Op/ED – Who can challenge Alexis Tsipras?

Op/ED – Who can challenge Alexis Tsipras?

Athens, August 26, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

The resignation of the government of Alexis Tsipras and the call for early elections in September, along with the departure of 29 MPs from the 149 of SYRIZA, form a complex political reality in Greece.

The popularity of Alexis Tsipras remains very high, despite the fact that to everyone’s agreement his policy led Greece to a new onerous memorandum. This time around, the election will not take place in the midst of ideological and political confrontations, except perhaps the newly founded “Popular Unity” of Panagiotis Lafazanis, but rather the battle will be won by the most popular leader. And this is none other than Alexis Tsipras. The Greeks are in need of a leader, and at the moment that leader seems to be Alexis Tsipras.

He who persuaded the Greeks that he tried his best and did not fool them. No matter how hard the opposition forces try to convince the public that Tsipras is responsible for the memorandum, the people’s belief is that he is the only one not responsible. The leader of SYRIZA, has another advantage, which is important for a large portion of the people; he is “clean”. He does not carry the weights of the past, he does not owe anything to anybody and he is not tied down to interests. Something for which all other political leaders have failed to persuade the people. Even his charismatic personality, his young age, the smile and optimism he emits, make him a favourite in many social groups.

Finally, the U-turn after the referendum might have deprived him of the part of the left wing – in fact this is the reason he goes to elections – but, at the same time, it has opened a very wide “door” to a very large part of the centrist, if not the right-wing voters, who have found in him a new leadership.

The opponents of Alexis Tsipras should take all the above very seriously if they want to have any hope of “usurping” the outgoing prime minister. But the “talents” of Alexis Tsipras are not their only problems. All parties carry “weights” that bar them from reaching out to the people and their vote.

Let’s have a look at them one by one.

New Democracy

It has been less than eight months since New Democracy’s crushing defeat by SYRIZA on January 25, 2015. At the leadership of the party is now Vangelis Meimarakis, as the oldest MP, following the resignation of Antonis Samaras, after the victory of SYRIZA’s proposal in the referendum of July, 2015 with 62%. Antonis Samaras, who had taken a clear position in favor of “YES”, was charged with the defeat and was forced to resign from the leadership of the party.

As such, the main opposition party will go to elections with a president who has not been elected from the base of the party. Aspiring contenders for the leadership of the party – and there are many of those – do not eye favorably a possible success of Vangelis Meimarakis, which would give him the right to claim the leadership of the party. Contenders for the leadership are not willing to let the opportunity go to waste, in a very fluid political landscape.

However, it is not just aspiring leaders that will work, at least underground, for the failure of Vangelis Meimarakis. The current president of the party is inextricably linked to the past and can’t inspire the voters, not even those of a shrunken party, not to mention other voters.

What’s more, the policy of Antonis Samaras has not yet faded from the memory of the Greeks. Bearing these in mind, can ND confront Alexis Tsipras? It looks unlikely if not impossible.

Golden Dawn

The criminalisation of the acts of leading members of the Golden Dawn and their being remanded in prison for a long time, makes capturing the intent of the voters towards the far-right party difficult. In the elections from 2012 onwards there is slight downward trend, with the exception of 9.4% in the elections of 2014, with Golden Dawn ranging from 6.9 to 6.28%, which was its rate in January 2015.

A dramatic increase in its rates seems more like science fiction than to reality. Besides, the style, the presence and the low level of its MPs does not leave room for hope for something better than the rates it got in the last election. One can’t however ignore the reactions of voters after the agreement of the Syriza government with the institutions.

The River

The party of Stavros Theodorakis, founded in February 2014, was elected as fourth power in the House with a rate of over 6%. The ambiguity, however, of the political position of the party and the passing of its founder and leader of the party from PASOK and systemic television station MEGA makes voters skeptical both against him and his party.

The River has failed to convince voters, although its presence in the House can be described as positive. As a negative point could be indentified the conceit of Stavros Theodorakis and the pressure he exerted indirectly to participate in the government coalition.

Greek Communist Party (KKE)

The Communist Party of Greece, stable in rates and rhetoric, has lost touch with the electorate and follows the logic of the total overthrow of the political system through Popular domination and isolation from the outside world, since it espouses a Democratic Republic of an outdated era. It would be surprising if it surpassed the rates it got in the last election.

Independent Greeks

The party of Panos Kammenos fully supported the choices of Alexis Tsipras. The coalition of a Left and a Right party, although seemingly unthinkable, resulted in a successful marriage for the eight-month governing of the country. During this time however, the ANEL despite demonstrating seriousness in their cooperation with SYRIZA, they lost their anti-memorandum rhetoric, which was the main reason for the approximately 5% they who got in the last election. The latest polls show the “fatigue” of the party, which may pay dearly the cooperation with SYRIZA and the signing of the 3rd Memorandum. The entrance of ANEL in the next House is doubtful, but if they succeed they will stand by Tsipras’ side, as was stated by the President of the party Panos Kammenos.

PASOK

The once-mighty PASOK, under the new leadership of Fofi Genimmata continues to show signs of decay, paying the choices of former prime minister and party president George Papandreou, who is the main responsible for putting Greece in aid program in the form of the first memorandum. The efforts to regroup through the formation of Elia-Democratic Formation, did not yield the expected results and so the party of 44% in 2009 managed to enter the House in 2015 with a meager 4.68%.

In the eyes of the voters PASOK remains a party linked to corruption, as several of its members and ministers have been indicted and jailed for corruption and bribery. The majority of PASOK’s old voters has found shelter in SYRIZA, while a smaller proportion in The River. If PASOK manages to get 3% in the upcoming elections it will be considered a success and could serve in a coalition government if SYRIZA fails to achieve a clear majority.

Popular Unity (LAE)

The party created by dissident SYRIZA MPs under Panagiotis Lafazanis, is the big question mark. The first MPs 25 who make up at this moment the parliamentary group of LAE, can’t be recorded as a percentage of the electorate, so it’s impossible to know the impact the Lafazanis’ party will have. Despite the fact that most of the MPs had received a large number of votes in the ballot of SYRIZA, it does necessarily mean that they will “carry” those votes to the new party.

With the main slogan “no” to the memorandum and with a rhetoric of a return to the national currency, the Popular Unity (the name is borrowed from the party of Allende) resonates more with the extra-parliamentary Left, rather than the electoral base in its whole. The 36% who voted for SYRIZA in 2015 does not reflect in this figure the contribution of the Left Platform founded that founded the Popular Unity.

The hard base of SYRIZA does not exceed 5% and if one considers that the Left Platform represents, as recorded in the last Congress of SYRIZA, 27% of that, then subsequently it cannot get more than 1.5% if we make the conversion. There is of course also the factor of the parties of the extra-parliamentary Left, which record an overall rate of close to 1.5%. But there is still no clear indication as to what parties such as ANTARSYA will do and if they will support Lafazanis’ effort.

If there is consensus among all left-wing parties they might able to get close to 3%, although it seems extremely difficult overcoming the differences separating these small leftist parties.

Objective difficulty for the new party is, moreover, the limited time it has available to organise complete ballots throughout Greece, which if not managed will complicate even more the already difficult task to be able to get into the House.

The surprises and the unpredictable

In the elections of January 2015, apart from the seven parties that made it to the House, there were also those parties, which to a greater or lesser percent failed to overcome the 3% threshold.

Movement of Socialists Democrats

The party of George Papandreou failed to pass the 3% threshold which would allow it to enter the House, receiving 2.47%. After the initiative of the current president of PASOK Fofi Genimata, in the last few days, discussions have started on the possibility of KIDISO cooperating with PASOK and other centrist forces, a scenario, however, which drew the ire of the former President of PASOK Evangelos Venizelos, who issued a tough statement against George Papandreou.

Union of Centrists

The party of Vasilis Leventis has been involved in the electoral procedure since 1992 and with the exception of the last election, it had failed to exceed 0.5%. In January elections it managed to raise its rates to 1.79% surpassing PASOK in Thessaloniki. A vote of protest or conscious choice? Most probably a vote of protest against the political system. Leventis’ hope of having a parliamentary presence will probably not be met as the polarisation will be very strong, shrinking smaller parties such as the Union of Centrists, but this is not absolutely certain in this case.

Teleia

“Teleia” was founded in 2014 by the famous Greek actor and mayor of Stylis Apostle Gletsos. With clear anti-memorandum orientation and the fight against corruption as its “flag”, Teleia managed to receive 1.77% in the first election it was involved in. In this case as well the vote was more of a protest vote than a conscious vote with an ideological background. The distance separating the party from the entering the House is too large to manage to have a parliamentary presence. But the question still remains how voters will express themselves after the turn of SYRIZA to memorandum policies.

LAOS

Finally, the party of Giorgos Karatzaferis failed to have a representation in the House, paying a heavy price for its participation in the coalition with PASOK and New Democracy. Its voters “leaked” to New Democracy, Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn. Their return to LAOS seems difficult after Karatzaferis’ involvement with an off shore company and undeclared income of several million euros.

The stakes of Alexis Tsipras are high, both for himself and for Greece. The option to resort to election is a cleanup, both in his own party, and the governance of Greece. Tsipras wants a clear majority government without leftist crowns and internal opposition. So far he has the upper hand. It remains to be seen during the electoral campaign if and how he will convince the disillusioned Greeks to back him.