Greek election: what the results mean

Good morning from Greece!  It’s almost 9am as I start writing this post, and the official vote sits at 98.72% of the total having been counted, with 20,341 out of a total 20,605 electoral districts having reported their official totals.  If anything changes at this point, it won’t change the way Parliamentary seats are distributed.  There are many things to say, but first, the results!

Remember, a party or a coalition of parties needs 151 seats to form a majority.

Parties in Parliament:

1.  108 seats:  New Democracy (popular vote:  58 seats; bonus: 50 seats)
2.  52 seats:  Syriza
3.  41 seats:  PASOK
4.  33 seats:  Independent Greeks
5.  26 seats:  Communist Party
6.  21 seats:  Golden Dawn
7.  19 seats:  Democratic Left

None of the various small parties vying for the 3% minimum to claim a seat in Parliament made it in – the highest polled was the Ecologist Greens with 2.93%.

Included in these counts are 6,400,189 voters, out of a represented electorate of 9,836,173, meaning that 34.93% abstained from voting (a very high number for Greece, where voting is compulsory and failure to do so carries a prison sentence – although this is never enforced). Out of the votes counted, 0.55% were blank (voting ‘present’), and 1.81% were unable to be counted (did not follow voting rules).

Let’s take a look at the parties in Parliament:

1.  New Democracy polled 18.88%, a drop of 14.6 percentage points from the 2009 election, with 1,181,043 votes.  They polled highest in their traditional strongholds (places where the party leaders were born and raised), and lowest in the large cities.

2.  Syriza polled 16.76%, an increase of 12.2 percentage points from 2009, with 1,048,716 votes.   They polled highest in the large cities, and lowest in the conservative areas with low literacy.

3.  PASOK polled 13.19%, the lowest in their history, a decrease of 30.7 percentage points since their win in 2009, with 825,424 votes.  They polled highest in the Muslim majority areas and in eastern Crete where they have a historical base, and lowest in cities.

4.  Independent Greeks polled 10.59%; they didn’t exist a few months ago; with 662,686 votes.  They polled highest in cities.

5.  The Communist Party polled 8.47%, an increase of 0.9% since 2009, with 530.108 votes.  They polled highest in the islands of Samos and Ikaria, a traditional Communist Party base.

6.  Golden Dawn polled 6.97%, an increase of 6.7% since 2009, with 435,974 votes.  They polled highest on some islands and in the agricultural areas.

7.  Democratic Left polled 6.10%; they didn’t exist in 2009; with 381,550 votes.  They polled highest in the cities.

A closer look at some areas:

In Central Athens, the vote broke down as follows:

1. Syriza – 19.11%
2.  New Democracy – 15.80%
3.  PASOK – 9.69%
4.  Independent Greeks – 8.96%
5.  Golden Dawn – 8.77%
6.  Communist Party – 8.57%
7.  Democratic Left – 5.98%

The thing to note here is the large difference between Syriza in 1st place and ND in 2nd place; and that Golden Dawn comes in before the Communists:  Central Athens is the area most hurt by illegal immigration, which is what Golden Dawn campaigned on.

In Greater Athens, the largest electoral district in Europe with around 1.4 million voters:

1.  Syriza – 21.83%
2.  New Democracy – 12.40%
3.  Independent Greeks – 10.99%
4.  Communist Party – 9.63%
5.  PASOK – 9.08%
6.  Golden Dawn – 6.70%
7.  Democratic Left – 6.60%
8.  Creativity Again – 3.77% (not in Parliament)
9.  Ecologist Greens – 3.45% (not in Parliament)
10. Action – 3.44% (not in Parliament)

This is the most important electoral district by far in Greece, with 42 parliamentary seats.  Note here the big gap between Syriza in 1st place and ND in 2nd, and that PASOK, the last electoral victor, comes in 5th.  According to this electoral district, there should be ten, rather than seven, parties in Parliament.

Within Greater Athens, let’s take a look at the working class district of Aigaleo, which has 100% of votes counted.

1.  Syriza – 24.48%
2.  Communist Party – 12.52%
3.  Independent Greeks – 11.61%
4.  New Democracy – 10.26%
5.  PASOK – 9.10%
6.  Golden Dawn – 7.9%
7.  Democratic Left – 5.92%
8.  Ecologist Greens – 3.29%

Here, not only is Syriza a clear front runner with twice the votes of the party in 2nd place, but the traditional two big parties are in 4th and 5th place with a combined total of less than 20%.

In Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece with 16 parliamentary seats, the breakdown is as follows:

1.  Syriza – 17.45%
2.  New Democracy – 14.80%
3.  Independent Greeks – 11.53%
4.  PASOK – 10.44%
5.  Communist Party – 9.30%
6.  Democratic Left – 7.43%
7.  Golden Dawn – 6.90%
8.  LAOS – 3.73%
9.  Ecologist Greens – 3.24%

Here, the polling still puts Syriza well ahead of ND, but it follows a more conservative pattern represented in the rest of the country outside Athens.

A few more major cities, just the top three parties:

Patra, in the Peloponnese:

1.  Syriza – 25.41%
2.  New Democracy – 14.16%
3.  PASOK – 10.86%

Kalamata, also in the Peloponnese, where the leader of New Democracy is from:

1.  New Democracy – 29.89%
2.  Syriza – 15.52%
3.  PASOK – 10.90%

Irakleio, on the island of Crete:

1.  Syriza – 18.57%
2.  PASOK – 14.56%
3.  Independent Greeks – 14.07%

Peiraias, the port of Athens and a large city in its own right:

1.  Syriza – 23.83%
2.  Independent Greeks – 12.41%
3.  Communist Party – 12.27%
(Here, PASOK comes in 6th, after the neo-nazis.)

Ioannina, in northwestern Greece:

1.  New Democracy – 21.01%
2.  Syriza – 19.57%
3.  PASOK – 14.54%

Serres, in central northern Greece, the traditional New Democracy stronghold:

1.  New Democracy – 23.67%
2.  PASOK – 14.85%
3.  Independent Greeks – 13.03%

And for fun, let’s look at a few more smaller areas that you might find interesting:

The ultra-touristy island of Santorini, which you might be familiar with:

1. New Democracy – 16.85%
2.  Democratic Left – 16.42%
3.  PASOK – 10.66%
4.  Golden Dawn – 10.52%

The tiny island where we used to live, with all 455 votes counted:

1.  New Democracy – 25.23%
2.  Independent Greeks – 18.58%
3.  PASOK – 15.83%
(And yes, I do want to know which $%#& voted for the neo-nazis – they got 8 votes.)

The city where we live now, which has a 50% Muslim population (traditionally a PASOK stronghold):

1.  PASOK – 24.11%
2.  New Democracy – 20.29%
3.  Syriza – 9.83%

A few more interesting bits of data for you:

The Neo-Nazis (Golden Dawn) got almost all the votes at the Nigrita Prison (the guards / police vote, as there are no prisoners there now) – this backs up the Greek suspicion that the police are heavily Neo-Nazi in ideology.

At the level of Regions (not broken down into electoral districts):

New Democracy polled its highest in Messenia in the Peloponnese, with 33.56% of the vote; that’s where the leader of the party is from.

Syriza polled its highest in Greater Peiraias with 23.83% and in the Thracian city of Xanthi with 23.79%.

PASOK polled its highest (26.71%) in Muslim-majority Rodopi, and lowest in Athens and the surrounding area (8.24% in Attica, the area around Athens; 9.69% in Central Athens; 9.08% in Greater Athens; 8.59% in Central Peiraias; and 8.16% in Greater Peiraias.)

Independent Greeks polled its highest at 17.88% of the vote in the Dodecanese islands, where it came in as the 2nd party.

The Communist Party polled its highest at 24.69% of the vote in the Samos islands, where it came in as the 1st party.

Golden Dawn polled highest in Corinth (12%) and Lakonia (Sparta) with 10%.  They polled lowest in three of Crete’s four prefectures:  Irakleio with 2.6%, Lasithi (Agios Nikolaos) with 2.7% and Rethymno with 3%.

Democratic Left polled its highest at 9.38% on the islands of Chios.

The Ecologist Greens polled its highest at 4.89% in the Chania district of Crete.

LAOS, the religious right party which took part in the just-fallen coalition government for a short time, polled its highest at 4.22% on the island of Evia.

Democratic Alliance, the splinter party that broke from New Democracy under the leadership of Dora Bakogianni, the daughter of a major leader of New Democracy, polled its highest at 18.90% in Evritania.  Dora Bakogianni’s mother, the wife of the former prime minister, died on election day.

Creativity Again, the grassroots pro-business party, polled its highest at 3.98% in the Lasithi district of Crete.

Action polled its highest at 5.47% on the island of Zakynthos.

Antarsya, the revolutionary communist party, polled its highest at 3.08% on the island of Lefkada.

What happens now?

Now that the results are in, the first party, New Democracy, has to try to form a coalition government with some combination of the other parties in Parliament.  Up until quite late last night, it appeared that ND could form a coalition with PASOK – in effect, changing nothing about Greek politics despite the complete reversal in this election compared to the last one.  But sometime around 3:00am, the numbers changed, and as it stands right now, ND + PASOK = 149 seats in Parliament, two seats short of a majority.

The most likely scenario in my opinion is that ND will attempt to form a coalition with PASOK and Democratic Left.  They’ll undoubtedly give it a cheesy name like “Government of National Salvation.”  If they manage to do this, which I think is relatively unlikely based on the statement of the Democratic Left leader, they will have 168 seats which is a comfortable majority, although not the 180 seats they claim they want to be considered a legitimate government.

Even if Syriza formed a coalition with all the left parties in Parliament (Communists and Democratic Left), and with the Independent Greeks, that coalition would still have only 130 seats.

As far as the “anti-Europeans”, the combined vote of the Communist Party (which wants to leave the EU and the Eurozone) and Golden Dawn (which does not have a European outlook) is 47.  Syriza campaigned on a pro-EU but not EU-at-all-costs basis; added to those 47, they would add up to 99 seats.  There is no realistic combination of parties that would yield a majority voting against staying in the EU/Eurozone.

The anti-immigration bloc (New Democracy, Independent Greeks, Golden Dawn) adds up to 162 seats, enough to pass anti-immigration policies easily.

If a coalition can’t be formed by May 17, new elections will be called for about a month from that time.  New Democracy has already reversed from their campaign promise, to say that they will do pretty much anything to form a government.  Greek electoral law calls for new elections, not run-off or second round elections, meaning that all parties will run again (unless they choose to withdraw), so there will be no France-style battle between two parties.

The biggest news item here is not the fall of PASOK, which was expected, but the fall of New Democracy (despite coming in 1st) and the rise of Syriza.  I would also point out the relative stagnation of the only serious anti-Euro party, the Communists.  This indicates that the Greeks overwhelmingly still want to be in the Eurozone.

While the European media has made a lot of the entrance of Golden Dawn into Parliament, this is an expression of anti-immigration feeling rather than true “neo-nazism”, and the other parties know this; this was responsible for the “toughening up” on immigrants in the month leading up to the election.  Now that Golden Dawn is in Parliament, we should expect to see anti-immigration policies passing easily, but neo-nazism is not a “phenomenon” in Greece, despite what some European media have reported.

New Democracy has three days to come up with a government; if they can’t, that right passes to Syriza.  Now we just have to wait and watch.

12 thoughts on “Greek election: what the results mean

    • thank you, Klaus! As long as things keep happening, I’ll keep writing! Now, however, we have to be patient and let the TV journalists froth at the mouth at the (delightful to them) prospect of yet another ND/PASOK coalition.

  1. Well done Heidi, great synopsis, I feel sure our thrifty skills will be put to even greater use in the future. The irony regarding your note that the penalty for not voting is never enforced, it made me ask… will Greece, it’s parliament and people ever be accountable? We can only wait and see…and hope.

    • I was surprised that the abstention rate was so high. Everyone 18 and over is required to vote. Exceptions are given to those over 70, those who live abroad, and those who have severe health or work reasons not to vote. S tells me that you can get off if you live 200km or more from your polling place, but they didn’t publicize that this time around. I was expecting a huge turnout, with a much higher “blank vote” to account for those who wanted to protest in that way. The only reason I can give for this is that people simply do not have the MONEY needed to travel to their polling place. It cost my in laws quite a lot to travel to theirs. S couldn’t vote in the 2009 election because it would have cost around €400 for him to do so. As long as there are significant financial barriers to voting, poor and struggling people will not be as well represented. Someday they will finally pull their heads out of their asses and let people vote absentee.

  2. This is so interesting, thanks for sharing. After seeing the way the United States is torn in half by our two-party system, the concept of multiple parties is intriguing. I’m horrified by the Neo-Nazi votes and fascinated by the concept of jail time for not voting…and the expense involved. Looking forward to hearing more!

  3. The most informative post on the election I’ve been able to find! Thanks!
    I had two questions after reading: what is the bonus 50 seats to ND? and why is the prison empty?

    • 1. The bonus 50 seats: it used to be the case that when the people voted, the percentage of votes = the percentage of seats in Parliament. So if ND got 19% of the vote, they got 19% of the seats. However, because they had two very strong parties (ND and PASOK) for several decades, plus a number of smaller parties (like the Communist party), they were always getting numbers like 41%, 43% for the two big parties, and the rest in small parties. This made it very hard for any party to get 51% of the Parliament. Without 51%, nothing ever gets done, so it’s not considered “a government.”

      To fix this, they came up with the idea of giving the first party some extra seats. I don’t know how many it was at first, but until this election, it was 40 extra seats. A recent change to electoral law made it 50 seats. The purpose of this law is to support governability in a strongly 2-party system.

      What happened yesterday was the rejection of the two-party system, but under a two-party system electoral law. So now not only is 20% of the electorate unrepresented in Parliament (because they voted for smaller parties that didn’t get at least 3% of the vote), but the party that got 18.9% of the vote has *more than twice* as many seats as the party that got 16.7% of the vote.

      Even if they change the electoral law, the Constitution dictates that any change to an electoral law won’t apply until the second election (i.e., not the next one, but the next one after that).

      2. Why is the prison closed? The EU/IMF Troika ordered Greece not to hire more public workers so there aren’t enough people to staff the prison. It’s relatively newly built. I was just there a few months ago. We have friends who live in Nigrita and we discussed it. Greek prisons are overflowing by 25% over capacity so it would be good to use it. (Our town has the worst prison: it’s quite large, but even so, it is overpopulated by 223%.) I was wrong that it has no prisoners; it has prisoners in 2 of its 5 wings, but even there they are understaffed; for example, there is no nurse or doctor for the prison. The people that do work there weren’t hired, they were just moved from other prisons. But they can’t do that too much since the other prisons are overflowing and need their personnel. One of the reasons that the local community was willing to accept a large prison in their town was the promise that they would hire several hundred people to work there, which they didn’t do.

      The Nigrita workers periodically go on strike over the Troika ban on hiring more workers. Since Nigrita can’t afford to feed the prisoners either, or to provide them with basic health care or even heat in winter, a bunch of them went on a hunger strike this winter (I think 40 of them). I don’t know how that ended up.

  4. Pingback: Greek election: undemocracy in action | homeingreece

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