SYRIZA gained the first electoral victory in its history on Sunday as it came first in the European Parliament vote but failed to establish a big enough gap over the coalition, for which PASOK performed better than expected, to suggest that the government’s stability is in question.
The opposition party was projected to receive 26.7 percent of the vote, which is almost identical to the percentage it received in the 2012 general elections. New Democracy was expected to get 22.8 percent and the Elia (Olive Tree) alliance, led by PASOK, 8.1 percent. Although this would only secure the center-left grouping fourth place, it had been expected to perform slightly worse in terms of its percentage.
A stronger performance by Elia meant that the coalition’s combined support was comfortably above SYRIZA, whose officials had suggested during the campaign that a large margin of victory over New Democracy or a low aggregate vote for the two governing parties would give the leftists license to call for snap elections.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the result left no room for SYRIZA to claim that it could “overthrow” the government.
“There is no issue of early elections,” he said.
The SYRIZA camp, however, took heart from what was a historic win for the party and insisted that the result of the European elections confirmed that the leftists are on course to lead the next government. “The map of [Greece’s] political forces, as we knew it over the past decades, has changed,” said SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis, who questioned whether New Democracy and PASOK had a mandate to handle issues of national importance.
“This government cannot handle the negotiations regarding debt relief, an issue that will affect Greece for the next decades,” he added. “It now lacks the political legitimacy to do so.”
In terms of seats in the European Parliament, SYRIZA was on course to elect six MEPs, New Democracy five and Elia two.
Beyond the contest between the coalition parties and SYRIZA, and what this might mean for national politics, the European elections also underlined that Golden Dawn’s influence has become firmly established. The neo-Nazi party was on course to gain just over 9 percent of the vote, which was some 2 percentage points higher than its result in the June 2012 national elections. Despite its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, and several of the party’s MPs being in pretrial custody on charges of forming a criminal organization, Golden Dawn was set to elect three MEPs to the European Parliament.
To Potami (The River), the centrist party formed by journalist Stavros Theodorakis just a few months ago, came in fifth place. It was expected to get around 6.7 percent of the vote, which was slightly lower than many opinion polls had suggested but still an impressive total for a new party with no politicians in its ranks. To Potami is due to send two parliamentarians to Brussels and Strasbourg.
The Communist Party (KKE) was expected to elect the same number of MEPs despite gaining less support. KKE was forecast to receive 6 percent of the final vote. The final MEP spot was due to go to the right-wing anti-bailout party Independent Greeks. It was expected to gain 3.4 percent in Sunday’s elections. There was disappointment for Democratic Left (DIMAR), the only parliamentary party not to elect an MEP. DIMAR was expected to gain less than 1.5 percent.