Politics, World, Europe

'Syriza lost due to people's disappointed expectations'

Greece's Syriza lost votes after failing to deliver on economy and minority affairs, say analysts and experts

Fatih Hafiz Mehmet   | 12.07.2019
'Syriza lost due to people's disappointed expectations'

ANKARA

Greece's far-left government lost last weekend’s elections due to its failure to meet people's expectations on the economy and minority affairs, according to analysts and experts.

After four-and-a-half years in government, the Radical Coalition of the Left (Syriza) lost Sunday's snap elections to the center-right New Democracy party.

The snap elections were called after Syriza suffered losses in May’s European Parliament and municipal polls.

Sebahattin Abdurrahman, a visiting lecturer at London's Middlesex University, told Anadolu Agency that Syriza is a party which placed importance on human rights and equality.

"Accordingly, the people's expectations went towards that area before it came to power," he said.

Abdurrahman said in a 2015 referendum, Greeks voted to reject an EU bailout package with harsh austerity measures, only to have the ruling Syriza do a U-turn and accept the package.

"That was the first shock to the voters," he said.

But in the end, in June 2018, Syriza managed to get Greece out of a multi-year eurozone bailout program, and it also brought down unemployment.

"They made some changes, but they really fell short of people's expectations," he stressed.

Abdurrahman said Syriza lost a lot of votes because people saw Syriza had turned into a party not unlike previous parties in government.

He said Syriza had some differences from previous governments, but on the main issues facing Greece it was largely the same.

"Another very important point was that Syriza formed a coalition with a far-right party and because of that wasn’t able to deliver its policies in full.

"Syriza failed to keep its promises on the economy and that was the main reason it lost so many votes," he stressed.

As for the deal last year under which North Macedonia took on its current name, a pact that faced considerable opposition in Greece, Abdurrahman said he does not believe it was a factor in Syriza’s vote hemorrhaging.

The agreement ended a long-running dispute between Greece and its northern neighbor, as Greece has a region known as Macedonia, also the name of the historical birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Under the deal, North Macedonia got its current name, and Athens dropped its objections to the country’s bid to join the EU and NATO.

"If the agreement was so important, then the far-right parties should have attracted more votes, but in fact they lost votes," said Abdurrahman.

For instance, the far-right Golden Dawn party was unable to elect any deputies in Sunday's elections, as they fell just below the 3% election threshold.

'Huge difference between Tsipras in opposition and in power'

Ali Huseyinoglu of Turkey's Trakya University Balkan Research Institute also said Greece’s economic woes caused Syriza to lose votes.

"It’s Greece’s number one problem," he stressed.

Huseyinoglu said although Syriza was the party which got Greece out of the economic crisis, the crisis triggered an exodus of young Greeks and also led to higher taxes.

"But this never turned into a social rebellion," he stressed.

Huseyinoglu said the steps taken by Syriza allowed Greece to breathe again.

Having said that, many people probably had bigger expectations of the party, and so they were disappointed.

He said that there was a "huge" difference between late Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras serving in opposition and Tsipras in government.

"Because running a country and being in the opposition are different," Huseyinoglu said.

Unlike Abdurrahman, Huseyinoglu said the North Macedonia agreement was one of the biggest reasons Syriza lost votes.

The deal even drew fire from leftist and centrist Greeks, he said.

Though praised internationally, 70% of the Greek people opposed the agreement, according to one opinion poll.

"Probably Tsipras thought that solving the Macedonia name issue would bring them success," Huseyinoglu said.

Huseyinoglu said far-left Syriza thought that people opposed to the deal came from the right wing and far right -- outside their voter base, and so not their votes to lose in the first place.

"This was an obvious error which cost them votes," he said.

'Turkish minority had great expectations from Syriza'

Huseyinoglu told how in 2015, the Muslim Turkish minority living in Western Thrace, northeastern Greece, which numbers around 150,000, elected three Syriza deputies, which is unique for a political party in Greece in recent decades.

"This was a great feat for Syriza.

"The Turkish minority had great expectations from Syriza," he stressed.

But despite those hopes, Huseyinoglu said, Syriza ended up giving the far-right ANEL party, its small coalition partner, the task of dealing with most of the affairs of the Turkish minority.

"This was a great disappointment for the minority," Huseyinoglu stressed.

Huseyinoglu said Syriza’s popularity among the Turkish minority suffered due to both economic woes and its treatment of minority affairs.

Ozan Ahmetoglu, head of the Xanthi Turkish Union (Iskece Turk Birligi- ITB) in Western Thrace, said back in 2015 Syriza won huge support from the Turkish minority for two main reasons.

The first was the economic difficulties the country was facing and how people saw Syriza as a ray of hope.

"The second reason was Syriza being the party which showed the most democratic approach to the minority," he stressed.

He said Syriza, when it was a small party with minimal electoral support of around 3%-5%, was the party which made the most pro-minority statements.

"The Turkish minority thought that if this party is closest to them, during its tenure in government, some of the minority's basic problems would definitely be solved.

"This was a very reasonable expectation," Ahmetoglu said.

So the Turkish minority elected three deputies from Syriza, he said.

But after over four years of Syriza in power, Ahmetoglu said their experience can be summed up as: "We expected a lot, but got very little."

Ahmetoglu said during the Syriza government, there were no improvements in fundamental minority rights.

He said Syriza put the affairs of the Turkish minority in the hands of its small coalition partner ANEL, leading to disappointment in the minority.

Ahmetoglu said this caused the Turkish minority to say: "We gave our votes to Syriza, but we’re being governed by the far-right ANEL."

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