Syriza’s Electoral Quagmire Reflects Its Crushing of Greeks’ Hopes

Greece’s general election handed a huge victory to the conservative New Democracy, as Syriza shed one-third of its support. With Alexis Tsipras’s party crushing any hope of an alternative to austerity, voters reached for right-wingers promising stability.

Aléxis Tsípras, leader of the Syriza party, speaks to party supporters ahead of the second round of the Greek parliamentary elections in Piraeus, Greece on May 31, 2023. (Nicolas Koutsokostas / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Opinion polls ahead of Greece’s election had generally credited the conservative New Democracy with a strong lead over main rival Syriza. Yet the scale of its success in the May 21 vote nonetheless came as a political shock. Except for the November 1974 elections, which came just four months after the fall of the colonels’ dictatorship, there had never been such a vast distance between the winner and the main opposition party. New Democracy secured a twenty-point advantage over Syriza, as Aléxis Tsípras’s party lost more than one-third of its 2019 electorate. There was also another unprecedented aspect of the result: not since 1974 had the total right-wing and far-right vote exceeded 50 percent, with the far right at over 10 percent — an all-time record — albeit spread over several lists.

New Democracy’s victory was not enough to win a parliamentary majority, and a new election has already been announced for June 25. This second vote will take place under an altered electoral system as the outgoing government reintroduced so-called “reinforced” proportional representation. This system is designed to ease the formation of parliamentary majorities by awarding a bonus of several dozen seats to the leading party. In this case, New Democracy looks all but certain to be able to form a majority.

*in 2023, the most important of these far-right lists is Niki (Victory) with 2.9 percent; in 2012, Golden Dawn won 7 percent (May) and 6.9 (June); in 2015, 6.3 percent; and in 2019, 2.9 percent.

Right-Wing Radicalization

The May 21 vote reflects an undeniable push to the right, which takes many forms. By breaking the symbolic 40 percent barrier, New Democracy has recaptured its position in the pre-2010 two-party system, in which it divided most votes with the social democratic Pasok. The far right has risen to unprecedented levels, for now only partially reflected in parliament due to its fragmentation. Following Golden Dawn’s exit from the political scene, this current underwent a profound ideological and political recomposition. Its dominant poles are no longer linked to the neofascist or neo-Nazi tradition, as Greek Solution and its newcomer rival Niki (“Victory”) are closer to alt-right movements.

In a sort of Greek-style Trumpism, they combine religious references, xenophobic nationalism, and an inclination toward conspiracy theories. Greek Solution’s success owes much to its much-televised charismatic leader Kyriakos Velopoulos, also known for his miracle cream against COVID-19 and for claiming to possess handwritten letters by Jesus Christ. Niki, a formation that had passed all but unnoticed before election night, relies on well-structured networks linked to fundamentalist sectors of the Orthodox Church.

Both parties are champions of religious-traditionalist values, expressed in terms of “culture war,” and of nationalist and xenophobic discourses opposing the recognition of the Republic of Northern Macedonia (following the Prespa Agreement) and promote an aggressive rhetoric toward Turkey and the Turkish minority living in Greece. They denounce domestic political elites and the European Union (EU) and hold them responsible for the disaster caused by the memorandums implemented by successive Greek governments. But the far right refuses to call for any kind of break with the EU (or exit from the euro), just proclaiming “Greece first” and cultivating nostalgia for its mythical past greatness.

The denunciation of “illegal immigration” is also an integral part of the new far right’s discourse, but unlike Golden Dawn, it does not occupy a central place, nor is it accompanied by street action — these formations are straightforward electoral machines. Indeed, their discourse on the subject hardly differs from the virulent anti-migrant rhetoric of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s New Democracy government — and the policy that comes with it, such as systematic illegal pushbacks of migrants.

With racism and xenophobia spreading, the post–Golden Dawn far right is above all tapping into the feelings of humiliation in a brutalized and impoverished society. Its strongholds are in Greek Macedonia, a region strongly polarized over recognition of the neighboring republic of the same name. In these constituencies, the two formations totaled above 10 percent. In eight counties, including the greater Thessaloniki area, their score varied between 12 and 15 percent. In these areas, New Democracy in fact lost ground (by two to three points, and up to six in the county of Pieria), while at the national level it rose by one point.

The Driving Forces Behind New Democracy’s Victory

The Right’s victory results from a combination of factors, three of which played a key role: the delayed effect of Syriza’s capitulation, the economic situation, and its effect on the electorate’s expectations.

After four years in power, New Democracy is reaping the full benefits of Greeks’ resignation to the absence of an alternative. Such resignation is not inevitable, but was methodically cultivated by Syriza following its capitulation to the Troika in summer 2015. The electorate ended up preferring a government fully assuming these policies to one saying “sorry, it wasn’t our choice, but we couldn’t do otherwise” while relentlessly implementing the harsh neoliberal policies prescribed by the July 2015 memorandum.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and leader of the New Democracy party speaks to supporters at the suburb of Peristeri, as part of his pre-electoral campaign, for the upcoming second round of elections of June 25, on May 29, 2023. (Aris Oikonomou / SOOC / SOOC via AFP) (Photo by ARIS OIKONOMOU/SOOC/AFP via Getty Images)

In other terms, when the hope once associated with the turbulent 2010–15 period vanishes, all that remains in the collective consciousness are the distressing memories of a violent downgrading of living conditions, the streets filled with shuttered storefronts, and a country left stigmatized and crushed. What emerges from such a disaster is a desire to turn the page, to repress this painful past and try to live as “normally” as possible. The accumulated resentment is now turned against those considered – quite rightly – to bear the main responsibility for the catastrophe, namely those who had committed themselves to fight and overturn it.

New Democracy surely also benefited from its incestuous connections with the media system, entirely controlled by a handful of oligarchs with close ties to the Greek state — a system which it generously supported with public funds. Its capacity to shape the “public conversation” and to delegitimize, or silence, dissonant voices shouldn’t be underestimated. But the essential reason for its success lies elsewhere: in the relative improvement in the economic situation in 2021–22 and the temporary relaxation of budgetary constraints within the EU due to the pandemic.

Thanks to the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing policy, money creation has exploded in the eurozone, and real interest rates had been negative for a whole period. Public spending increased, mainly to support business, but wage earners and other groups also benefited, albeit unevenly. Buoyed by the tourism industry, which has returned to its pre-pandemic levels, Greek growth rates recovered from the low of 2020 (-9 percent) to reach 8.4 percent in 2021 and 5.9 percent in 2022, among the eurozone’s highest.

Admittedly, the inflation that followed (close to 10 percent in 2022, over 20 percent for most food products and petrol, and over 140 percent for electricity), canceled out the effect of these measures, leading to rapidly rising interest rates, losses in purchasing power and the announcement of a gradual return to fiscal austerity. Unemployment has continued to fall, however, even if it remains double the European average (18 percent in 2019, 12.5 percent in 2022 versus an EU average of 6.2 percent), and the government has taken a number of measures to support household incomes through one-off benefits and “vouchers” to stimulate consumption.

Added to that, for the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector — much bigger in Greece than the European average — inflation has even had positive effects, by triggering an increase in demand. Moreover, for farmers (11.7 percent of the working population in 2021, compared with 1.5 percent in France), higher prices for agricultural products have boosted gross income.

As Marxist economist Costas Lapavitsas points out, “in the eyes of many, the Mitsotakis government seems to have stabilized the economic situation in a context of international turbulence.” Of course, not everyone has benefited equally. In 2002, according to a Bank of Greece report, corporate profits jumped by 38 percent, reaching an all-time high. This rise even reached a 72 percent average for the seventeen most profitable companies listed on the stock exchange.

Wages, meanwhile, stagnated (+0.3 percent) and remain the fifth lowest in the EU. At €780 a month, the minimum wage remains 11 percent below its 2012 level, a unique case in Europe. And while it has slightly fallen, the “poverty and social exclusion risk” affects 28 percent of the population (2022 figures), the third highest in the EU, with only Romania and Bulgaria doing worse.

All this has a clear impact on the expectations of large sectors of the electorate. An opinion poll this March revealed that 60 percent said they were “rather” (27 percent) or “very” dissatisfied (33 percent) with their economic situation, compared with just 12 percent “satisfied” and 3.5 percent “very satisfied” (24.5 percent “neither”). But among those close to New Democracy, only 27 percent were dissatisfied, compared with 37 percent “rather” or “very satisfied” (36 percent “neither”).

As for the future, 40 percent expect their situation to deteriorate, versus 20 percent who expect it to improve and 38 percent who expect it to remain stable. Among New Democracy sympathizers, the “optimists” number almost 40 percent and those expecting stability 47 percent. By comparison, these figures for Syriza supporters are 10 and 30 percent respectively, with 57 percent expecting their situation to deteriorate.

Even with expectations for the future collapsing, New Democracy profited from both the improved situation of the already well-off and a more diffuse feeling of stabilization. It has thus been able to consolidate its electoral base in middle-class and affluent constituencies (e.g., 46 percent in Athens-North, +0.2 since 2019) and in traditionally conservative regions (except in Northern Greece where it loses ground to the far right), while making significant progress in more working-class areas. In the Athens-West constituencies, it rose by almost 5 percent, and in the emblematic working-class belt of Piraeus it leapt from 30.2 to 37.4 percent.

Syriza’s Downfall

Yet the real key to understanding this election lies in the collapse of Syriza. Its electoral base had held up relatively well in 2019, when it succeeded in remobilizing an electorate around a “useful vote” reflex to counter the Right’s certain return to power. But in the hands of Tsípras and his party, this new mandate — to build an opposition to the Mitsotakis government — suffered a fate comparable to the Greek people’s “no” to the Troika in the July 2015 referendum.

In the four years following its 2019 defeat, Syriza led a toothless opposition, in line with the policies it pursued in power. It voted for 45 percent of the laws proposed by the Mitsotakis government, including some of the most emblematic bills, such as the one authorizing the sale at a symbolic price of the land of the former Ellinikon Airport to the oligarch Yiannis Latsis. Latsis’s project, in association with Qatari capital, is to build an “Athenian Riviera” of gigantic towers housing luxury apartments, casinos, and shopping malls. Syriza also supported vast arms contracts, worth almost €15 billion to date, which led to a doubling of the military budget between 2020 and 2022. Greece is now first-placed in NATO for defense spending relative to GDP, overtaking even the United States (3.9 versus 3.5 percent).

Syriza’s election campaign mirrored this rhetorical opposition. A pale imitation of the Pasok campaigns of the 1980s, which promised “change,” it began with a program of social measures designed to reconcile “realism” and “justice.” The proposals quickly proved to be inconsistent, such as the promise to “protect homes” threatened with repossession due to mortgage repayment difficulties. This is an important issue in Greece, since some three hundred thousand homes are potentially affected in what will undoubtedly be the largest operation ever carried out in Western Europe to transfer small-household property to investment funds.

These are vulture funds based abroad and domiciled in tax havens. In reality, Syriza’s proposal mainly guaranteed the profitability of these funds’ purchases of “nonperforming” mortgages, up to 50 percent of the face value of a security purchased at an average of 3 percent of its initial value. This is hardly surprising, given that it was the Syriza government that facilitated auction procedures and repossessions by transferring the settlement of disputes from the courtroom (where judges’ rulings and militant action usually allowed evictions to be postponed) to an electronic platform and by harshly repressing mobilizations to protect threatened homes.

With its “contract for change” ending in a whisper, Syriza quickly turned to seducing the “centrist electorate,” tempted by a vote for Pasok or even New Democracy. Now appearing as the champion of the “middle class,” whom he regretted having “unjustly overtaxed” when in power, Tsípras built most of his campaign around a double argument.

On the one hand, he proposed a “progressive government,” in essence a coalition with Pasok, without even alluding to a common programmatic base. Pasok immediately and categorically rejected the proposal, thus stripping it of all credibility. On the other hand, he appeared as the defender of the “rule of law” through the incessant denunciation of the phone-tapping scandal, of which Pasok leader Nikos Androulakis was a key target.

Although perfectly well-founded, these accusations have hardly shaken Mitsotakis, who simply admitted to having “made a mistake,” and even less so an electorate that has few illusions about such methods being standard practice. If they have served any purpose, these criticisms have essentially reinstated Pasok as a regulatory force within the bloc of mainstream parties.

As the ultimate repudiation of the ultimate remnant of left-wing references, Tsípras declared during the campaign that he now supported the maintenance of the militarized fence (a veritable anti-migrant “wall”) around the Evros river, along the Greek-Turkish border. This system enables the Greek authorities to carry out mass illegal deportations of migrants using vigilante methods. To top it all off, Syriza, which has already absorbed a substantial part of the former Pasok nomenclature, decided to include among its candidates people such as the Greek-American shipowner and former Goldman Sachs prodigy Stefanos Kasselakis and the former minister and spokesman for right-wing governments Evangelos Antonaros.

Syriza lost one-third of its 2019 electorate in this election, heading in all directions. According to exit polls, 11 percent went to New Democracy, 10 percent to Pasok, and 8 percent to radical left-wing parties (the Communist Party [KKE] and MeRA25-Alliance for Rupture). The heaviest losses were in the working-class districts of major urban centers, where Syriza’s scores were almost halved (-17.5 percent in the working-class belt of Piraeus, -16 percent in Athens-West, -18 percent in Attica-West). In the regions, a substantial proportion of the electorate in former Pasok strongholds returned to their original party, particularly in Crete, where Syriza suffered losses between seventeen and twenty-one points. These losses also benefited New Democracy, which headed the poll in all counties.

Posters featuring images of Aléxis Tsípras, head of Syriza party, ahead of the general election in Thessaloniki, Greece, on May 16, 2023. (Konstantinos Tsakalidis / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Among young voters (aged seventeen to twenty-four), Syriza continues to fare better than its national average, but is down fourteen points on 2019 (from 38 percent to 24 percent), mainly to the benefit of the radical left (KKE and MeRA25-Alliance for a Rupture gather a total 12.4 percent in this age group) and Zoe Konstantopoulou’s party (6 percent). However, for the first time in Greek history, New Democracy had a clear lead even among young voters (33 percent, nine points ahead of Syriza).

Syriza can no longer claim to be a “party of government,” the axis of a future majority, and faces an existential crisis. A characteristic symptom of the vertigo that seems to have seized the party’s upper echelons: stunned by electoral disaster, Tsípras put in charge of Syriza’s communication team Nikos Marantzidis, the leader of the Greek “revisionist” school of historians, pioneer of an anti-communist rewriting of the history of the Resistance and the civil war, who had himself ferociously attacked the Left, and Syriza in particular, during the 2010–15 period.

Stripped of its original identity and unable to invent a new one, weakly rooted in civil society (it controls no major municipalities and has only a marginal presence in the trade union and in the student movement), entirely centered on the now-devalued figure of its leader, Syriza is entering a period of turbulence. As some party figures suggest, even the question of Tsípras’s succession is no longer taboo…

The KKE’s Recovery and Its Limits

The KKE counts among the winners of the May 21 elections. With 7.2 percent, it gained 1.9 points on its 2019 score and managed to make up most of the ground lost in 2012. Back then, after refusing the unity proposal put forward by Syriza, it lost almost half its electorate (from 8.5 percent in the May 2012 election down to 4.5 percent in the June 2012 election). The KKE is the only left-wing party to retain a militant and popular base. Its trade union front, All Workers Militant Front (PAME), is an important force, although a clear minority in the workers’ movement, and its youth organization has a strong presence on campuses, winning recent student elections on an increased turnout.

In these elections, the KKE could thus appear as a “safe vote” for a historic left-wing force, clearly identifiable and active on the ground. In its campaign it promised nothing more than to form a “strong opposition” to any government — a line that seemed to resonate with the common sense of this period, i.e., resignation to the lack of an alternative.

Starting with a limited but loyal and well-structured electoral base, the KKE was able to make further headway among young voters (7.3 percent among seventeen- to twenty-four-year-olds, +3.3 percent compared to 2019; 8.1 percent among twenty-four- to thirty-five-year-olds, +2.1 percent) and particularly among students, where it doubled its previous score (from 4 percent to 8.2 percent). Its results are above 10 percent in the working-class districts of the main cities (11 percent in the working-class belt of Piraeus, 11.5 percent in Athens-West) and in traditional “red” areas (13 percent in Lesbos, 35 percent in Icaria, around 11 percent in certain Ionian islands). This upturn should not, however, conceal that Syriza’s collapse primarily benefits forces to its right, with the KKE garnering a meager 5 percent of this electorate. Even in the working-class districts of Athens and Piraeus, its advance is only a third or a quarter as strong as New Democracy’s rise.

Despite its limitations, the KKE’s upturn could bring a note of hope — had this party not been stuck in a sectarian attitude that has kept it away not only from any form of unity of action with other left-wing forces (tirelessly denounced as “crutches of the system”) but also from all the major popular mobilizations of the recent period. For example, the KKE rejected any involvement in the 2011 Occupy the Squares movement, accused of being “petty-bourgeois,” “anti-political,” and a mere “vent.” It also refused to call for a “no” vote in the July 2015 referendum, preferring to promote a null vote using ballots distributed by its activists bearing the party’s slogans. This sectarian line is at one with the systematically cultivated nostalgia for the USSR, and even for Joseph Stalin, whose complete works (in sixteen leather-bound volumes) have been republished by the party’s publishing house and offered for sale at the promotional price of €208.

More strategically, the KKE has rejected the “popular fronts” line, which has earned it a degree of benevolence from certain far-left currents, but only to turn, with a few nuances, to that of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, which equated social democracy with “social fascism” and predicted the imminent collapse of capitalism. It also refuses any sort of “transitional demand” considering that “workers’ power” is the preliminary condition to resolve any problem. For instance, after the recent Tempi train disaster, it refused to call for the nationalization of the railways — arguing that whether privately or publicly owned, they would still serve the capitalist system.

In reality, despite often effective union work (particularly in the private sector, deserted by bureaucratized unions), its radical rhetoric serves to disguise a practice of political passivity. Its actions are entirely focused on “building and strengthening” the party and its various fronts (trade union, youth, cultural, etc.), which are simply used as transmission belts for it.

As the recent triumphalist communiqué of its Central Committee indicates, the (relative) electoral success will only confirm the KKE’s sectarian line and nostalgic neo-Stalinism. All the more so as the failure of the only unitary radical left pole, MeRA25-Alliance for Rupture (MeRA25-AR), if confirmed in the second election on June 25, will make the KKE the only force to the left of Syriza represented in parliament.

The Failure of MeRA25-Alliance for Rupture

The causes of MeRA25-AR’s failure in the polls cannot be reduced to a single factor. To analyze them, we need to recall some of the stages in the process that led to the formation of this coalition. Its main component (in electoral terms) is MeRA25, a movement created in 2018 by Yanis Varoufakis as the Greek section of his transnational European movement DiEM25. It managed to pass the 3 percent threshold in the 2019 election and enter parliament.

Like its high-profile leader, this loosely structured movement started as a platform for an unstable mix of societal demands (particularly on minority rights issues), left-wing Europeanism, and the spirit of the anti-Troika struggles of the 2010–15 years. Its 2019 electorate was heterogeneous, with a strong youth component and some success in the working-class suburbs of Athens and Piraeus.

Over the next four years, MeRA25 began to structure itself and, above all, gradually clarify its line in a more radical direction. In a text published last December, Varoufakis called for a broad convergence of radical-left forces on a programmatic basis, reflecting his movement’s leftward turn: acceptance that the EU cannot be reformed, disengagement from NATO and nonalignment, euro exit if necessary, and emphasis on the theme of rupture.

Among the organizations of the radical left, only Popular Unity responded positively to this call, joined by various intellectuals and social movement activists. A coalition was thus formed, called “MeRA25-Alliance for Rupture” and its main slogan in the campaign was “for the first time, rupture.” Armed with an elaborate program of alternative proposals, close in its ambition and content to France Insoumise’s L’Avenir en commun, it sought to demonstrate that “everything can be different.”

The only one of these proposals to receive media attention was the creation of an electronic payment system based on the tax authorities’ digital platform. It would make it possible to bypass the banking system and provide the state with a means of payment without necessarily resorting to a national currency. By opening an account in this system (named Demeter), individuals and small businesses could avoid the exorbitant commissions levied by Greek banks on even the smallest transactions and benefit from a tax rebate, which would serve as a means of remunerating their account.

Such a scheme — and this was also part of the proposal — could considerably facilitate the transition to the national currency, should the European Central Bank repeat the blackmail on liquidity provision it carried out in 2015. This was all it took to unleash a flood of alarmist propaganda from New Democracy and the media, who constantly raised the specter of 2015, the chaos that would allegedly follow euro exit and the stigmatization of Varoufakis as the man who wanted to drive Greece into bankruptcy. Syriza hastened to follow suit, and the rest of the program’s proposals were entirely ignored.

While this undoubtedly helped to divert the more moderate part of the 2019 electorate, the key to MeRA25-AR’s failure lies elsewhere, namely in the absence of a minimally stable electoral base and the dizzying turnover of its electorate between 2019 and 2023. MeRA25-AR only attracted 18 percent of its own 2019 electorate, with 42 percent turning to New Democracy, 27 percent to other radical left formations (the KKE and the far left), and 13 percent to former Syriza parliamentary president Zoe Konstantopoulou’s party. Gains came mainly from the electorate of Syriza and of other radical left formations and even from New Democracy.

Despite its unitary orientation, the coalition led by Varoufakis proved insufficiently competitive fighting on the terrain of the radical left, where it chose to position itself unambiguously. But the turn to the Left was also announced too late to be convincing. It was insufficiently rooted in militant practices — only Popular Unity offered a (small) organizational base. Its cost proved thus higher than its benefit. Credible when it emanates from a strong movement like France Insoumise, the attempt to embody an alternative proposal for rupture appeared too heavy a burden for a formation fighting for its parliamentary survival.

In a context of overall retreat for the Left, the KKE seemed a safer bet as an opposition force, especially as Varoufakis’s discourse may have seemed too technocratic and abstract to the popular classes. MeRA25-AR fell 0.8 percent on average compared to 2019, but suffered the heaviest losses in working-class districts (-1.5 percent in the belt of Piraeus, -1.3 percent in Peristeri, and -1.8 percent in Aspropyrgos, two working-class municipalities in the greater Athens area). It proved more resilient among young people (from 6 percent down to 5.1 percent), particularly among students (stable at 6 percent), but fell behind the KKE even in this category.

The Surprising Rise of Zoe Konstantopoulou

MeRA25-AR, and the radical left more generally, have suffered from the rise of Course of Freedom, the party of Zoe Konstantopoulou, a renowned lawyer and short-lived president of parliament during the first Syriza government in 2015. This party, founded in 2016, relies entirely on the charisma of its leader and on a discourse initially positioned as “left populist.”

Its main inspiration was French left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s 2016–17 campaign and, in particular, its patriotic and republican overtones. In 2018, in a context of heightened nationalism around the issue of Macedonia, Konstantopoulou decided to join the protest rallies against the Prespa Agreement negotiated by the Syriza government and recognizing the neighboring state as the “Republic of North Macedonia.”

These rallies were massive, particularly in northern Greece, but they were also clearly dominated by the far right and proclaimed the refusal to recognize any state bearing the name of Macedonia, considered as the exclusive property of Greece. This nationalist turn led to a rupture in the already tenuous relations between Konstantopoulou and the radical left.

In 2019, Course for Freedom had obtained 1.5 percent and failed to enter parliament. However, it managed to position itself as the reference pole for an emerging constellation of small “sovereignist” formations, combining nationalism, refusal of the right-left divide, and anti-Troika and “anti-system” rhetoric. The May 21 vote gave this approach a further boost.

Konstantopoulou’s simple, straightforward language, acquired over many years of court practice, enabled her to successfully triangulate anti-system themes from the repertoires of  both the “Right” and the “Left”: nationalist slogans (on Macedonia or relations with Turkey) mixed with references to the struggles of the 2010–15 period (notably on the debt issue); defense of the “identity of the Greek nation,” but also insistence on her status as the only woman leader of a Greek political party, with a focus on the issues of sexist and sexual violence and attacks on the LGBTQ community; flattering opponents of vaccination, but also defending public rights and freedoms and denouncing police repression and state violence against refugees; and combining a rhetoric of virulent rejection of all politicians with a strong legalism and a constant reminder of her institutional status as former president of parliament.

Voting results and exit poll data show that the composition of the Course for Freedom electorate reflects the “triangulation” of its leader’s discourse. It includes a component coming from the Right, even from the far right, as suggested by the fact that it captured nearly 9 percent of the electorate who considered voting for the successor party to Golden Dawn (which a court ruling prevented from running). But it also managed to attract 13 percent of MeRA25’s 2019 electorate.

The overall profile is nevertheless sociologically and spatially “left-wing.” Course for Freedom achieved its best results in the working-class suburbs of Athens and Piraeus (4 percent in Athens-West, 4.3 percent in the Piraeus belt, with peaks of 5 percent in the most working-class municipalities). On the other hand, in upper-middle-class neighbourhoods, scores were well below the national average (1.3 percent in Filothei, 1 percent in Ekali). The formation also made inroads among young voters, overtaking MeRA25-AR among seventeen- to twenty-four-year-olds (5.9 percent versus 5.1 percent).

This “sovereigntist” profile was thus able to attract a significant proportion of the anti-system vote and compete effectively with the KKE and, above all, MeRA25-AR as a way to sanction Syriza while also opposing the other mainstream parties. The first post-electoral polls suggest that Konstantopoulou’s success will be amplified in the June 25 second election and again allow her into parliament.

Back to the Old World?

As political scientist Yannis Mavris points out, the May 21 vote belied the expectations of those who thought that the 2019 elections marked the consolidation of a two-party system, comparable to that of the 1981–2009 period, with Syriza taking the place previously held by Pasok. The first to submit to this fallacious premise were surely Tsípras and the Syriza leadership, who believed that the popular electorate and youth were definitively won and that they could safely engage in the “race to the center” to win over the “moderate” middle- and upper-class electorate.

In reality, if the two-party system is in retreat (the Syriza–New Democracy total fell from 71 percent to 61 percent), it is exclusively to the detriment of the “center-left” pole, opening the way for a sharp rightward turn in the overall political scene. At present, the only forces capable of inflicting losses on New Democracy are far-right ones. Greek Solution and, in all likelihood, Niki now seem certain to be represented in the parliament that emerges after June 25, giving the far right an unprecedented institutional weight.

Another way of reading these results is to see them as the return of the “old world,” that of the political forces swept aside by the popular uprising of 2010–15 and the historic elections of May and June 2012. New Democracy is again reaching the scores of its heyday, Pasok is resurrected from the dead, and the KKE is nearly back to its former position and, for the first time since the fall of the dictatorship (with the exception of a brief period between 1993 and 1996), it can even claim to monopolize the institutional representation of the radical left. The breakthrough of a party such as Course for Freedom should also serve as a warning: it may well be that (anti)political confusion fills the void left by the failure to build a unitary and credible pole of the radical left.

Once again, we can only observe that the betrayals of the Left pave the way to a reactionary restoration and a dynamic of radicalization on the Right.

It remains to be seen to what extent the June 25 vote will confirm or reverse these trends. After all, the ground on which the Greek political system rests has proved more fragile than expected.