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Predictions for the election: who will the public choose to lead Greece out of the crisis?

16 September 2015

Can Alexis Tsipras triumph again? This is the question being asked in the run up to Sunday's snap election in Greece.

Since January, the world has watched as the new government attempted to materialise election promises to end austerity through renegotiating Greece's relationship with the troika of creditors. Mr Tsipras ultimately agreed to more harsh conditions to secure a third bailout for the country, going back on promises which won the election. The Prime Minister faced the reality that, in order to push new economic reform proposals through parliament, he had to go over the heads of his radical left, anti-austerity party and rely on the pro-EU opposition. This culminated in the demise of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' standing in his own party.

The resulting split in Syriza meant that the Prime Minister no longer had a majority. An election was announced on 20 August, following Mr Tsipras' resignation.

So where does this leave the political scene? Who will lead the country in implementing economic reform?

The economy and bailout package is obviously the central issue to all Greece's parties' campaigns. Many commentators believe that Monday's highly anticipated TV debate between the incumbent Prime Minister and former Prime Minister, centre-right New Democracy leader, Vangelis Meimarakis was the leaders' last shot to make a bid for power and convince the nation of their capability, and credibility, to lead Greece out of the crisis.  

Greek politics is dominated by the two largest parties. This means that the country's third largest party, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, trails behind Meimarakis’ party, with 17 seats to New Democracy's 76. Despite the party being excluded from TV debates, it is worth mentioning that recently released from prison Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos is running and hopeful his party will make gains based on an anti-EU, anti-austerity, and anti-immigration campaign.

Polls released on Sunday showed Syriza and Meimarakis’ centre-right New Democracy party virtually tied. The survey, conducted by Public Issue, indicated that the parties hold 31% of the vote respectively. Unlikely as it is that neither Syriza nor New Democracy will be part of the new government, 19 parties, five of them coalitions, are running in Sunday's election.

Mr Tsipras is facing his moment of truth. Will the public believe he did the best he could when facing the troika? Or will the broken promises be the nail in the coffin? His charismatic persona seems to be keeping him in the race if the polls are to be believed. However, Mr Meimarakis' campaign has a simple message: “Tsipras equals perpetual elections; Tsipras means instability, uncertainty". Young Greeks especially are turning their backs on Syriza due to the broken promises. With controversial Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis long gone, however, perhaps Greeks can get behind Syriza's economic approach of implementing the bailout, but softening the edges of the fiscal retrenchment it requires.

Mr Meimarakis, who advocates "business friendly" policies, could be perceived as well placed to carry out privatisation. However, the New Democracy leader is little known outside of Greece, and Mr Tsipras has branded his party with the blame for the debt crisis in the first place. “It’s time to do away with the regime of the corruption, vested interests, [and] cronyism", the Syriza leader has said. 

So will it be the old or the new? No matter what kind of government is elected, economic reform and austerity is a certainty to unlock €86 billion from the EU over the next three years. “Timely implementation of reforms after the election is of course crucial, and time is limited,” Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem emphasised over the weekend.

Mr Meimarakis has stated that a coalition will be an inevitability given the state of the economy. “Greece needs a stable government […] No party, even one that can rule alone, can lift the weight of reforms by itself in parliament". However, in the final TV debate, Mr Tsipras ruled out a coalition, saying that such a government would be "unnatural". Tsipras may have little choice on the matter though, as the poll results suggest that this will be hard to avoid if neither parties secure a parliamentary majority.  

As Sunday's election draws near, it is clear only the results will show if the public is prepared to put their trust in Mr Tsipras again or if Syriza's time in power was Greece's fleeting experiment in radical left politics. 

 

Picture: ©TelesurTV

Annie Scanlan
Junior EU Parliamentary Analyst

Annie works for the EU team on the editorial side. She produces general political updates, manages data for the website, and maintains PeoplePoint.