Monday, September 30, 2013

If Golden Dawn MPs quit Parliament, would Greece go to elections? It's complicated


The government’s clampdown on Golden Dawn after the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by one of its supporters has prompted speculation that the neofascist party might try to get even with the mainstream parties.

It has been suggested that this could lead the party’s 18 MPs to resign en masse, creating confusion in Parliament and possibly trigger national elections.

This version of events has been rejected by Deputy Prime Minister and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos. Speaking to the Reuters editors in New York, Venizelos said that Golden Dawn lawmakers quitting would provide the other parties with a “great opportunity”.

According to Venizelos, who is a constitutional expert, if the Golden Dawn deputies do walk out it will not lead to general elections being called. Venizelos said that instead it would require by-elections to be held. He believes it would be almost impossible for Golden Dawn to win back those seats if it took part.

The seats would go to the party or parties that gather the most votes in each constituency, rather than be dependant on the national share of the vote for each group. This means that New Democracy or SYRIZA would likely take these seats. That is why Venizelos believes it would be “political suicide” for Golden Dawn to quit Parliament.

Of course, there is a possibility that if these by-elections were to happen they could form a rallying point for anti-bailout forces and other disgruntled voters. Equally, though, they could be an opportunity for the mainstream parties to unite behind common candidates to show solidarity against Golden Dawn’s threat.

The one problem that could arise is if SYRIZA were to win more seats than New Democracy. At the moment the conservatives have 127 MPs to the leftists’ 72. However, this includes the 50 extra seats ND received for being first past the post in last June’s ballot. If these are taken away, it’s not out of the question that after a series of by-elections SYRIZA comes out with more seats in Parliament. In such a situation, which is unprecedented, it is not clear to which party the 50-seat bonus would go.

If it went to SYRIZA, the coalition government would not be able to continue, raising a whole new series of questions about what would happen next.

There is also doubt about what would happen to the one Golden Dawn lawmaker who is elected from a so-called “state” list and not in a specific constituency. These parliamentary seats are awarded according to the party’s share of the national vote and it is not clear how this could be redistributed among the other parties and according to which criteria this would happen.

It is certain that were the Golden Dawn MPs to resign en masse, the government would use all the legal and constitutional powers available to keep disruption to a minimum. It is less clear if it would be successful, though.