Greek tragedy's not for turning
Greece's New Democracy Party has won more seats in the Greek parliament than any of their competitors in a watershed election on Greece's future in Europe, writes Callum Paton
Greece's centre right, pro-European party, the New Democracy Party has received 29.7 per cent of the popular vote and 129 seats in the country's parliament, narrowly beating the Syriza Socialist alliance (26.9 per cent and 71 seats). New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras will look to form a broad coalition to address Greece's crippling economic and social challenges.
The election is Greece's second parliamentary election in six weeks after previous elections failed to produce a viable government able to deal with the critical questions facing the Mediterranean Eurozone member.
Greece has been facing a debt crisis since 2010 leading to a series of international led bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. In 2010 an initial package worth 110 billion euros was injected into the Greek economy with a follow-up last year worth 130 billion euros. Austerity measures attached to the bailouts have been met in Greece with deep criticism. Viewed by many as socially damaging and imposed by an international troika without a democratic mandate, the country has been rocked over the past two years by social unrest directed against government cuts which far left parties have capitalised upon.
Greece's Syriza Party, a coalition of over 10 parties on the radical left and their charismatic leader Alexis Tspiras rose to popularity in Greece's May election. They articulate an anti-austerity and anti-bailout sentiment and argue that Greece should be permitted to negotiate its own position within the European Union. While this position was popular within unions and with Greeks who rely on public services, it was of great concern to European and international markets. Many in the European Union and beyond fear that a victory for the party would lead to Greece's forced exit from the euro with dire consequences for the Eurozone, the group of European nations that operate the euro currency, and the global economy.
New Democracy's victory has been welcomed by United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council all of whom stressed the need for Greece to remain within the euro and to now push ahead with planned reform.
The result can be seen as a step forward for Greece and Europe in their continued economic crisis. Some commentators, however, have pointed to New Democracy's failure to from a working coalition in the previous elections and to polling numbers showing that a majority of Greeks voted against parties that support austerity measures as signs for concern.
Alexis Tspiras, leader of the Syriza Party has promised to lead a strong and vocal opposition to the bailout in the coming months. The question uppermost in the minds of most Greeks is whether this is wishful thinking.