Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 23 September 2015

Greece: Widespread abstention dominates general election

Mass socialist alternative must be built

On 20 September, Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) was returned to power in a snap general election and is set to share power again with the right-wing Independent Greeks.

Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras, claims he has a mandate to continue with austerity policies in return for the third bailout deal with the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund). Is this true?

Niall Mulholland (CWI) spoke to Andreas Payiatsos, from Xekinima (CWI, Greece) about the election results and what it means for the anti-austerity left in Greece.

What is the main feature of the election results?

The most important aspect of the election was the very high abstention rate. Around 45% did not vote. Before the 'memorandums' (austerity packages agreed by Greek governments with the Troika in return for bailout deals) abstention ranged between 25% and 30%.

All the parties lost votes from the last election in January, even if their percentages increased this time. Syriza got 35.46% (36.34% in January) but actually 320,000 less votes. The traditional party of the ruling class, right wing New Democracy, got around the same percentage as last January (28.10%) but also lost around 200,000 votes.

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn came third with 6.99%. And although their actual vote fell by 10,000 from January, they remain a potent danger to the working class.

The traditional social-democratic party, Pasok, trailed in behind Golden Dawn. It continued to be punished in the polls after years in government, marked by corruption and austerity measures.

Clearly, huge swathes of the electorate are alienated from the main pro-austerity parties. The election campaign was extremely flat - there has never been such a lack of interest in elections before.

How did Syriza win after causing so much disillusionment by their U-turn on austerity?

Syriza did not win on a wave of genuine enthusiasm from workers, pensioners and youth - as it did last January when it put forward an anti-austerity programme. Workers and middle class people voted for Syriza as the 'lesser evil'.

Despite winning a referendum on 5 July opposing austerity, Alex Tsipras one week later capitulated to the Troika and accepted new harsh bailout conditions.

Tsipras used left rhetoric during the election campaign and some rank and file members of the party still have illusions in him.

He was helped by the fact that the memorandum he signed up to has not yet been carried out and therefore workers have not yet felt the effects of these new cuts.

Tspiras argued that he was blackmailed by the Troika into accepting the memoranda or would have faced expulsion from the Eurozone with catastrophic consequences.

Within the confines of imposed austerity measures, Syriza will try to find the means to help the most vulnerable and attack the rich, Tsipras added.

But most workers who voted for Syriza do not have illusions in the party. They just hope that in government Syriza will not be as cruel and brutal as a New Democracy-led government.

How did the anti-austerity Left do in the elections?

Due to its sectarian and ultra-left posturing, the KKE (Greek communist party) failed to capitalise on Syriza's backsliding. It kept its vote in percentage terms, (5.5%) but actually lost 11% of the votes it had received in the January elections.

The results are also a blow for the rest of the anti-capitalist Left. Antarsya (anti-capitalist left) got just 0.85%. A quarter of its membership had departed to Popular Unity, a new formation that arose from a left split from Syriza.

There were widespread hopes in Popular Unity on the left but it failed to reach the 3% threshold needed to enter parliament. Popular Unity will probably face serious internal problems in the immediate period ahead. Its 25-30 former Syriza MPs have lost their seats and with it considerable parliamentary finances and resources.

It is true that Popular Unity had to fight its first election in difficult circumstances, when there was widespread disillusionment because of the sell-out by Syriza. But the Popular Unity leaders did not help themselves either. At the start of the campaign they treated the rest of the left quite arrogantly and acted in a bureaucratic and undemocratic way. They also overestimated how well they would poll.

As it became clear that Popular Unity faced a struggle to get into parliament, they made a call for others on the left to support them in a 'united front' but, by then, the damage was done.

Popular Unity also failed to inspire workers and youth with a clear anti-austerity, socialist programme. They correctly said 'no to the memoranda' but did not point a way forward, thereby not allaying the fears of many workers about what would happen if Greece was forced out of the eurozone.

We in Xekinima say we must refuse to pay the debt and must nationalise the banking system. This will mean a clash with the EU and exit from the eurozone.

The return to a national currency can provide a basis for the development of the economy and society but only if accompanied by the nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy under workers' control and management.

This way the economy can be democratically planned to serve the interests and the needs of the majority in society, instead of producing huge profits for a handful of ship-owners, bankers and industrialists.

What lies ahead for the Left?

The new Syriza-led government will soon run into big problems. The memorandum has to be imposed, which will lead to further impoverishment of Greek society and growing anger. And the national debt remains unrepayable. Greece will remain mired in a 'Great Depression'.

In this context more splits from Syriza are likely, moving in a left direction. For example, a new left formation stemming from Syriza, called ARC, is discussing the lessons of what went wrong with Syriza in power.

Xekinima takes part in these discussions and we also continue playing an important role in 'July 17', which aims to build a network of local left alliances, on an anti-capitalist programme.

Such initiatives and, crucially, renewed class struggle, which will bring many fresh layers of workers and young people into struggle, can lay the basis for the development of a new mass revolutionary Left, that is organised democratically. This is the only force capable of resolving the deep crisis facing Greek working people, by reorganising society along socialist lines.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 23 September 2015:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Corbyn under fire .... Organise to fight cuts!

Cameron must go

Refugees brutalised by thug EU governments

Liverpool's Labour mayor took pay for job he no longer did

Prying Conservatives demand yet more powers to invade our privacy

Them & Us

What we saw

Socialist Party feature

Fight for a real living wage for all!

International socialist news and analysis

Greece: Widespread abstention dominates election

Australia: Turnbull deposes Abbot to become PM

International news in brief

Workplace news and analysis

TUC debates action to defeat anti-trade union bill

Nominate Roger Bannister for Unison general secretary

Traffic wardens strike for better pay

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party review

TV review: This is England '90

Socialist history

1985: police murder sparks Brixton riot

Socialist Party youth and students

Organise the student fightback!

Good response to Nottingham Socialist Students

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

London protesters demand affordable housing

Socialism back on the agenda in Wolverhampton

Tower Hamlets housing campaign lobbies council

North Kent TUSC meeting


Home   |   The Socialist 23 September 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleGreece-Turkey border refugee crisis

triangleGreece elections: Syriza ousted amid voter disillusionment

triangleDeadly fires ravage Greece: austerity contributed to high loss of life and property

triangleObituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: Greece - still plundered by EU austerity

General election:

triangleCouncil cuts could cost Labour another general election

triangleWhat next after the general election, for PCS and the left

triangleHillingdon Socialist Party: Following the General Election, what next for socialists and trade unionists?

triangleManchester & Salford Socialist Party: What does the general election result mean for 2020?


triangleUCU: election victory for combative rank and file

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: The US presidential election

triangleSocialism Today special issue: Lessons from the Corbyn experience


triangleTories torn - bin them now

triangleHow the Single Market blocks socialist policies


triangleSaving the music industry from pandemic and austerity


triangleEurope and the workers' movement after Brexit


triangleItalian elections create huge political shake-up


triangleAct now to cancel Covid crisis rents and debt


triangleCWI rally: 80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky


triangleUnite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts





Revolutionary mood in Lebanon following horrific explosion



Cuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo


Nuclear weapons

Anniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki



Iran: Renewed wave of protests and strikes



Israel: Nurses strike and win


Hong Kong

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights


South Africa

South Africa: Building jobs and living wage campaign



France: 20,000 rally against Paris's killer gendarmes



Black and white youth rise up against racism - US protester speaks to the Socialist



USA - another cop killing of unarmed black man sparks widespread protests



Outrage spreads globally following US police murder of George Floyd


Hong Kong

Chinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests



Economic collapse leads to renewed protests across Lebanon



Trump, coronavirus, capitalism, and the presidential race



India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020