ATHENS – He was riding high on his motorcycle in 2015 when he was the finance chief for a SYRIZA government, compared to a Die-Hard era Bruce Willis and called a rock star but Greeks won’t have Yanis Varoufakis to kick around anymore.
The defiant far-leftist, ousted from SYRIZA when he refused to go along with them-Premier Alexis Tsipras’ surrender to the country’s lenders in imposing austerity to get a third bailout, of 86 billion euros ($92.22 billion) formed the MeRA25 party that won only 9 seats in Parliament before defections.
Now it has none.
Varoufakis’ tiny party got only 2.59 percent of the vote in the first round May 21 elections, short of the 3 percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament, blaming SYRIZA for refusing to collaborate on a campaign.
“Clearly, we have a lot of soul-searching to do – but only after the next election is over and done with and we have fought the good fight to make amends for … failure,” he said on the party’s website.
But he also hinted he’s not yet ready to ride off into the sunset or join a long line of forgotten fringe parties that faded away in Greece’s volatile and often fractured political landscape.
“MeRA25 lives to fight another day,” he said without clarifying whether that meant he would try again the next time general elections are held after failing to qualify for a second round on June 25.
The former ruling New Democracy, which stepped down for a caretaker government ahead of the next ballot, drubbed SYRIZA by a 2-1 margin in the first round and is heavily favored to retain single-party rule.
“Bruised by an election outcome at odds not only with all opinion polls (which predicted we would be gaining between 50% and 80% more votes than in 2019) but also with the enthusiasm we encountered everywhere we went (e.g., with the large crowds that came to our rallies), we are dusting ourselves off and readying to go out there to campaign once more,” he said. But when?
He said MeRA25 as well as SYRIZA and the PASOK-KINAL Movement for Change which finished third didn’t register with voters because of a blue wave of support for then-Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ rabid rightist stance.
That decision had resulted “in this unbelievable tsunami of conservatism,” the MeRA25 leader said, going so far as to compare it to the near-dictatorial policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, favored to win re-election.
Varoufakis noted how nothing dented Mitsotakis with the economy recovering and tourists coming in droves as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes: not a surveillance scandal nor a train wreck that killed 57, many college students.
“Like Erdogan, deploying cleverly a combination of ultra-nationalism, social conservatism, a pro-Big Business agenda, a network of patronage and huge doses of authoritarianism, Mitsotakis managed to reproduce his electoral and discursive hegemony,” said Varoufakis in the language that didn’t persuade voters.
“MeRA25 seems to have suffered because we tried to inspire our base with hard-hitting truths and a call to arms, rather than soothing narratives falsely claiming that we could costlessly turn things around for the many,” he said.
But he acknowledged that voters bought Mitsotakis’ vision of growth and looking ahead not back and that, “They are tired of bad news; they are tired of struggles, battles and war cries.”
He added: “This is the mountain MeRA25 must now climb: How to persuade bad-news-averse marginal voters to vote for us again without plying them with soothing lies,” hoping he’ll ride back in again, even if not on a motorcycle.