On July 7, 2019, Greece held a new parliamentary election. The official final statistics show that the opposition New Democratic Party (NP) won 39.7% of the votes and won the election, while the current ruling party of the current Prime Minister Tsipras, Syriza, obtained 31.6% of the votes.  The New Democratic Party won 158 of the 300 seats in Parliament, more than half. According to the results of this election, some commentators believe that this means that Greece has returned to mainstream politics and the people have chosen to give up populism. This article takes the historical tradition of Greek party politics as the starting point, summarizes its characteristics, and then analyzes the changes and causes of Greek party politics in detail, and makes an outlook on the development of Greek party politics.
Greek Party Politics: From Popular Politics to Elite Politics
Ancient Greek democratic thought rejected a society where rulers and ruled existed, and believed that an ideal city-state should be the active participation of all citizens in social and political life. Pericles once said in his speech: “Our political system is called a democratic political system because the government is in the hands of the citizens of the country, not in the hands of a few.” Aristotle also mentioned At this point, the essential feature of Athens’s civilian politics is that “the civilian population must have the highest power, and political affairs are determined by the will of most people, and the will of most people is justice.” At that time, Athens was a model of the democratic states of the Greek city-states, and its democratic republic was undoubtedly a great creation and had a profound impact on future generations.
Unfortunately, Greece has been ruled by the Ottoman Empire for four centuries since the 15th century, and its history or history of democratic development has thus been isolated from western civilization and democratic development. In these 4 centuries, Greece missed major historical events such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution, until the War of Independence broke out in 1821. At the beginning of 1822, Greece passed the first constitution, which marked the official establishment of Greece as a modern country. However, the Greek government at that time did not stabilize in an environment of internal and external problems. On the one hand, no great power recognized Greek independence; on the other hand, due to the Ottoman interference and suppression, internal wars in Greece continued. In October 1827, the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the war against Britain, France, and Russia, and the Greek state was established. Greece officially established the country in 1828 and was recognized by the great powers. However, after the assassination of the first president, the country fell into chaos again until the kingdom was announced in 1832.
On July 7, 2019, Greece held a new parliamentary election. Mizotakis-led New Democrats won 39.7 percent of the vote, won elections, and won 158 of the 300 seats in parliament, more than half. The picture shows the new parliamentarians attending the inauguration ceremony in Athens, Greece, on July 17.
The monarchy of the Kingdom of Greece continued until the end of World War I. In 1924, the Second Republic of Greece was announced, and it could not escape the impact of the Great Depression after a brief economic boom. Greece repealed the republic in 1935 and returned to the monarchy. Since then, Greece has experienced World War II and a military coup in 1967. Until the end of the military dictatorship in 1974, Greek democracy entered a stable development track.
However, after the end of military dictatorship in 1974 and the restoration of democratic republicanism, influenced by the prevailing western democratic thoughts and systems at that time, Greek democratic politics did not fully follow the popular political tradition emphasized by ancient Greece, but moved towards elite politics. The main feature of Greek politics is that the New Democracy Party and the Pan-Hellenic Social Movement Party take turns in power. Laying this political pattern are two important political figures-Constantine Karamanlis, the founder of the New Democratic Party, and Andre Papandreou, the founder of the Pan-Hellenic Social Movement Party. Summarizing the characteristics embodied in the two people, we can systematically sort out the context of the development of the two-party system in Greece.
First, both parties were founded in 1974 and benefited from their strong political capital. As early as 1955 during the Kingdom of Greece, Konstantin Karamanlis, 48, was appointed Prime Minister until 1963, after which he formed the New Democracy Party and served as Prime Minister in 1974 until 1980, and later in He served as Greek President twice from 1980-1985 and 1990-1995. Before the creation of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement Party, Andrei Papandreou’s political capital was more derived from his father, who himself served as Prime Minister from 1981-1989 and 1993-1996. After the establishment of the two parties, successive Greek Prime Ministers came from the two parties or had inextricable links with the two. Between 1974 and 2015, except for the emergence of a few short-term independent party prime ministers, other times the prime minister’s position was dominated by the two major parties and took turns in power. The center-right New Democracy Party belongs to the traditional Liberal Conservative Party and advocates Atlanticism; the center-left Pan-Hellenic Social Movement Party advocates independent national development, independence of national sovereignty, and democratization and socialization of public life. Although the two parties exist as each other’s political opponents most of the time, this situation is not absolute. For example, when Caramanlis became president in 1981, Papandreou became prime minister; in 2012 parliamentary elections Later, the two parties also formed a coalition government.
Second, the two left important political and ideological heritage for their respective political parties and developed into the main guidelines for their respective political parties. During Karamanlis’s administration and as the head of the New Democratic Party, a series of policies introduced have far-reaching effects, mainly including four aspects: First, the removal of military personnel to intervene. A new constitution was promulgated in June 1975, making Greece a parliamentary republic. The legislative power belongs to the President and the Parliament, and the executive power belongs to the President and the Prime Minister. The second is to integrate into Europe and promote Greece’s accession to the European Community (hereinafter referred to as the “European Community”). Joining the European Community is the cornerstone of Karamanlis’ foreign policy. He believes that Greece’s accession to the European Union is an important guarantee for getting rid of poverty, moving towards prosperity, and consolidating democratic institutions. He is also a staunch supporter of European integration, arguing that “the future of Europe lies in its unity, and the future of Greece lies in a united Europe.” Pushed by Karamanlis, Greece officially joined the European Community in 1979. The third is to approach the United States to seek security guarantees and to push Greece back to NATO. Greece is located at the junction of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and is an indispensable barrier for NATO and southern Europe. Karamanlis’ foreign policy is that while stressing independence and independence, it advocates relying on NATO, uniting Western Europe, Xiu and Turkey, and stabilizing the Balkans. The fourth is to promote the development of a market economy, emphasizing privatization and improving administrative efficiency, encouraging foreign investment to solve the difficulties of domestic economic development and improve people’s livelihood.
There are contradictions and conflicts between the two parties’ governance ideas, but they are generally gentle. On foreign policy, Papandreou opposes pro-western policies. In the 1970s, he noticed that the youth of Greece turned from right to left, so he proposed to withdraw from NATO, not to join the European Community, revoke the US and NATO military bases in Greece, and implement a tough policy on Turkey. In terms of domestic policies, Papandreou advocates the development of production through the socialization of large and medium-sized enterprises, and proposes to implement the nationalization of industry, finance, banking, and insurance to develop the economy, implement educational reforms, and expand the social service industry. The policy framework of the Pan-Greek Social Movement Party is centered and left to win the support of the majority of voters. However, after gaining ruling status in the 1980s, Papandreou stated in his foreign policy that he would not introduce Greece into political adventures, would not take unilateral action with NATO, and was willing to discuss military bases with the United States. On the issue of European integration, Greece does not intend to withdraw from the European Community and seeks that Greece enjoy a special status within the European Community.
Third, factional relations are clear and intergenerational connections are close. The history of the development of Greek party politics after 1974 is to some extent the history of the development of elite families. For example, Andrei Papandreou inherited his father’s business, inherited the political heritage of George Papandreou and became the prime minister for a long time; Costas Karamanlis, as the nephew of Constantin Karamanlis, in 2004 The annual election led the New Democratic Party to victory as prime minister, and also continued the relationship of political succession. The relatively close factional relationship is helpful to maintain the continuity of Greek policy, and also helps the outside world to clearly determine the development direction of Greek government policy. When Costas Karamanlis came to power, he inherited the New Democratic Party’s program very well, insisted on a free market economy, implemented denationalization, and promoted structural reforms. On the diplomatic side, he was committed to enhancing the cohesion and influence of the EU and promoting the EU Federalize and strengthen EU institutions and develop close cooperative relations with the United States. In the Greek election in July 2019, the elected Prime Minister Kiriakos Mizotakis is also a typical father-in-law. His father, Constantine Mizotakis, was elected Chairman of the New Democratic Party in 1984 and Prime Minister in 1990. Konstantin Mizotakis’s Venezelos also came from a political family. He was the Prime Minister three times and served as the Coordination Minister in the government of Constantine Karamannes. Constantine Mizotakis also inherited the development plan of the New Democracy Party well during his administration, negated the nationalization and socialization policies of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party, vigorously promoted privatization, reduced fiscal deficits and tightened, Integration into Europe and close cooperation with the United States.
Fourth, the two parties are not biased and actively attract the centrists. To some extent, both parties have the color of middle factions. First, both parties closely follow the development trend of mainstream European politics. Although their political positions are divided, they are more consistent on the major political direction issues, but in different ways and methods, such as integrating the European Union and the United States and improving the business environment. The positions are similar. The second is to actively fight for new middle forces and middle voters. For example, since its establishment, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement Party has been relying on workers, peasants, small business owners, craftsmen, wage laborers, intellectuals, and young people to survive. Driven by the new technological revolution, the wave of globalization, and the process of European integration, the continuous shrinking of the workers in traditional industries and the rapid expansion of the new middle class have obviously weakened the social foundation on which the Pan-Hellenic Social Movement Party has been dependent for more than two decades. So the party actively adjusted and expanded its tentacles to the “middle” as much as possible in order to win the majority of middle-class voters. And the chairman of the New Democratic Party, Constantine Karamanlis, “shifted left” the party’s political line at different times in a timely manner, proclaiming the party as a middle-class party.
Economic crisis reshapes Greek party politics
Elite politics has long occupied the mainstream of party politics in modern Greek history, but this does not mean that mass politics has completely disappeared from Greek party politics. Instead, it has returned with special political, economic and social changes. Traditional memories come into play.
After 2008, changes in the domestic and international situation have brought a greater impact on the political ecology of Greek parties, and the public opinion foundation of the original two-party governance has also changed fundamentally. The outbreak of the Greek debt crisis in 2008 led to a marked increase in people’s doubts about Europeanism and anti-elitism. The traditional two parties lost their foundations of governance, repeatedly failed to form cabinets during the crisis, and party politics fell into disorder. The radical left alliance put forward populist slogans such as anti-Europe, anti-austerity, anti-establishment and anti-eliteism, which won public support, and finally changed the situation of moderate left and right governing Greece for a long time.
I. Doubt Europeanism rewrites the public opinion basis of Greek party politics
The global financial crisis in 2008 profoundly affected the preferences of Greek voters, which in turn had a profound impact on party politics. Suspicious Europeanism rose rapidly in Greece.
The financial crisis had a severe impact on the Greek economy, Greece’s credit rating was downgraded and the country entered a deep recession. Along with high unemployment and high deficits, in order to avoid bankruptcy, Greece accepted a series of international bailouts. The cost of receiving bailouts was strict austerity policies, and international institutions including the European Union began to interfere in the Greek economy. The austerity policy has hurt the people, with unemployment soaring, wages and retirements falling significantly, and taxes increasing. The unemployment rate in Greece was 7.76% in 2008, but by 2014 it was 26.49%. The unemployment rate among youths under 25 was close to 60%. The financial crisis forced the country to reduce the statutory minimum wage, and civil servants who have not been unemployed since 2012 must cut their wages by 25%. Wage cuts are not limited to the public sector. The minimum legal wage in the private sector has also been reduced by 22% (from 740 to 580 euros) and the minimum legal wage for workers under 25 has been reduced by 32% (to 512 euros) . The elderly are another victim group. Since 2010, pensions have been significantly reduced, and some even exceeded 60%. The increase in various taxes has also seriously harmed the interests of the people.
These changes have affected the perception of Greeks about the EU and domestic governing elites. Since 2009, Greece’s negative views on the EU have increased sharply, exceeding the average of EU countries. At the height of the crisis in 2013, nearly half of Greek respondents had a negative impression of the EU, compared with an average of 28% for the entire EU. The EU ’s deep intervention in the economic policies of the heavily indebted countries means that the reforms it advocates are linked to the economic pain and loss of sovereignty of the heavily indebted countries. During the sovereign debt crisis, Greece was precisely the frontline country of the refugee crisis. Greek people believe that the EU lacks effective measures to deal with the refugee crisis. In the autumn of 2015, as many as 81% of Greeks expressed dissatisfaction with the European Union, which was about 26 percentage points higher than the average level of EU member states.
In this context, the pro-European policies of the two major mainstream parties have been challenged, which has adversely affected their ruling status, and supporting the EU’s austerity policies has even touched the specific interests of the people. Anti-European or suspected European forces, such as the Radical Left Alliance and the Golden Dawn Party, have used the public’s appeal to build up their strength and have proposed a series of anti-austerity and anti-EU ideas, and their support rates have rapidly increased.
2. The crisis has rapidly reduced public trust in the governing elite
The ongoing crisis has made the political elites of the two parties in power skeptical, and people’s suspicions about the Greek government and its political system have intensified. The government’s poor management of its own economy has increased government debt at a rate much faster than that of all other countries in the euro zone, even though public debt has exceeded 100% of GDP. Before the 1990s, although Greece had a high debt, 80% of Greek bonds were held by investors in the domestic market and were less affected by interest rate fluctuations. After Greece joined the Eurozone, international investors were attracted by the more stable unified currency, the Euro, and capital began to shift from Western European countries to Greece and other southern European economies. The Greek government (the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party and later the New Democratic Party government) used the favorable market conditions after joining the EU to borrow from international markets to offset fiscal deficits and maintain elite politics. Debt here means public debt in Greece, not private debt. From 2001 to 2004, Greece’s private debt as a percentage of GDP ranked second to last among the OECD countries, and by 2011, it still ranked fourth to last. Therefore, when the government uses fiscal austerity measures that affect people’s livelihood to solve a problem that appears to be caused by its corruption or improper decision-making, the Greek people think they have been deceived by the ruling elite. In their eyes, the government must Responsible for the debt crisis.
Third, the political failure of political parties caused by the crisis
With the rise of Doubtful Europeanism, mainstream political parties are unable to cope with changes in public opinion, which directly leads to the failure of party politics in frequent advance elections, general elections, and personnel adjustments, which cannot lead Greece out of the crisis.
Since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008, Greek politics has begun to fall into turmoil and chaos, and the political system in which the two parties took turns in power has begun to fail. During the period from 2009 to the victory of the Radical Left Alliance in 2015, Greece held 4 advance elections in 2009, May and June 2012, and 2015. The three governments were replaced. The New Democratic Party ’s George Papandreou government, the Papadimos transitional government, and the New Democratic Party ’s Samaras led a three-party coalition government. During this period, three prime ministers were also replaced: George Papandreou, Papa Partimes, Samaras.
During the crisis, Greece formed a transitional government to respond to the crisis. At the EU summit held on October 27, 2011, then-president George Papandreou proposed to hold a referendum on EU bailout, which aroused strong opposition from all sides. In November of the same year, under the strong pressure of EU countries, Papandreou resigned, and the parties such as the Pan-Hellenic Social Movement Party and the opposition New Democracy Party formed a joint transitional government. The Prime Minister of the United Transitional Government, Papademos, officially announced the dissolution of parliament on April 11, 2012, and held general elections on May 6. The May 6 election was a test of the failure of the party system. In this election, a total of 7 political parties entered the parliament, the New Democratic Party won 108 seats, the radical left alliance won 52 seats, and the Pan-Hellenic Social Movement Party won 41 seats. Small parties with more than 3% of votes (the minimum threshold to enter parliament) also include the Independent Greek Party, the Democratic Left, the Golden Dawn Party, and the Greek Communist Party. No party has gained a majority in this election. From the perspective of the cabinet formation negotiations, the New Democratic Party, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party and the Democratic Left Party advocated renegotiating individual provisions in the two rounds of the rescue agreement and gradually terminating the rescue agreement. The radical left and the Independent Greek Party opposed the rescue agreement. Due to the failure of the first three major political parties to form a cabinet, President Papoulias subsequently made a final cabinet effort, which was also unsuccessful, and decided to hold another general election on June 17, 2012. Early elections due to the failure of the cabinet formation are rare under the parliamentary system.
On January 25, 2015, Greece held a new round of elections. The radical left coalition that insisted on anti-austerity and anti-institutionalism won as the largest party. It formed a coalition government with the right-wing independent Greek party group. The radical left-wing coalition led by Tsipras was established in 2004. The left-wing and ultra-left-wing coalitions are formed by several left-wing groups closely related to the Greek Communist Party, including the Marxist Party, the Maoist Party, and the Green Party. The election results marked the break of the traditional bipartisan rotation pattern, the support of the New Democratic Party fell, and the Pan-Greek Social Movement Party became a marginal party.
Political pattern of Greek parties after the 2019 election
There are many reasons why the New Democrats won in the 2019 election, or the victory of the populist political forces was largely because populism, European doubt and anti-institutionalism generated during the financial crisis became the mainstream direction of public opinion, but in Greece When the economy is gradually out of the crisis and basically facing the good, people hope for a stable and rational development environment. The measures proposed by the New Democracy Party to reduce taxes, attract external investment, increase employment, and reform the bureaucracy have largely met the demands of the Greek people in the post-austerity era. The two-sided policy adopted by the radical left coalition during its administration-insisting on anti-austerity, failed to deliver the trust of the people. In addition, the government led by Tsipras has been mixed in resolving disputes with Macedonia, and has not given the ruling party a substantial score. After the New Democratic Party wins the election, the two parties in turn may return to normality, but it does not rule out new situations.
First, changes in the internal and external situation have promoted the development of Greek populism toward a low tide. From the domestic situation, the recovery and growth of the Greek economy and the end of the rescue have helped cultivate a good political ecological environment. A stable domestic economic situation will help alleviate populist sentiment, promote further stabilization and normalization of the political ecology, and bring new ground for the development of the bipartisan system. The external situation also shows a favorable trend, especially the elections of the European Parliament can be regarded as a vane. Judging from the general pattern laid out by the European Parliament elections in 2019, populist and radical parties have not replaced the ruling status of traditional parties. Traditional parties have consolidated their positions, and the green parties and Liberal Democrats of the centrists have greatly improved. Poor votes in the Greek parliamentary elections by the Greek left-wing coalition are not rare, and they reflect the appeal of Europe as a whole. To a certain extent, Europeans have shown some vigilance against populist parties’ commitments that are more promised but less fulfilled, and the call for normalization rather than radicalization is growing.
Second, it is too early to conclude that Greek populism is withdrawing from the stage of history. Judging whether populism will eventually exit the stage of history also depends on the future development of Greece. Greece is the last euro zone country to bid farewell to European financial aid after the sovereign debt crisis, and has begun a long road to economic recovery. Continuous austerity policies have severely affected the national economy, the unemployment rate remains high, has been maintained above 20%, and economic growth has been sluggish. For a long period of time, the abnormal development model of internal austerity and external assistance, external investment and privatization cannot be reversed in a short time.In 2018, Greece ’s GDP growth rate was only 1.37%, and household income was reduced by three points For one, hundreds of thousands of people are underpaid. Greece has implemented credit control since 2015, and its financing capacity in the market is still unknown.
After winning the New Democracy Party, the NDP also frankly stated that the dangers and challenges remain daunting: the two current challenges are whether Greece has sufficient fiscal space to promote stable economic growth and create jobs after the EU ’s rescue plan has ceased on August 22, 2019. Relieve the people’s grievances; In January 2020, the unpopular pension reform will officially take effect. Greek political parties will continue to demand the public to sacrifice their own interests. In this regard, how the public will react will be a question that the ruling party will have to consider. In addition, Greek debt is still too high, and it is difficult to guarantee sufficient funds from international markets. Once the new government fails to deal with the above problems, it may create a chance for populism to rise again.
Third, the possibility of Greek left-wing forces regaining governing status through further integration and policy adjustments remains. Currently, left-wing forces are showing signs of a general decline in Europe, as are Greek left-wing forces. The defeat to the left-wing alliance has been a big blow, but it still has some influence in parliament. In order to maintain its influence, the left may integrate with the radical left alliance and challenge the right government. In Greece, populist parties still have the soil to govern, mainly due to strong popular political traditions and Greece’s fragile economic foundation. Regarding how to promote sustainable economic development, no faction has any innovative ideas. Although the radical left alliance lost in the general election, it still gained a support rate of 31.6%, only 8 percentage points lower than the New Democratic Party. It is still possible for the radical left-wing coalition to further “depopulize”, rationally propose solutions to the crisis, strengthen cooperation with the Central Left Pan-Greek Socialist Movement Party, etc., to improve the public opinion support rate, and thus obtain opportunities for governance.
In the Greek party politics, the tradition of the two parties taking turns in power has long existed. The left and right wing have their own stages in the Greek political arena. Your appearance on the stage has distinct characteristics of western democratic institutions. Although the elite politics of Greece blended the characteristics of modern western democratic politics, it was actually developed in the soil of ancient Greece advocating popular politics, and was therefore deeply affected by this tradition. Therefore, it is not surprising that after populist politics emerged from the debt crisis, Greek populist parties rose to power through elections. As the crisis came to an end, Greece’s economic and social environment gradually returned to normal, and the soil on which popular politics and populism depended changed. The Greek party politics that came out of the crisis once again turned to more mature elite politics. As a result, Greece has become one of the earliest populist countries in the Western world to step down.
In both history and the present, traditional and realistic factors interact with each other, have played a long-term role in Greek politics, and have become an important perspective for judging the political direction of Greek parties. Both popular and elite politics, left and right, have long existed in the development of Greek party politics, coexisting and coexisting in different historical stages, and each other’s strengths have gained opportunities to govern according to the fluctuations of public opinion. As the earliest democratic country in the West, Greece still plays an important role in the development of democratic systems and trends of thought in the world today.