Far-left Syriza wins national elections in Greece


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Greeks elect radical left-wing government in bid to rid the country of austerity measures

growing political tensions in Greece have thrust the country’s 300-member parliament into a fresh round of elections.

The reasons for the election stem from a constitutional requirement for electing a new president, who must receive at least 180 votes out of the 300-member parliament, something the government coalition of New Democracy- PANOK fell approximately 12 votes short of reaching.

Reeling from heavy cuts to social and welfare spending, high unemployment and a lack of international investment due to perceptions of instability, Greeks were forced to the polls early last week.

The election campaign was fastpaced and intense, which saw the opposition SYRIZA, The Coalition of the Radical Left, emerge as the early front-runners.

The pollsters predicted a victory for the radical left SYRIZA, which gained 78 seats. The majority of these seats came at the expense of the ruling party, New Democracy, suffering their worst defeat in the history of party.

The result gives SYRIZA 149 seats out of 300 in the new Hellenic Parliament, just two short of a majority government, and 162 with the addition of 13 seats from their junior coalition partner ANEL.

While the turnout in the election increased from the previous, voting is mandatory and still quite lower than it is in other nations using a mandatory voting system. Greek interest in anti-austerity and Euro-scepticism fuelled the near majority mandate for the Coalition of the Radical Left, but markets responded with scepticism.

The new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, insists that the major election campaign promise given by SYRIZA, which was to put an end to the austerity measures demanded by troika (a group of three entities consisting of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), will be done.

While the people of Greece are optimistic that Tsipras will be able to negotiate these stipulations, the issue of Greece’s participation in the Eurozone continues to hang in the balance. If Greece is unable or unwilling to continue to cut their debt, it is unlikely that the troika will continue to support the loans that have already been extended, and Greece’s membership in the Eurozone will come under further scrutiny.

All of this has mired any discussion over the kind of interaction Greece’s new third place part, XA (Golden Dawn) will have in the new parliament, as a party that is both well-known for its racial and prejudicial views, as well as its suspected neo-Nazi influences.

Though the new coalition between SYRIZA and ANEL will limit the kind of policies that they could propose and ultimately pass, their new standing in the Hellenic parliament will provide an opportunity to see what kind of principles they advocate most for.

Unlike in Canada where several of our most recent elections have happened as a result of minority governments failing to pass a budget, Greece was forced to go to the polls to deal with a budgetary crisis that continues to threaten its economy.

What would normally have been a non-issue, the selection of a President, resulted in a campaign which could radically alter both the future of Greece and the Eurozone.

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