Political parties of Greece – a map of the political landscape

  • Figure 1
  • Figure 2
  • Figure 3

For most of the post-authoritarian era (the so-called “Third Greek Republic”), which is the period starting with the return to democracy in 1974, after the end of the seven-year dictatorship of the colonels, Greece had one of the few remaining two-party systems in Europe, similar to Britain and Malta. Noteworthy is the fact that the different electoral systems adopted in this period were not purely majoritarian ones. On the contrary, over all these years different electoral systems of “reinforced proportionality” were in effect, which produced significantly disproportional results in terms of the conversion of votes to seats. The long tradition of majoritarianism in Greek politics was translated in the formation of single-party majority governments (with the exception of two short-lived coalition governments in 1989-1990) and an alternation to government between the socialist party of PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and the conservative party of New Democracy (ND), even though PASOK was for more years the incumbent party up to the onset of the economic crisis in 2010. Moreover, different studies concluded that another defining characteristic in this post-authoritarian period is the unidimensional structure of the ideological space around the left-right dimension. The salience of this single axis of political competition can be attributed to the historical legacy of the major political conflicts of the 20th century, which produced enduring political identities that survived well intothe post-authoritarian period, namely the “Right”, the “Centre” and the “Left” (Moschonas 1995).This feature has been a main characteristic of Greek politics for most of the 20th century despite political regime changes, and even though the only party that continues to exist from the pre-authoritarian period is the KKE (Communist party) (see Tsatsanis & Teperoglou 2020). Furthermore, for the study of the Greek political landscape, it is necessary to keep in mind that -contrary to Western and Northern European countries -this unidimensional left-right space was never similar to its classic (materialistic) definition; it mostly captured a conflict over socio-political values given thelate industrialization of the country and the absence of a classic labor-capital class cleavage. One of the findings of our study is that nowadays the Greek political space is no longer unidimensional but is best captured by a two-dimensional space.

The main characteristics of the political and party system from 1974 were changed with the onset of the sovereign debt crisis that hit the country back in 2010. The political consequences of the crisis manifested relatively rapidly and were far reaching. The “double” earthquake elections of 2012 (May and June) in which the two-party system collapsed (e.g PASOK and ND saw their combined vote share drop by 45 percentage points) led to the fragmentation of the Greek party system. From 2012 to 2019 the country experienced a period of coalition governance, namely the coalition governments between PASOK, ND and the populist right party of LAOS (2012), then the one by PASOK and ND (2012-2015) with the participation of the centre-left party of Democratic Left (for one year), and finally the coalition between the radical left party of SYRIZA and the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party from 2015 to 2019. From the first bailout agreement signed by PASOK back in May 2010 and up to the last parliamentary elections of 2019, Greece held five parliamentary elections, two European elections, as well as a referendum over the terms of a new bailout agreement. This dense and busy political timeline was accompanied by two more bailout programs for the country. All this contributed to particularly high levels of fluidity in the political environment, upending established patterns of electoral behavior in the country. The period of the economic crisis saw the emergence of a new political divide that cut across the traditional left-right political dimension: the “pro-anti bailout divide”. This conflict, between those in favour of the bailout agreement and those against it, dominated the political landscape in Greece throughout the years of the economic crisis and overshadowed other political issues. Overall, the polarization along the pro- and anti-bailout camps reached its peak during the first term of the SYRIZA and ANEL coalition government. It wasthe period in whichtwo challenger parties werein power and, in the first months of their term, they refused to comply with the terms of the creditors leading the country towards a very polarized referendum about the terms of the new bailout agreement. Despite the fact that the majority of Greek citizens voted against this agreement, the coalition government was forced to sign it, given that the referendum result did not increase its leverage in the negotiations against the creditors (possibly the opposite happened) (Tsatsanis, Teperoglou and Seriatos 2020).

Perhaps the only other salient issue that emerged in this period was the one related to the immigration and refugee crises. The pro-memorandum versus anti-memorandum political conflict encompassed discussions about the responsibility and blame attribution for the economic crisis. Back in 2012 the anger of Greek voters was directed against the two main parties of the “old establishment”, namely PASOK and ND. Moreover, given the fact that many Greeks viewed the European Union as the main culprit for the crisis, the levels of Euroscepticism increased too. Positions in favor or against the European Union appeared to be aligned during the crisis with the pro/anti-bailout dimension. As we will see in this report, in the current post-memorandum period, stances towards the European Union appear to be aligned with the socio-cultural axis, i.e. attitudes on a range of social, cultural and political issues.

During the second term of the SYRIZA-ANEL government the Greek economy was stabilized, with the last bailout program expiring on 20 August 2018.Especially in the period after the referendum, we can conclude that the pro/anti-bailout debate ceased to be salient given the fact that the two governmental parties – whose coalition was based on the shared rejection of the bailout agreements- implemented harsh austerity measures under a new bailout program.

The European elections of 2019 and the snap parliamentary elections that took place a few weeks later ended the norm of coalition governments of the previous period and signaled the beginning of a return back to the traditional two-party system with ND and SYRIZA as the two main political actors/ protagonists. The latter party has replaced PASOK in this two-party system duopoly.The main aim of this report is to present the dimensionality of the Greek political space after the 2019 parliamentary elections and in the shadow of the pandemic crisis.

In the party-specific reports included in this study, the contributors analyze the valence issues for each political party.

As shown in Figure 1, the Greek political landscape in the post-memorandum period has atwo-dimensional structure, as discussed above. In an attempt to capture the complexity of contemporary Greek politics, we have tried to explore the peculiar alignment on the vertical axis of political competition between authoritarian versus libertarian with pro/ anti- integration positions. Therefore, we produced two additional separate figures; one with only European issues on the vertical axis (see Figure 2) and another with only the sociocultural issues (see Figure 3). The main conclusions could be summarized in three main points:

1. There seems to be some degree of polarization along the left-right axis, particularly between conservative ND and the left-of-center parties (SYRIZA, KINAL, KKE, MeRA25). For Greek Solution, economic issues appear to be less salient and its position on the economy is somewhat ambivalent - same as other right-wing populist parties in Europe.

2. Figure 2 reveals that the European dimension cross-cuts the left-right economic divide and that European issues are predominantly responsible for the two-dimensional character of the Greek party system. Even though parties on the left (especially the KKE) were always the main representatives of Euroscepticism in Greece, the politicization of EU-related issues during the economic crisis has had an impact on the structure of political competition. In the previous decades, the overwhelmingly pro-EU stance of the Greek electorate meant that this dimension of competition was mostly dormant. What is most noteworthy in this figure is the extent to which the pro-/anti-European axis divides and discriminates among the parties of the left, which adopt positions across the entire spectrum. ND and KINAL are presented as the main pro-European parties, whereas the communist party belongs to the hard-eurosceptic group. The position of SYRIZA and MeRA25 reflect their more general strategic choice to rely upon more eurocritical stances. While, we believe that there is a tendency towards an emergence of a transnational cleavage in Greece (Hooghe&Marks 2018), it is too soon to tell whether this will be transformed into a stable cleavage or will remain a rather ephemeral division.

3. Once the European integration dimension is removed (Figure3), the findings seem to go in line with the classic argument made by Herbert Kitschelt (1994) on European party system. Kitschelt argued that there is a left-libertarian vs right-authoritarian dimension of political competition. However, certain party legacies and ideological features (e.g. the unreformed communist ideology of KKE) or the catch-all character of other parties (e.g. the coexistence of liberal with traditionalist and authoritarian tendencies within ND) somewhat complicates the structure of competition.

References

Hooghe, L. & Marks, G. (2018) 'Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage', Journal of European Public Policy, 25:1, 109-135, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2017.1310279.

Kitschelt, H.(1994) The transformation of European Social Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Moschonas, G. (1995) The cleavage of right-anti-right in metapolitefsis. Greek Political Culture Today. Athens: Ulysses, pp. 159-215. (in Greek)

Tsatsanis, E. & Teperoglou, E. (2020) ‘Greece’s coalition governments: power sharing in a majoritarian democracy’, Coalition Government as a Reflection of a Nation’s Politics and Society ,edM.Evans , Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 224–243.

Tsatsanis, E., Teperoglou, E. & Seriatos, A. (2020) 'Two-partyism Reloaded: Polarisation, Negative Partisanship, and the Return of the Left-right Divide in the Greek Elections of 2019', South European Society and Politics, DOI: 10.1080/13608746.2020.1855798

by Eftichia Teperoglou

Individual Overview

Dimensionality of the Greek political space

Political dimensionality allows for utilizing data as a means of graphically portraying how political parties and citizens understand political conflict at any given time. It gives them the tools to navigate a complex world and sort difficult issues along familiar conflict lines. This virtual system of understanding is a subject of constant change by each crisis the system faces. The Greek political system is no exception.

The main division in the Greek system is on the left-right dimension. That is hardly surprising for a European country. It is a very flexible dimension in terms of meaning, as political parties have kepton introducing new issues in this dimension over the years. This absorbing power of the left-right dimension has made it the strongest predictor of party choice. The largest political parties in Greece positioned themselves along the lines of this dimension to provide the necessary antithesis and help voters choose according to their policy preferences.The concepts of the Left and the Right included issues of the economic dimension as well as cultural and EU related issues.

Specifically, the Right encompasses pro-liberal and pro-market positions in economic terms, while it stands for more restrictive policies in terms of immigration, nationalism and civil rights. The Left, on the other hand, stands for state intervention and stronger market regulation, more integrative attitudes towards immigration and inclusive civil rights policies.

The particularity of Greece is that of significant state intervention in the economy and a rather disproportionate role of the state in economic activity. This role was rarely challenged by political parties, even by those on the right, and any de-regulation was slow and careful. This changed when the crisis hit Greece. The bailout agreements imposed austerity measures and strong deregulation in the country. They wererelated to the clause of Greece remaining in the eurozone and even in the EU. The importance of the events and the imminent danger for the Greek economy combined the issue of the eeconomy with that of EU membership and made the so-called memorandum dimension the most prominent vote determinant in the crisis years. This created a new political space where the old left-right dimension kept its sociocultural content, and where both left- and right-wing parties could position themselves on the pro- or anti-memorandum dimension.

As the so-called Greek crisis came to a symbolic end in 2019, one question remains open: is the political landscape of the crisis here to stay, or should we expect a new equilibrium that reflects the more traditional division lines of the Greek political system?
Initially, it seemed that Greek dimensionality came back to the pre-crisis normality, where the cultural left-right divide was dominant and accompanied with two less significant economic and EU dimensions that correlated with each other. Having said that, it would be very premature to claim that this is the new normalfor four reasons.

First, the 2019 elections took place in a climate of relative political disillusion that diminished the role of ideology for vote choice and increased the role of competence. It is certain that the economy is again viewed as an issue where no alternatives are in place. Most of the population agrees that it simply needs to work, so the Greek economy gets a jump start again. In a similar vein, the migration crisis of 2015 became another issue of competence. As it became clear that the migration streams are not combined with a question of integration in the Greek society, but rather with the good management of asylum applications and flows towards the rest of Europe or back to the countries of origin, this issue was also included inthe package of competence.

Secondly, the recent crises (sovereign debt crisis, migration crisis, and Covid-19 pandemic) have shown that no country can act independently within the EU and all benefit from this interdependence. That signals that EU membership and integration, along with specific policies related to EU polity and policy issues are very important for domestic politics. The EU issue is thus an integral part of the dimensionality of the Greek political space.

Thirdly, it is unclear how the positioning of various political parties in Greece on the issue of Turkey will play out. Erdogan’s aggressive foreign policy and the involvement of various EU actors taking opposing stances (eg. Germany’s containment and France’s opposition to Erdogan) can lead to the inclusion of this issue inthe EU dimension. Alternatively, it can become more connected to a dimension combining issues of security, immigration and policing, that is attached to the socio-cultural progressiveconservative dimension.

Finally, the newest crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, imposed new pressure in almost all aspects of political and everyday life. Initially, the pandemic was not politicised and was mainly treated as a management issue. In Greece, the government managed the first wave rather well, but a series of decisions aimed at keeping the economy open led to a less successful management of the virus. As the vaccination strategy starts to unfold, the politicisation of various aspects of this crisis seems inevitable. Inequalities in Greek society have been made clearer due to the pandemic. Issues that seem prominent are the digitalisation of society, the enhancement of the welfare state through a well- functioning healthcare system and unemployment. The pandemic might also bring a revival of old issues such as the church-state cleavage, as the church poses significant resistance to governmentalattempts to contain the pandemic. What was not very present in Greece, but is increasingly apparent now, is the rejection of educated elites and science. It is not yet very politicised, and cuts across party lines. But this is something that merits future observation.

by Alexia Katsanidou

The strategic position of KINAL

Figure 4


The Greek socialists are undoubtedly undergoing the most decadent period since the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (henceforth PASOK)was foundedin 1974. Few things in KINAL remind today of itserstwhile legendary antecedent, which first came to power in 1981 with a landslide victory of 48% as a movement, able to mobilize the masses, impassionate its voters and cement strong identifications. Having succeeded implementing historic reforms in the 1980s, PASOK lost power in 1989 amidst a financial crisis, economic scandals and an ambiance of decay related to the personal life of its emblematic founder and leader Andreas Papandreou.

Despite a significant modernization ofthe economy and institutions, a moderate stance in foreign policy and a laborious attachment in the EMU adherence project, his successor Costas Simitis did not manage to leave the party with a lasting social-democratic blueprint. Insofar as access to the state machinery and resources served to decrease internal party antagonisms, conflicts impeded reforms, having left Simitis’ second mandate with the only landmarks of dismantling the terrorist organization 17 November and preparing the country for the 2004 Olympic Games.

The return to power in 2009, under the leadership of party founder George Papandreou’s son, saw the party winning 43.92%of the popular vote, yet the social democrats were unprepared for the magnitude of the debt crisis which abruptly erupted less than a year later, driving the country into a decade-long exhausting effort of fiscal consolidation via acute austerity measures. PASOK never recovered from signing the bailout agreements with the IMF, EC and ECB. Initially abandoned by  series of MPs who resigned, were expelled or migrated to other parties, PASOK progressively evaporated electorally, punished by its voters, who turned their back to the party (Dinas and Rori 2013).

Participation in the coalition government with the conservative ND from 2012 to 2015 and for one year with the centre-left DIMAR did not reverse this electoral decline. Changes in leadership first by Vangelis Venizelos, then by FofiGennimata, as well as efforts to unify forces of the centre-left further failed to stem the tide of the party’s popularity, which fell from 12.28% in June 2012, to 6.29% in September 2015 and then stabilized at 8.10% in 2019. Named KINAL (Movement for Change) since itsopen primary of 2017, the party faces a bilateral electoral and political competition: its cadres and voters have migrated towards both SYRIZA and ND (Rori 2020). Polarisation over the Prespa agreement brought another segmentof former PASOK cadres in the last SYRIZA government. Likewise, the 2019 government of ND recruited former MPs, cadres and experts from the centre and the centre-left. Haunted by desertion, KINAL presented a blurry, folklore, anti-right pre-electoral message, as it tried to minimize losses towards SYRIZA, with the latter attemptingto systematically absorb its remaining electorate by appropriating its symbols and identity. In reality, KINAL lost voters towards both sides (Rori 2020).

Claiming – often in a grotesque manner – the legacy of Andreas Papandreou, perseveres in the aftermath of the 2019 parliamentary election at both the inter and the intra-party level. Nostalgia and ownership over the symbols provide a remedy and a cause to the party’s base and elitesrespectively, currently facing two major weaknesses. The first relates to the loss of social and class references, as the party only maintains stable electoral bonds with pensioners, emotionally attached to the party for historic reasons. As the party system progressively returns to bipartisanship (Rori 2020), structured around ND and SYRIZA, KINAL struggles to sustain its electoral and political relevance. The second pertains to a weak leadership, drawing its power from authoritarian intra-party practices. In controlling access to resources, positions, visibility, and electoral lists, FofiGennimata implements the iron law of oligarchy, albeit not in a mass party.

The party image improves considerably when policy positioning is taken into account, as it meticulously works over concrete and well-thought policies. KINAL tries to perform in opposition by creating a distinct policy voice between ND and SYRIZA. Driven simultaneously by an anti-right and an anti-SYRIZA sentiment, the party frequently oscillates between moderation and radicalism. Aligned to the strategy of preserving the “national interest”, KINAL opposed the Prespa agreement and claims sovereignty over the Greek-Turkish dispute. Alongside a pro-EU and pro-euro stance, it maintains a moderate positioning in foreign policy issues. State interventionism frames policy stances in economic and social issues. KINAL favours redistributive policies, workers’ protection and a strong welfare state, while it does not strongly oppose security policies pertaining to law and order. It has, for instance, backed the conservative bill which manages demonstrations, and adopted all restrictive measures in terms of movement and rights during the pandemic. The party has a progressive agenda when it comes to socio-cultural issues, such as gender equality, refugees and LGBT rights, and favours an open, plural society with respect to freedom of expression and religious freedoms.

However, despite its elaboratepolicy positioning, the party fails to take-off in opinion polls. Party survival will be a severe challenged in the next parliamentary election. In fear of political extinction, party cadres and MPs will seek a safer political shelter in SYRIZA and/or in ND, testing the limits and endurance of the party formation.

References

Dinas, E. & Rori, L. (2013);' 2012 Greek Parliamentary Elections: Fear and Loathing in the Polls’, West EuropeanPolitics, 36:1, 270-282, DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2013.742762

Rori, L. (2020) 'The 2019 Greek parliamentary election: retour à la normale’, West European Politics, 43:4, 1023-1037, DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2019.1696608

by Lamprini Rori

The strategic position of New Democracy

Figure 5


Founded by Constantine Karamanlis right after the fall of the military coup in 1974, NeaDimokratia (New Democracy, henceforth ND) has since been the major centre-right party in what is known as the Third Greek Republic. In a political system revolving around a distorted left-right continuum, taking the form of right on the one hand and the anti-right on the other (Moschonas 1995), ND had to survive like its Portuguese and Spanish counterparts under a political context biased against the ideological inheritance of a past authoritarian regime (Dinas 2017; Dinas and Northmore-Ball 2020). ND not only managed to survive in this context, but often thrived, establishing its dominance on the right and making some gains among centrist voters.

Ideologically, ND's profile resembles the trajectory of the right during this period (Kalyvas 1998). Initially a party resembling its Christian democratic counterparts of continental Europe, ND went on to adopt a more neoliberal outlook in the 1980s, switching back to a more centrist profile in the mid-2000's. Today, ND portrays itself as a modern party of the centre-right, which puts emphasis on economic reforms and managerial competence. Yet, it is worth focusing on some of the key policy stances of the party under its current leadership.

ND, as most parties on the right in Southern Europe, does not object to an advanced welfare state, although it does attempt to impose obstacles to the expansion of state intervention in economic policy. Now in government, the party aims to facilitate foreign investment, while at the same time purporting to alleviate inequalities that have been exacerbated after the pandemic outbreak. Nevertheless, the party also appears to be open to further flexibilization of the labour market, albeit without openly supporting welfare retrenchment. Perhaps its main flagship policy -, public university reform, includes two major pillars: the abolition of the asylum status, opening the way for police to intervene within university campuses, and the opening of the education system to non-public actors, thereby allowing the establishment of non-public universities in the country.

When it comes to its attitudes towards the European Union (EU), the party is consistently and unequivocally pro-EU, supporting an ever-increasing process of unification, as it is shown inFigure 5. On the other hand, ND has also been particularly prone to adopting pro-hawkish stances when it comes to law and order, as demonstrated by its firm opposition against demonstrations during the lockdown period. When it comes to healthcare, the party appears to favour a predominantly public health system.Nevertheless, it encourages private initiatives to complement the public national system.

ND's reaction to the church during the pandemic has been ambivalent. While originally religious ceremonies were halted, the church was eventually allowed to self-organise and restart its functions. In general, the ND does not appear eager to introduce significant innovations when it comes to the second political dimension where non-economic, or moral value issues are concerned. In the realm of symbolic politics, early criticisms for the stark absence of women from the ND cabinet were mitigated by the choice of the new President of the Republic, while the last cabinet reshuffle resulted in the inclusion of the first openly gay politician in the government, along with some rather conservative hardliners. This is a rather representative example of the current strategy of the party, which could be labelled as ‘the fan-strategy’, extending the party's appeal towards both the left and the right of the political spectrum. In terms of policies, ND does not seem to have advanced much identity issues, especially those related to minorities.

ND has also adopted a rather ambivalent position when it comes to immigration. One the one hand, the government took action to protect refugee children life in the camps, whileon the other the government tried to transfer, concentrate, and expand the camps on particular islands. In general, the party holds a rather restrictive view on the issue of immigration and multiculturalism in general.

References

Dinas, E. (2017) Political socialisation and regime change: How the right ceased to be wrong in post-1974 Greece. Political Studies, 65(4), pp. 1000-1020.

Dinas, E. &Northmore-Ball, K. (2020) The ideological shadow of authoritarianism. Comparative Political Studies, 53(12), pp. 1957-1991.

Kalyvas, S. (1998) The Greek right: between transition and reform. The European center-right at the end of the twentieth century, pp. 87-115.

Moschonas, G. (1995) The cleavage of right-anti-right in metapolitefsis. Greek Political Culture Today. Athens: Ulysses, pp. 159-215.  (in Greek)

by Elias Dinas

The Strategic position of SYRIZA

Figure 6


The political debates all around Europe are currently dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a multifaceted problem: it concerns health policy, economic policy, the restriction of civil rights and constitutional freedoms, as well as the backsliding of gender equality. While Covid19 has economic repercussions worldwide, and for the EU as a whole, in Greece the situation is especially dramatic because the country hasexperienced considerable financial difficulties in the last decade (Katsanidou and Lefkofridi 2020). Besides the pandemic, climate change and immigration remain very important issues for the European Union (EU). The pandemic is also related to asylum, with thousands of asylum-seekers living in uncertainty and under inhuman conditions on Greek soil. The asylum problem can be linked to (Erdogan’s) Turkey. While this is an issue discussed throughout Europe, it has different proportions in Greece: the country’s geographical proximity to Turkey, which under Erdogan has an aggressive foreign policy,make it a security issue (related to foreign and defense policy). What are the strategic choices of the former incumbent party of SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left) in the current political landscape?

In the last decade, SYRIZA moved from zero to hero, i.e. from being a marginal small party at the political fringes to getting executive power.SYRIZA was originally formed before the 2004 parliamentary election, as an alliance of political parties and groups, as well as independent politicians of  both the reformist  and radical left).  It capitalized on the (unrealistic) promise of unchaining the Greek people from the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU). Capitulating on this key policy goal, it chose to remain in office by moderating its Euroscepticism and appealing to pro-EU segments of the electorate (Lefkofridi and Nezi 2020).While SYRIZA had raised high hopes for a better future, these hopes were betrayed due, inter alia, to the party’s lack of experience with power, the state apparatus, and the EU system (Chatzopoulou and Lefkofridi 2019). The negative sentiment caused by SYRIZA’s failures in government was primarily responsible for its defeat by ND in 2019 (rather than positiveexpectations for what ND could do differently). Although its defeat was expected, given the results of the May 2019 European elections, SYRIZA managed to retain some electoral strength and took over the lead of the opposition by attracting 30 percent of the Greek vote ---  especially among younger Greeks (approximately 40 percent of young voters supported SYRIZA). However, middle class voters punished SYRIZA, either by voting for ND—which attracted voters from all ideological camps (from the left-wing SYRIZA to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn)—or by abstaining.

The current climate of insecurity at the borders, combined with the pandemic in an economically devastated economy, provides constraints as well as opportunities for SYRIZA. Despite having contributed to the solution of a longstanding Greek foreign policy problem (the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), SYRIZA has not managed to establish itself as a credible actor in this policy field, which is dominated by territorial/national security issues and where ND retains ownership. These issues are currently very salient and can thus benefit ND at the expense of SYRIZA. If security is linked to immigration, the issue is even more electorally costly for SYRIZA since the party advocates “no more tightening” of asylum policies (on the basis of human rights). SYRIZA generally has progressive views on immigration and multiculturalism – perhaps too progressive for a large majorityof the electorate. The same holds for other sociocultural issues like gender equality and LGBT minority rights (gender issues). In the context of the Greek political party landscape, SYRIZA owns mainly issues relating tothe GAL/TAN dimension, such as the rights of same sex couples, the integration of immigrants (citizenship) and asylum-seekers; as well as climate change and environmental protection. On the purely economic left-right cleavage, the party owns the issue of wealth redistribution (from rich to poor) but competes with KKE in the same area of the political space: as an advocate of the lower strata, the KKE has a stronger and longer-lasting record when it comes to workers’ rights. SYRIZA’s appeal is stronger withmiddle class progressive voters (over which it competes against KINAL and MeRA25).

SYRIZA should capitalize on issues with which it has a better reputation compared to its opponents (Lefkofridi and Nezi 2020) and voice the preferences of its (young) supporters. To retain its eminence among young voters, SYRIZA must hold its stances on environmental issues and climate change. For this purpose, it can combine the pandemic issue/criticism against government measures with its climate change policy and the necessity for a transformation of the consumption and production model. The pandemic shows that capitalism can be paused – even if only for a while – so this is the time to come up with credible proposals for sustainable development and ecologically respectful growth in the post-Covid-19 era. Sustainable development, in the context of the United Nations’ strategy, cannot be separated from the fight against poverty, or economic and gender inequality. If SYRIZA defines responsibility on the basis of such international agreements, it might be able to propose a coherent alternative path to the policies implemented by the ND government in the Covid19 pandemic - a path that corresponds to the preferences of SYRIZA supporters.

Besides pro-environmental and pro-redistribution economic policy stances, SYRIZA also endorses progressive sociocultural policies. The partyshould not moderate its very liberal positions on gender issues (LGBT rights and women emancipation) since these appeal to its electoral clientele, which is primarily young. If utilized electorally, the gendered consequences of Covid-19 in Greece could benefit SYRIZA against a male-dominated party/government with traditional views on gender, by means of attracting women’s vote from different age groups. Yet, it does not suffice to criticize government measures (e.g. lockdown, home schooling) and their consequences (overburdening for women); to attract votes on this issue, SYRIZA must be able to articulate credible proposals by voicing diverse gender-related issues heightened by the pandemic, such as the problem of domestic violence; or the undervalued and precarious care professions that are dominated by women (healthcare workers, cleaners, school & kindergarten teachers), which have proven fundamental for surviving the pandemic (front-liners). In this regard, SYRIZA’s opposition to flexible conditions of work can be revitalized: for instance, the high degree of flexibility expected from workers during the pandemic generates additional burden to the female strata of the population. In this regard, SYRIZA must presenta clear vision for the post-COVID-19 Greek society, where all (hetero/homo) couples support each other by sharing household and care duties. Such a vision might appeal to young voters, for which having a family appears impossible in the current context of rampant unemployment.

References

Chatzopoulou, S. & Lefkofridi, Z.  (2019). Greece’s Path Towards the European Status Quo. Global Observatory. https://theglobalobservatory.org/2019/10/greeces-path-towards-european-status-quo

Lefkofridi, Z. & Nezi, R. (2020) Responsibility versus responsiveness… to whom? A theory of party behavior. Party Politics, 26(3), pp.334-346. Open access: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1354068819866076

Lefkofridi, Z. & Chatzopoulou, S. (2019). "The Symbolism of the New Greek Government." LSE Blog European Politics and Policy Blog, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2019/08/05/the-symbolism-of-the-new-greek-government

by Zoe Lefkofridi

The strategic position of KKE

Figure 7


The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is the oldest party in Greece, founded in February 1918 as the Socialist Labour Party of Greece and renamed as the Communist Party of Greece in 1924. It is considered as one of the most strictly ‘orthodox’ communist parties and was among the trustees of the Soviet political and its ideological tradition in Europe.

In the 2019 parliamentary electionsKKE has managed to obtain 5.30% of the vote:a result that preserves its minor but stable position in the Greek party system. The 2012-2019 period was extremely critical for the party’s survival, since it had to manage the meteoric electoral rise of SYRIZA, its main antagonist on the left to which KKE has suffered significant electoral losses, especially in the 2012 elections. The party ensured its survival by appealing to its ideological and historic tradition and by distancing itself from SYRIZA’s ‘left unity’-type coalition appeals, until the summer of 2015. SYRIZA’s ongoing moderation enabled KKE to continue with this strategic path and preserve a base of loyal supporters sharing the party’s sometimes unpopular appeals.

In programmatic terms, the party’s goals are relatively unchangeable: it presents its organisational and ideological rigidity as its main political quality, in order to be considered as a ‘reliable’ and ‘consistent’ political actorby the Greek electorate. KKE displays a series of programmatic traits that compose its identity, at least in the last 25 years. First of all, the party is committed towards establishing a Soviet-style socialist system [‘dictatorship of the proletariat’] either with democratic or revolutionary means. Secondly, KKE has adopted hard Eurosceptic positions [calls for exit from the EU] combined with traditional ‘anti-imperialist positions’, especially against NATO: these positions condition its foreign policy stances.; Thirdly,  the party putsemphasis on the representation of the ‘working class’ and its social allies as ‘popular strata’ in general. Finally, the party is characterised with a total refusal of convergence or collaboration with the other radical left parties [Synaspismos/SYRIZA, extra-parliamentary left]. Those traits refer to the tradition of the Greek communist movement and were codified in KKE’s 1996 party programme. Nevertheless, those traitsre-emerged more intensified and slightly modified during the economic crisis period (from 2010 and afteron), and especially in the party’s 2013 party programme. KKE prioritized the revolutionary path towards socialism and declared thatits strategic goal is the establishment of ‘popular power’ and ‘popular economy’ [‘social ownership of the means of production’, ‘central planning’, ‘workers’ control’ etc.]. The party poses short-term demands concerning extensive redistribution measures, universal social security, labour protection, universal public education, inclusive arts and sports activities etc. However, KKE believes that these demands will be better served ‘in socialism’ and under a cohesive socialist programme. This influences the party’s position on the EU issue: while retaining its Eurosceptic positions, it supported the view that an exit from the Eurozone and the EU is not a feasible project, without the establishment of socialism. As for its anti-imperialist stance, KKE previously believed (as stipulated in its 1996 party programme), that the country was dependent upon more powerful ‘imperialist’ countries and, in this sense, the struggle for ‘national independence’, was a struggle with anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist characteristics aimed at breaking the so-called ‘imperialist chain’ and consistent with the party’s goals. Inthe new party programme, Greece is portrayed as the part of an ‘imperialist pyramid’, meaning that it is dependent upon other countries, but also as a minor imperialist force against weaker countries. Therefore, KKE perceives any international conflict or confrontation as ‘intra-imperialist antagonisms’ and tends to downplay ‘national independence’ in favour of predominantly anti-capitalist goals.

Moreover, the party puts the traditional industrial working class at the epicentre of its appeals by prioritising labour struggles. That is how it distanced itself from the anti-austerity struggles that were based on populist appeals, counteroffering its own platform of  ‘social alliance’ consisting mainly of class-based appeals and mobilizations. Additionally, KKE is suspicious towards identity politics, considering that the latter obscure the class character of social conflict and struggles. Finally, KKE negated any possibility of participating in an ‘anti-memorandum’ or left government, by stressing the non-realism of this kind of governmentwithin a capitalist system. The party considers that all injustices are a result of the capitalist system or the austerity measures aimed at its reproduction, can only be solved inasocialist system. This point of view contradicts withSYRIZA’s position on the issue and its overall strategy. Thus, KKE portrays SYRIZA as an unreliable political actor, with inherent social democratic character, which seeks to rehabilitate the ‘bourgeois political system’ and ‘trap’ the working class on a ‘one-way path’ of ‘compromises’,harmful for its interests.

After the 2019 elections, the party found itself in the position of a principled opposition vis-à-vis the New Democracy government, by stressing the pro-capitalist character of its policies. Regarding the issue of the Greek-Turkish tension, the party keeps a middle position by calling for the defense of national independence and at the same time pinpointing that the tension is the result of the antagonism between the Greek and Turkish bourgeoisies and imperialist states. As for the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, KKE highlights the inadequate functioning of the public health system, which it attributes to constant budget cuts and understaffing, thus calling for increases of the healthcare system budget and its personnel. Moreover, the party calls for the normal functioning of public schools, which means an increase of teaching personnel and proliferation of classrooms to cope with health protocols. Finally, the partyrejects the governmental ban of public protests for health reasons (includingthe extreme policing during the pandemic crisis), by mobilizing its members and supporters in protests that respected health protocols (May 1st and November 17th). The party accuses the government of jeopardizing democratic rights and implementing an authoritarian agenda, while using the pretext of the public health emergency. On this basis, KKE agreed to sign a public document condemning the banning of the 17th of November demonstration along with SYRIZA and MeRA25, an unprecedented act of convergence with the other radical left parties.

by Costas Eleftheriou

The strategic position of MeRa25

Figure 8


In the highly polarized parliamentary election of 7 July 2019, two new parties managed to enter the Greek Parliament. One was the new party of MeRA25 founded by ex-Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis following his departure from SYRIZA in 2015. The other one is Greek Solution, a nationalist one founded by Kyriakos Velopoulos, a former ND member and ex-MP of the right-wing populist LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally). Both parties are very personalistic and rely almost exclusively on the popularity of their leaders among their supporters.

The leader of MeRA25, Varoufakis opposed the new bailout agreement signed by the former PM and leader of SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras and founded a European-wide anti-austerity movement called Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), whose Greek affiliate party is MeRA25 (European Realistic Disobedience Front). The Greek party was founded on 27 March 2018 and managed to attract many disillusioned voters to the left of SYRIZA in the 2019 elections. Furthermore, it was successful in displacing the extra-parliamentary parties of LAE (Popular Unity) and PE (Course of Freedom) as non-communist left-wing alternatives to SYRIZA from the Greek political arena. MeRA25 failed to gain a seat in the European Parliament (EP) by less than 500 votes, but managed to pass the electoral threshold of 3% and entered in the Greek Parliament electing 9 MPs for the first time (see Tsatsanis, Teperoglou and Seriatos 2020).

According to the main statements of this party, the “audience” of MeRA25 is not socially limited to specific classes of Greeks society or professional categories. In principle, it can attract any Greek who disagrees with the bailout agreements and attributes responsibility for the deep recession to the severe austerity policies implemented on the basis of the bailouts.

MeRA25 could be labelled as a leftist party with a clear anti-Memorandum agenda. Its main priority is the restructuring of the country’s public debt based on linking the repayment rate of public debt with the growth rate of nominal national income.

In other words, economic issues with a focus on the debt sovereign crisis, the banking system and the (perceived as) disastrous bailout agreements are at the top of the party agenda. Their main objective in the current Greek Parliament is to revive the highly polarizing political divide that existed in the years of the crisis between those in favour of the bailout agreements, the so-called in Greek ‘mnemoniakoi’ and those against (‘anti-mnemoniakoi’) (i.e. ‘pro-memorandum’ vs ‘anti-memorandum’ political division). However, political competition in Greece is no longer influenced by the pro-anti bailout positions and it is replaced by other decisive issues, as we conclude in this study.

Despite the dominant position of economic issues in the discourse of MeRA25 (its leader is an economist,after all), the party also demands fundamental changes in EU institutions. Yanis Varoufakis criticizes the anti-democratic nature of EU institutions and decision-making structures. He continually stresses the need for radical reforms at the EU level,that would make supranational institutions and governance more transparent and accountable to European citizens. Another main position of the party regards Greece’s Eurozone membership. According to the manifesto of the party, Greece should never have entered the eurozone. Another main pillar of the programme of the party is the “European Green New Deal”, aimed at implementing measures against climate change and economic inequalities at the EU level. Finally, it could be argued that the party encompasses an anti-establishment rhetoric in domestic politics against the former big parties in Greece which it blames them for the economic crisis.

The political landscape in the ‘post-memorandum’ era of Greek politics presents some interesting features. First of all, our findings indicate that the Greek political space is two-dimensional - it is definitely not unidimensional. Party positions on cultural issues form a clearer dimension structure of ideological space in comparisonto the left-right materialist one. As in other countries, there is a conflict between Greek parties concerning cultural change in the age of globalization, i.e. the promotion of cosmopolitan transnational identities as well as values of cultural openness and tolerance at the expense of national identity and traditional values. In the sociocultural dimension, the party of MeRA25 adopts a clear cosmopolitan outlookin favour of multiculturalism and against anti-immigration policies. Therefore, MeRA25 is a typical example of a leftist, green, libertarian party in the Greek political landscape.

Furthermore, there is growing evidence of the emergence of a pro-European versus anti-European axis of political competition in Greece, compared to the period prior to the crisis. This increasing politicisation of the EU dimension permeates and affects the entire party system. In the case of MeRA25, regardless of whether the vertical axis is composed by EU-related issues only (Figure 2) or cultural issues (Figure 3), MeRA25 adopts a Euro-critical far left position or a socially progressive Euro-critical position, depending on the composition of the axes.

We might conclude that the position of the party is mainly determined by its anti-bailout stancesand the staunch rejection of economic and political aspects of EU integration. With the inclusion of MeRA25and SYRIZA on the one hand and ND, and Greek Solution on the other, polarization along the cultural axis appears to be significantly more acute than polarization along the left-right materialist axis.  Furthermore, it is evident that divisions over issues related to the ceding of national sovereignty or stances toward immigration are of great importance when it comes to political divisions in the Greek political landscape.

by Eftichia Teperoglou

The strategic position of Hellenic Solution

Figure 9


Since it succeeded in entering the national parliament in 2004, the Greek radical right has been transformed several times. Its initialsuccess came from a populist radical right party (Popular Orthodox Rally-LAOS). Nevertheless, the significant political and economic transformations that Greek society faced after 2009, resulted in the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (GD) party in 2012. Again, in the 2019 national and European elections, the populist radical right party of Hellenic Solution (EL) appeared and replaced GD. The party was founded in 2016by Kyriakos Velopoulos, a former member of LAOS and New Democracy (ND), declaring a pro-Russian and a pro-Orthodox direction.

Although the party was founded in 2016, it was not until the beginning of 2019 that gained popularity; therefore, its conversational structure resulted in gaps regarding its positionson specific topics. However, we will attempt sketching its position in several regards. Τhe party has many similarities with LAOS. The most important one is considered to be its type of leadership, as Kyriakos Velopoulos attempts to copy GiorgosKaratzaferis as a TV persona, gaining popularity from televised appearances and talkshows. Simultaneously, the partyrevolves around its leader, who remains its most visible persona, while any internal disagreements seem to end by expelling the dissidents.

As presented in Figure 9, EL is a culturally conservative party, which becomes more conservative when it comes to covid-19 related issues. In terms of itspolitical agenda, the party has clarified its foreign policy position. In a period of severe tensionsbetweenGreece and Turkey, EL perceives itas impossible for Greece to follow a common E.U. foreign and defence policy, as it is against  thecountry’s interests. Instead, it supports an increase in defence spending, followed by an expansionof Greekterritorial waters. Its economic positions promote a centrally planned economy, in which workers will remain secure, while the unemployed ones will gain further state support. To strengthen its support for such an economic model, the party has no plans to reduce the number of public employees or to adopt flexible work forms to combat unemployment.

European integration remains a controversial field for the party, as it combines specific positions with unaddressedtopics. Moreover, Greek Solution adopts a very critical position towards the Euro currency, saying that the participation of the country in the Eurozone is a ‘disaster for Greece’. As the party promotes its vision fora Europe of nations, it disagrees with any EU interference inmember-states’ budgets. However, it omits to clarify its position about the EU when it comes to taxation. Despite the abovementioned positions, the party has not yet clarified neither how it stands regarding Greece’s E.U. membership, nor how it envisionsthe future of the European integration process.

LGBT rights and immigration are core topics in the populist radical right parties’ agenda. EL is strictly against any equalisation between gay and heterosexual couples’ rights, reflecting the Greek Orthodox Church’s positions.In terms of immigration, the party views the migratory flows as a danger for Greece, and is opposed to offeringasylum to more refugees, arguing the Greek state has to implement more measures against immigration. In parallel, the party understands Greek citizenship as a jus sanguinis, and opposes granting citizenship to immigrant children born in Greece. Due to the fear of immigration, the party accepts only those immigrants that respect Greek culture and values. Simultaneously, it stands against their right to worship in specific places.

The Covid-19 pandemic obligated Greek political parties to clarify their positions on several topics. Consequently, EL declared its opposition to a package of ‘blind’ measures against the pandemic, as, at the same time, they were economically unbearable. Next to this, as a pro-Orthodox party, EL openly disagreed with the prohibition of church gatherings during the pandemic. Such a position comes in linewith its general overview of the continuation of the church-state relationship. Except for that, the party took specific positions regarding the health care system. Therefore, it declared its support forgovernmental investments in hospitals – regardless of tax hikes – while it positioned itself against the introduction of free-market competition in the health care system. What remains unknown is how the party understands women’s position during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they spend much more time with their household.

Law and order – core characteristics of the populist radical right party family – occupy a prominent position in the party’s discourse. Specifically, the party endorses a more severe punishment for criminals, while it asks for strictly police responses when comes to the destruction of public property. Even though the party adopts many ideologicalstances similar to thoseof other European populist radical right parties, it seems unable to extend its agenda to ecological issues. It has declared opposition to the stop of lignite mining but has no stances regarding global warming and climate change.

In conclusion, EL is a conformation of how the Greek far-right has been positioning itself for more than a decade: while on the economic axis it adopts positions more to the left end of the ideological spectrum, on the cultural axis it is placed on the conservative side. Kyriakos Velopoulos, the founder of the party has succeeded remaining in the political scene after LAOS electoral defeat. By developing his political agenda, he effectively combined a Eurosceptic discourse with left-leaning economic policies. The outbreak of the pandemic crisis has helped him to promote his party’s economic programme, as he openly criticises the government’s measures against the pandemic, due to their economic fallout. The party’s Eurosceptic approach explains its pro-Russian direction, while its anti-LGBT stances bring the party closer to the official positionsof the Greek Orthodox Church.

by George Kordas

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