Türkİye, Politics, Europe

Greek ruling party’s positive agenda defeated opposition’s negative narrative: Analysts

After New Democracy’s landslide May 21 victory, opposition party Syriza risks losing status as main opposition, says Greek analyst

Ahmet Gencturk  | 30.05.2023 - Update : 30.05.2023
Greek ruling party’s positive agenda defeated opposition’s negative narrative: Analysts


Greece’s ruling party owes its recent ballot box victory to its positive and economy-oriented agenda, while the main opposition lagged behind due to its negative narrative and ambiguous promises, according to political analysts.

The center-right New Democracy (ND) won the May 21 elections in a landslide with more than 40% of the vote, securing 146 seats and falling short of a majority in the 300-member chamber by just five seats.

Syriza, the main opposition, came in second with a little over 20% and 71 seats, a sharp plunge from its standing in the previous polls, while the socialist PASOK was third.

Greece’s economic uptick since 2019, despite the pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis, was a major factor in ND’s success, according to Athens-based economics and political analyst Nick Malkoutzis.

“Most Greeks also seem content with the government on key issues like foreign policy, defense, and the reform of the public administration through the greater use of digital services,” Malkoutzis told Anadolu.

Syriza, on the other hand, “ran a very bad electoral campaign,” he said.

“There was no clarity over its policies or the kind of coalition it would seek to form if it got enough seats in parliament,” said Malkoutzis, adding that voters saw the party as “stuck in crisis mode.”

While ND and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis developed a positive narrative, Syriza focused “only on the negative, rather than being constructive about the country’s future direction,” he argued.

Syriza paid the price for being out of touch with what most of the Greek electorate wanted, which was hope in a future far from the crises of the past, he said.

Malkoutzis warned that Syriza is now in a fight for survival, facing the very real danger of slipping behind PASOK and being pushed to the fringes of Greek politics.

“It is clear that PASOK is targeting second place now. Its leader, Nikos Androulakis, turned all his attention on Syriza and (its leader) Alexis Tsipras on election night, sensing that if voters feel that Syriza’s time is over, a lot of them could turn to PASOK,” he explained.

He said another danger for the party after the crushing defeat is the possibility of internal divisions.

“More radical left elements within Syriza could split from the party and what remains could join up with PASOK to form a renewed center-left grouping,” he said.

Rise of ultranationalist, religious right

About the unexpected spike in support for the far-right and populist Greek Solution and Niki (Victory) parties, Malkoutzis said their rise was conjectural.

“We have seen over recent years several parties emerge on the ultra-conservative or nationalist right, before they disappear without making an impact,” he said.

On the low election turnout, which hovered around 60%, he said it indicated that a significant portion of Greek voters was convinced there would be no major change regardless of the winner.

“Another factor is that Greek politicians are not particularly good at engaging with young voters,” he said, noting that much of the younger population might not have cast their votes.

Ioannis Grigoriadis, a fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) in Athens, agreed with Malkoutzis that economic improvement contributed to ND’s election victory.

He also felt that the ruling party’s election campaign was a success, while Syriza failed to adapt to the changing social and economic conditions of post-crisis Greece.

On the performance of the two far-right parties, Grigoriadis said it does not necessarily indicate a “conservative storm in Greece,” as some claim.

He also warned that the low turnout signals “the disengagement of a considerable part of the Greek public from democratic politics and distrust about the possibility of making a difference by means of voting.”

Syriza’s role in ND’s victory

Vasilis Karydas, a political researcher at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Athens, also agreed that the economy was a major contributor in the ruling party’s win.

“Mitsotakis provided his positive agenda with clear measures and can point to objectively good conditions, including good 3%-5% economic growth, a significant increase in foreign investment return to the international financial markets, and a sharp drop in unemployment,” he told Anadolu.

According to Karydas, the restoration of the country’s image abroad and improved relations with European powers and the US were also influential.

Apart from these things going in ND’s favor, Syriza’s poor opposition only helped to boost the government’s popularity and contributed to its big victory, he added.

“There was no set of measures or proposals from Syriza on how they want to run and shape the country,” he said.

The only major aspect of their campaign was to attack the government, sometimes with “harsh words,” Karydas said, adding that this also led to an increase in votes for PASOK.

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