lies in the fact that these elections are part of a series of critical elections in Europe, from the British elections in May to Spain's elections in November.

Greece was the very first country within the Eurozone that went through an economic crisis. It was also the first country to receive the EU's basic recipe for curing the crisis: the recipe of austerity. Thus, Greece is becoming the first country that will reveal the political consequences of this plan through these elections, the results of which are threatening to create a long deflation and constant public dejection within the UN. Looking at these elections from the outside raises one question: will the Greek reaction to austerity and its consequences, regardless of the elections, create a new round of the European crisis, or will it begin steps towards its resolution?

Before attempting to answer this question, we need to understand the election results themselves. Here are some key points.

First Key: Winning. According to Greek law, the party that comes in first, even by a single vote, receives a bonus of 50 seats in a Parliament of 300 seats. So, even if the winning party does not accumulate the majority of votes, the Parliament cannot form a government without it. In last month's polls, Syriza led.

Second Key: The percentage received by Syriza. A party born in 1991 right after the withdrawal of the Greek Communist Party from the coalition of the United Left, Syriza comes from the European ideals and standards of the democratic left and it has undergone two major transformations so far. The first was in 2004 when it incorporated other, smaller left-wing parties and the rebellious spirit of all organizations against globalization by adopting a more "radical" form of speech. The second and more important transformation took place in 2011 when Syriza became the basic representative of the furious Greeks who took over the Greek squares opposing austerity politics. Thus, a party that would represent 3-5 percent of the electoral body in 2009, bounced to 27 percent in 2012, claiming a percentage above 30 percent in the upcoming elections. What is its electoral strength, though? Can it surpass 35 percent, so as to claim the absolute majority of the new Parliament?

Third Key: The sum of the two bigger parties. Since the early 20th century, Greece has been a country with a strong bipartisanism; over the last 40 years, the conservative New Democracy and the social democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement have developed. The fall of PASOK and the decline of New Democracy led to an electoral diffusion. Now, if the two first parties, ND and PASOK, manage to accumulate percentages above 65 percent, this will prove the creation of a new form of bipartisanism while Syriza will represent a new political force with a long duration instead of a temporary protest party, as analysts state.

Fourth Key: The participation of voters. In 2004, 7.5 million Greeks voted, while in June 2012 barely 6 million did. Polls reveal that one out of every two citizens is not affiliated with any of the parties. How many will participate this time? This fact could not only determine the results of the elections but could also demonstrate whether the new political correlation will hold up over time.

Fifth Key: The resistance of political parties smaller and closer to the center. If the smaller parties, whose ideology is found on the spectrum between New Democracy and Syriza (Potami, PASOK and the new party by Georgios Papandreou), engage in polarization and participate in the new Parliament, then the chances of the leading party to obtain the majority are zero. If not, the leading party will be able to choose partners for an allied government.

Sixth Key: The power of the neo-Nazi far right. The Golden Dawn was also one of the winners of the politics of austerity in Greece. It would get fractional percentages of votes (0.29 percent in 2009); then, it suddenly earned 9.4 percent in last year's European elections. These elections constitute a test of resistance by the core of its voters in the downgraded neighborhoods of Athens and Piraeus where unemployment exceeds 30 percent. Consequently, it is a part of the threat representing democratic institutions.

Seventh Key: The president of the democracy. Prior to forming a new government, the new Parliament initially has to elect the president, something the previous Parliament failed to do. If this election is performed with consensus and the majority, it will be a sign that whoever the winner is, the new government will move forward under a less competitive environment than Greece has seen over the past five years. Otherwise...

Let's return to the primary question: will the upcoming Greek elections revive the Euro crisis and threaten Greece with expulsion from the EU -- or even lead to the dissolution of the EU as a whole? Can the elections constitute the reason for a broader corrective course, with less austerity and more growth in general?

Most European analysts come to this conclusion: Europe is slowly, yet, inevitably forming a mature turn towards sovereign economic politics; Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank has taken the leading role in this primary phase. If, therefore, the new Greek government has all the required abilities and wisdom to synchronize its demands and negotiations with the time of these changes, then there are possibilities for political success. The imminent dangers derive from an inherent inability to adjust.

PHOTO GALLERY
Strikes In Greece