ATHENS – The second knockout of SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras by New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was such a beating that Greece’s Left fears it will also suffer the aftermath.
After being routed by the Conservatives in July, 2019 snap polls he called in the aftermath of reneging on anti-austerity vows – losing by 11 percent – this time Tsipras and his party lost more than 20 percent.
It was such a shock he went into retreat for a few days to contemplate what happened amid analysts adding punditry that saw it was an overwhelming defeat that could render SYRIZA politically irrelevant.
Tsipras said he would fight for a comeback in a second round on June 25 but admitted the loss in the May 21 first round – even though because of a change in electoral law his party brought while ruling that New Democracy couldn’t form a government – was a shock that called for regrouping.
Such was the margin of the New Democracy Blue Wave tsunami that it was felt right down to the third-place PASOK-KINAL Movement for Change center-left that performed better than in 2019 but got just 11.46 percent.
New Democracy had 40.79 percent of the vote to SYRIZA’s 20.07 and the reverberations were felt for the left right down to the tiny far-left MeRA25 of SYRIZA’s former finance chief Yanis Varoufakis, pushed out of Parliament.
“Tsipras, a former prime minister, admitted the results were ‘unexpectedly painful’ as he faced reporters in the wake of the vote,” noted Al Jazeera in a review of just how bad it was for SYRIZA and Greece’s Left.
Tsipras and PASOK-KINAL leader Nikos Androulakis, who had his phone bugged by the National Intelligence Service EYP and said there was an attempt made to install Predator spyware on it, flailed away at Mitsotakis to no avail.
They complained about the surveillance scandal and a train tragedy that killed 57 and was largely blamed on the government for failing to implement safety measures, and the high cost of food.
But voters heard Mitsotakis’ clarion call for recovery from the waning COVID-19 pandemic and an economic comeback his pro-business party was bringing, and the results showed they remembered SYRIZA’s anti-business reign and the pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions that were brought.
Of even less concern were constant allegations by human rights groups, activists, NGO,’s volunteers and major media about refugee pushbacks, including a New York Times piece with a video showing it.
“The victory of the right should be seen independently from the defeat of the left,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, Dean of the Political Science faculty at Panteion University in Athens.
The right’s strength is also not a “particularity” to Greece and is and is being seen across several other countries in Europe, the report noted, Varoufakis comparing it to Hungary’s authoritarian government.
Christopoulos said the woeful campaign of SYRIZA “failed to provide a comprehensive narrative which could convince people it could be an alternative to the right wing,” people preferring Mitsotakis and stability.
SYRIZA even appeared to hide its “own left identity”, according to Christopoulos – Tsipras even reached out to voters of the disbanded neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in what seemed a desperate reach.
“He lost the left, because he failed to speak to the left people,” Christopoulos said, pointing to the example of a fence being built along the land border with Turkey – which PASOK-KINAL supported, as did Greeks, the vote showed.
Mitsotakis campaigned heavily on his so-called “firm but fair” migration policy, repeatedly promising to extend the land border fence at Evros at any price – even if the European Commission refused to pay for it.
Christopoulos said Tsipras had no clear position on issues such as the fence, which led to voters deserting his party and what was especially surprising was the defection of young voters he thought he had in his pocket.
“What is happening in Greece is not only bad news for citizens, it’s bad news for the left in a country that has a strong traditional left presence,” Christopoulos said of the loss’ meaning going forward.
A university lecturer and a former SYRIZA member who requested anonymity and has since voted for Varoufakis’s MeRA25 agreed that SYRIZA’s message was unclear, the report added.
Voters have gone for what they perceive as the more “stable” option in New Democracy, she said, pointing out that SYRIZA campaign was undercut by gaffes such as a former minister saying taxes on free-lancers should be doubled.
Michael Bakas, a member of the left-wing Green and Purple alliance, said one of the reasons behind the success of New Democracy was that there “are no big flows of migrants” in voters’ eyes.
Giorgos Tekirdalis, who voted for Varoufakis’s party, said MeRA failed because of bad press. “It’s a party considered populist by the Greek media and has negative publicity,” he said. “Things are worse with migrants and freedom of press, but nothing of that is covered here in Greece.”
He said he doesn’t see much of a future for the left after the thunderous beating it took. “It seems there won’t be another left-wing government in Greece for some time,” he said about it.