Greek conservatives, under the banner of New Democracy, have narrowly won the country’s elections against SYRIZA, the radical leftists threatening to derail the country’s austerity programs, winning 29.7% versus SYRIZA’s 26.9%. PASOK, the former socialist ruling party who had originally signed on with the bailout/austerity deal was left with only 12.3%, and the neo-nazi Golden Dawn managed 6.9 percent. Since, like the last (failed) round, no party won a majority, coalition talks will now begin. Markets were relieved, with both the Euro and Asian markets rallying since the news hit, but that enthusiasm was short lived as markets crashed again by this morning, with Spanish debt again hitting record interest rates.
Guardian Live Coverage – Results and Coalition Talks
This result isn’t entirely surprising, given what Greece has been through since it began to look possible that Syriza would take power and turn it’s back on the austerity programs which had been destroying the country. With threats that even food and electricity would be cut off, a very clear message was sent to the Greek people. Greece was ‘pushed to the brink’ as investors pulled their money out an watched the economy crumble.
This is an old tactic in times when radical shifts at the polls threaten the agendas of the rich and powerful – often known as “making the economy scream” – a nod to the secret order given by Nixon to destroy Chile’s economy after electing Salvatore Allende (eventually leading to the Pinochet regime). Since then, the phrase has since become popular with everybody from Noam Chomsky to Canadian punk legends Propagandhi in reference to cases like Argentina where economic warfare has been used to encourage populations to “vote responsibly”.
This weekend also saw two other major elections. French Socialists, under Hollande, won a solid majority in parliament, pledging to turn back austerity plans. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood won a second round of elections yesterday, a victory which was overshadowed by constitutional changes announced by the incumbent military regime, retaining control over most of the government and enraging the populace.
All three of these elections had very different outcomes, but in the end all reflected the same sad truths about “democracy”. First, that voters are not in control, and at best have enough input to derail the plans of those in power. Second, that those in power can mount reprisals if they do, economically or militarily. And third, that a nation’s choices are limited more by their standing in the world order than any other factor. At the end of the day, even after two of the best-known protest movements on earth last year, both Greece and Egypt were seriously hampered in their ability to choose governments, with only wealthy, western France really having the option to elect a “radical” government.
Of course, none of these struggles are over. Greeks and Egyptians will be back on the streets within days if not a week or so, as will others from Montreal to Moscow. The European economy will continue to come apart at the seams, the bailouts will continue and austerity measures will keep coming. These elections, like most, were distractions, with the main event still yet to come.