Greek crisis round up – 26 August 2015

This update focuses on the Greek snap elections following PM Tsipras’ resignation, which are likely to be held on 20th September.

As a summary of some of the agenda items of the newly formed Popular Unity – the Greek party created by Syriza anti-bailout rebels – I recommend an interesting media profile published today on their leader, Panagiotis Lafazanis. Popular Unity’s electoral programme advocates Grexit, partial cancellation of debt, restoration of national sovereignty via some form of socialist economy, and disengagement from NATO and Euro-Atlantic alliances – with an eye towards Russia.

In programmatic terms, the differences with the well established Greek Communist Party (KKE) are minimal, and many of Popular Unity cadres were formerly in the KKE, including Lafazanis. The KKE has a solid grassroots organisation, including a workers’ association (PAME) and a youth wing (KNE). Popular Unity has to pretty much improvise along the way with elections just around the corner.

Much will depend on mounting street sentiment against the bailout – or lack thereof. Popular Unity can capitalise on its vocal opposition to the bailout at the centre of the mainstream debate while its leaders were still within Syriza. Whatever analysts and politicians say, it will be very difficult to make any informed guess based on polls, as the elections have been called so quickly and new parties are appearing overnight. The controversial speaker of parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou has also announced a new party, which will possibly run as an ally of Popular Unity.

While most analysts, backed by early polls, bet on Tsipras’ victory (but without an overall majority in parliament), the signals from Syriza ranks are not positive. Today 53 members of the party central committee resigned – these were largely part of Left Platform, the faction that is behind Popular Unity. 17 members had already resigned previously in disagreement with Syriza’s acceptance of the bailout terms, which means 70 out of 201 members have left the central committee. Reports on the ground indicate many local cadres are leaving Syriza. The central committee secretary general Koronakis also resigned on Monday. He is believed to have been close to Tsipras, his resignation has been perceived as a major blow to the majority line.

Beyond the struggle for consensus on the anti-bailout left front, there are other trends that will be important to monitor. One is the contest between the new reincarnation of Syriza, moving rapidly towards the centre, and other pro-bailout parties – early polls indicate New Democracy trailing closely behind Syriza, but the performance of To Potami and Pasok will also be an important indicator of consensus for working within the eurozone institutional framework. Another important factor will be how well the neo-nazis of Golden Dawn will do – will there be a rise in their share of the votes given the failure of Syriza’s populist line and the fragmentation on the left? Will Golden Dawn capture some of the discontent with the capitulation to the creditors, compounded by economic crisis and the panic caused by the refugee crisis?

There is also the possibility of low turnout as a manifestation of increasing disaffection with the democratic process. After all, many people might feel that Syriza’s electoral victory in January on a clear anti-austerity ticket, and the overwhelming opposition to the bailout in July’s referendum, have not led to any positive outcome in this direction.

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