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Politics

Spin Cycle: Greece’s EU Parliament Winners, Losers Give Their Takes

ATHENS – After the established parties in Greece were surprised by far-right marginal parties that made big gains in European Parliament elections, the mainstream leaders all said they were winners in one sense or another.

The ruling New Democracy got 28.31 percent, below the 33 percent threshold set by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and far below the near 41 percent he won in 2023 in routing the major rival SYRIZA for a second straight time nationally.

In the EU elections, SYRIZA – now under the leadership of Greek-American businessman Stefanos Kasselakis – got 14.92 percent, right around the 15 percent he said he was expecting to get.

That gave the Leftists four seats compared to New Democracy’s seven among the 21 that Greece has in the Parliament that will have 720 members representing the 27 member states in a body that has relatively little power.

The socialist PASOK, which has been jockeying with SYRIZA for second, finished third with 12.79 percent and got three seats but the most startling results were for the far-right, which mirrored their rise across the EU.

Announcement of the results of the European elections at the offices of SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance, Sunday June 9, 2024.(TATIANA BOLARI/EUROKINISSI)

The religious nationalist Niky (Victory) party, the Course for Freedom, and the Voice of Reason each won one seat, with 4.37 percent, 3.4 percent and 3.04 percent, just above the 3 percent benchmark needed.

After the results were in, the spinning began as the major parties tried to explain why they felt there were all winners. “The alibi of the 41 percent is over,” Kasselakis said in reference to New Democracy’s showing compared to the 2023 national polls.

He said he would be undeterred in pushing the Leftists alternative to New Democracy after he had sniped at Mitsotakis over a phone bugging scandal and alleged a coverup of a deadly 2023 train accident.

“We are a party that has been through a lot after the double painful defeat last year. We went through two splits until we reached the only European ballot which was chosen by society itself. And that is why all friends and all members of SYRIZA should be very proud of themselves,” he said.

WINNING FOR LOSING

“This is the first step. The first step for a party that develops and changes, and a new person, unknown in this country, who came here, stands before you and is able to bring progress, change and meritocracy to our country,” he noted.

He said Greek voters – at least the almost 15 percent who supported him – gave him time to build on his opposition plans to the Conservatives although he has struggled to expand the faded popularity of the party.

“I know and fully realize the importance of this responsibility, and this is exactly what I will do, as we said before the election. We continue, we modernize, we will set up cradles of knowledge and offer and we will inspire the world. And this movement, which despite the adverse conditions showed resilience, can only go up from here on. And I am very proud of each and every one of you,” he said.

Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis referred to a “Pyrrhic victory,” for New Democracy but said the total votes for SYRIZA and PASK weren’t close to contesting the Conservatives regime.

“We do not have a reversal of the political scene,” but a strong message to the government from its own voters, he said, with Mitsotakis acknowledging that he’ll have to listen to the voters more now.

Minister of State Akis Skertesos said despite a near 60 percent abstention by voters – the election came on a hot perfect beach Sunday – that the results reiterated the dominance of New Democracy, now in its second term.

“There does not appear to be any change in the political scene, the political correlations. Even at lower percentages, there is still confidence in the prime minister, in New Democracy, there is a large gap relative to the second party of the order of 13.5 points,” he said of the margin.

He said virtually all the political parties received fewer votes in comparison with the general elections of 2023, with the exception of the nationalist Greek Solution, which doubled its vote, benefitting from the extremist Spartiates being banned.

A FAR RIGHT HOOK

“A significant portion of ND voters … judged that there was nothing important or crucial at stake as regards the governability of the country,” New Democracy riding an accelerating economy that hasn’t helped many households hurt by high prices.

He noted that Mitsotakis had made some tough decisions, including getting gay marriage approved, irritating traditionalists and seeing a big rise for Greek Solution and far-right opponents of the Conservatives.

He noted that ND received roughly 740,000 votes fewer than in the European elections of 2019 and one million fewer than in the general elections of 2023, “which do not appear to have gone to any other party”.

He acknowledged that high prices at the supermarket and the Tempi train tragedy that has seen a largely secret investigation blaming no one in the government for anything had been costly to the party and”should have been spoken about more.”

PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis said his party did okay but wished he’d gotten more votes and said that, “The unprecedented abstention and the rise of the far right are the two strong messages of the elections.”

“I will in no way accept such a very negative development, and that is why I will fight for politics to provide solutions, fascinate and not cause disgust or new impasses,” he stated.

He added: “At the same time, there is a strong shift to the far right and irrationality, which should concern us. Especially the government, which nurtured them by systematically undermining the rule of law, respect for human rights and trust in justice.”

He too said that New Democracy suffered “a heavy defeat, losing 14 points from the threshold of the national elections and 5 from that of the European elections. The contempt showing for major and open social problems such as the housing crisis, the National Health System, the cost of living, was condemned. Arrogance, indecency and corruption were punished.”

He said that, “It  is our duty to continue with dynamism the serious, reliable opposition in order to finally open the way for a progressive governance,” even though since taking over he has been unable to lift PASOK’s standing much.

“I will therefore take all the necessary political initiatives for dialogue with the creative but, above of all, real progressive forces of society. Our priority is to formulate the alternative proposal for the governance of the country before the next national elections.”

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