By Morgan Meaker 23 January 2015
Sunday's election marks a tipping point for Greece - and the Eurozone. Syriza is currently leading the polls, but outright victory is unlikely
Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece's Syriza left-wing main opposition party waves to his supporters as he arrives for a pre-election speech Photo: AP
On Sunday, Greece will vote to elect a new parliament. The early election, prompted by the current coalition’s failure to choose a new president, is the latest in a string of legislative uncertainties as the country prepares for yet another year of crippling austerity measures.
With unemployment running at 26 per cent, Greeks are likely to vote for smaller, more radical parties, making outright victory for anyone unlikely.
Syriza is currently leading the polls but their pledge to renegotiate the debt is making the Eurozone nervous, particularly as a €6.7 billion repayment is due this summer. It seems unlikely Syriza will win an overall majority, so if it were to form a coalition who could this be with? And how do the policies of other parties compare with the radical left?
Below is a guide to the main Greek parties. All vote predictions are from the most recent Alco poll on January 21 - some 36-40 per cent is generally required for a party to secure a parliamentary majority. About 9 per cent of voters had yet to decide.
Syriza is the anti-austerity party tipped for victory, sending tremors of fear throughout markets in Europe. Its charismatic leader, Alexis Tsipras, wants to put an end to the painful austerity measures that have bought the country to its knees financially.
Although Mr Tsipras says Syriza wants Greece to remain in the Eurozone, it hints at bold demands including debt write offs and renegotiations of bailout agreements. The one politician Syriza has in high office – Rena Dourou who governs Attica, an area surrounding Athens – has increased the region’s budget for social welfare six-fold, sparking anxieties that a Syriza win would result in another Greek spending spree.
Syriza is an acronym for ‘Coalition of the Radical Left’ and the party was formed as an umbrella group for 11 groups – merging Marxists, Socialists, Euro-communists and Greens. Mr Tsipras, 40, is known for his relaxed attitude; swapping limos for motorbikes to travel around Athens.
Predicted percentage of vote: 33.8
A man stands at a bus stop decorated with a pre-election poster of Greece's Prime Minister and New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras in Athens (EPA)
New Democracy is the governing conservative party, led by political old-timer Antonis Samaras, 63. Having committed to economic recovery, Mr Samaras’ most recent campaign has been scornful of radicals on the left, spotlighting potential dangers posed to Greece by a “communist Syriza government”.
Since 2012, New Democracy has been locked in coalition government with socialist party, PASOK but together they have proved their commitment to keeping Greece in the Eurozone. Samaras’ current focus is job protection and creation; sticking to bailout agreements but spacing out austerity reforms. He has painted an image of himself as the caring conservative – articulating other policies such as protecting private sector wages and sparing the most vulnerable from pension cuts.
A former tennis champion, Mr Samaras is from a wealthy background. He shared a college dormitory room with former leader of PASOK, George Papandreou – critics have blamed such cosy inter-party ties for driving voters to the radical left and right.
Predicted percentage of vote: 28.6
PASOK Socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos addresses supporters during a pre-election rally in Athens (EPA)
PASOK, the Greek socialist party, has dominated the country’s politics for the past forty years. However, at the height of economic crisis, it bore the brunt of public anger at austerity cuts and leader George Papandreou was forced to resign from the party. Crawling back to the political main stage has proved no easy feat and PASOK has struggled, retaining only a shadow of its former support in the latest polls.
Today, PASOK is led by Evangelos Venizelos, deputy minister and foreign minister in the current coalition. His attitude towards forming another coalition in a new government is dependent on the other parties’ stance on the economy. He believes Greece must follow through with bailout agreements. Mr Venizelos may appeal to trade unions and the centre left but he was in charge of preparing the 2004 Athens Olympics – a project which ballooned out of control in terms of costs, spending a huge amount of state money.
Predicted percentage of vote: 4.2
A woman stands on a stage before a campaign rally of the far-right Golden Dawn party in Athens (EPA)
In 2013, far right party Golden Dawn peaked in popularity, grabbing headlines worldwide with a 15 per cent approval rating. Today, that figure has plunged to just five per cent and its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos is in jail, along with several other Golden Dawn politicians, charged with extortion, weapons possession and running a violent criminal gang.
Mr Michaloliakos seems unperturbed –describing his arrest as a “political witch hunt”.
Mr Michaloliakos, who also founded the party, is best known for his anti-immigration stance. In the past he has called for the use of landmines to stop illegal immigrants and has denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. In terms of other policies, he wants to bring down the political establishment and has condemned the bailout, pledging to fight austerity policies.
Predicted percentage of vote: 4.9
Leader of the newly-founded To Potami (The River) party Stavros Theodorakis speaks at a conference (EPA)
To Potami, which means The River, is a political upstart. Formed in March by prominent television journalist Stavros Theodorakis, the party strongly supports remaining in Europe at all costs. Mr Theodorakis believes any changes made to the austerity programme must be approved by Eurozone creditors as well as the International Monetary Fund. To Potami aims to create jobs, combat corruption and seems to appeal to more disillusioned voters. Critics have pointed to its candidates’ lack of political experience, however others say it could have a calming influence on hot-headed Syriza if the two parties were to form a coalition, limiting international fall-out.
Predicted percentage of vote: 5.9
When George Papandreou resigned from PASOK, he created his own party, the Movement of Democratic Socialists (Kinima). His political reputation helped the party gain support; his father founded PASOK and his grandfather was the celebrated socialist politician Andreas Papandreou. Kinima promises a “new era” of Greek politics and aims to “humanise” globalization while creating a state that is progressive and ecological.
Predicted percentage of vote: 2.1
Greek Communist party (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas addresses to supporters during the main pre-election rally of the party (EPA)
Active participants in the anti-austerity protests, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) are the oldest political party in Greece. The party adheres to Marxist-Leninist communism, appealing to working class voters particularly in industrial areas. Under leader Dimitris Koustoumpas, the party has seen a surge in support and is expected to win seats in parliament.
Predicted percentage of vote: 4.3
The Independent Greeks, led by Panos Kammenos, was formed as a New Democracy splinter in 2012. Its centre-right, anti-bailout ideology has few similarities with Syriza but the two parties shared opinions on austerity that could lead to a partnership.
Predicted percentage of vote: 3.1