Back in June 2012, when Greece last voted to choose its ruling party not once but twice, the Eurozone ground to a halt in anticipation of a nailbiliting outcome that could have seen the exit of Greece from the Euro and the gradual, at first, collapse of the artificial European political union. It was this vote, which saw the hardline socialist, "anti-bailout" Syriza lose by the smallest of margins, that led the surge in peripheral yields to record highs in the weeks following, and was the catalyst for Draghi's infamous "whatever it takes" speech in July 2012, which culminated last week with the launch of the ECB's Q€.
Today, Greece votes again in an election that came to be after the now deeply unpopular Prime Minister failed to muster enough support for his presidential candidate, and here, courtesy of @damomac, is a sampling of the nearly 20 "choices" the Greek long-suffering population is presented with.
What is at stake for Greece today? Largely the same things as in 2012, which means an appropriate question is what is at stake for Europe. The answer: a lot, because suddenly the fate of the European monetary union is in the hands of some 9.8 million eligible to vote Greeks: something the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels had hoped to avoid in perpetuity. And with the leading candidate on war footing with Brussels (if only for the time being) the next few days in Europe will be quite interesting: "In Greece, democracy will return," the party's 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras told a throng of cameras as he voted in Athens. "The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity."
Here is a quick summary of the day's events from Deutsche Welle:
Greek voters are going to the polls in an election that is being closely watched all over the EU. The vote could result in a party taking power that wants to renegotiate the terms of Greece's international bailout.
Opinion polls, published on Friday, the last day of the election campaign, gave the far left, anti-austerity Syriza party, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras a clear lead over the governing conservative New Democracy party, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Nine separate polls gave Syriza a lead of anywhere from 2.8 percent over New Democracy, but they also indicated that around 10 percent of Greece's nearly 10 million eligible voters remained undecided.
As voters cast their ballots this Sunday, they will be presented with a clear choice; to place their faith in the painful austerity measures introduced by Samaras' government to comply with the terms of Greece's international bailout and fix the country's finances long-term - or to hitch their wagon to Tsipras' promises to roll back the austerity measures and negotiate more favorable terms.
In his final appeal to the voters on Friday, Samaras urged Greeks to reelect his government, saying it sould be crazy to take a chance on Syriza just when the austerity measures he introduced could be about to pay off.
"Syriza will turn all of Europe against Greece.... They don't understand Europe, they don't believe in Europe," Samaras said at a campaign rally in Athens. However, with an unemployment rate of 25 percent, it is no secret that this is a tough sell.
For his part, Tsipras said he planned to restore Greece's dignity by rolling back public sector layoffs, pay and pension cuts, and getting the country's creditors to write off much of its public debt.
What remains unclear is whether, if elected, he will be able to deliver on these promises. Critics have also warned that trying to renegotiate the terms of Greece's bailout with the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, could lead the "Grexit" scenario, in which the country would wind up leaving the eurozone. Syriza has said that it wants Greece to remain in the eurozone, and on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen by many Greeks as the driving force behind the tough terms of the bailout, expressed a similar sentiment.
"At the heart of our principles lies solidarity. I want Greece, despite the difficulties, to remain part of our story," Merkel said.
While Tsipras promises the unachievable, the population - eager to take a chance on anyone - will likely believe him. As Reuters reports, Tsipras' campaign slogan "Hope is coming!" has resonated with austerity-weary voters, despite Samaras' warnings that a Syriza government could bankrupt Greece.
"We are voting for Alexis Tsipras to put an end to this misery," said Stavroula Gourdourou, an unemployed mother who voted for the ruling conservatives in 2012. "Enough is enough! We won't let them destroy our children."
Which is also why Syriza's victory is assured. The only question is how big the majority will be and whether Syriza will have an absolute majority.
Which means that the fate of Greece will not be in the hands of the big parties, but in the small ones, with the question being how many pass the critical 3% threshold and whether enough do to prevent Syriza from getting an outright majority in parliament.
Ironically, it may be up to that veteran of Greek politics, George Papandreou, and his new KDS party, to determine if Syriza gets an absolute majority: something which will be unlikely if KDS crosses the 3% threshold.
Here is Macropolis' explanation of why the "also ran" parties are crucial this time around: "This time round, a total of 22 parties (including four coalitions) are running in the election. Assuming that seven of them will make it into parliament (Syriza, New Democracy, Potami, KKE, Pasok, Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn), recent opinion polls suggest that the “also rans” could take anything from 5 to 8 percent. Or even more. Pushing up the figure will be the share of the vote taken by former prime minister George Papandreou’s Movement of Democratic Socialists, leftwing antiausterity ANTARSYA, nationalist LAOS, and Democratic Left, all of which are not expected to make it into parliament."
When the counting of votes gets underway in Greece’s election on Sunday night, most eyes will be focused on election favourite Syriza’s tally to see if the leftist party stands a chance of gaining an overall majority in the new parliament. But under the Greek electoral system, determining whether the biggest party achieves an overall majority just doesn’t depend on its share of the vote, as important as that may be. One of the quirks of the system is that a host of other parties also play a major role in whether the main party gets to rule alone or not.
The political equivalent of the “also rans” in horseracing, these are the parties that fail to clear the three percent hurdle to enter parliament. The aggregate of the “also rans” is always important because if the percentage gained by these small parties totals 5 percent, for example, the winning party would need 38.4 percent to take 151 seats. If the total support for parties not entering Parliament reaches 10 percent, the threshold for the victorious party falls to 36.4.
The other words: the higher the share of the “also rans”, the easier it is for the poll-topping party to form a single-party government and avoid a coalition.
While some of these parties are familiar, like the far-right LAOS party that was in parliament until 2012, most are so obscure that only hardened political anoraks will have never heard of them, like numerous groups sporting the word “communist” in their title or the fantastically named perennial contestant run by a farmer in northern Greece called “Independent Innovative Left, Renewed Right, Renewed PASOK, Renewed New Democracy, No to War, Party of Business ‘I Give Away Land, I Give Away Debts, I Save Lives,’ Panagriarian Workers Movement of Greece”.
As previous results show, these parties are neither are they small in number, nor are the percentages they receive anything to be scoffed at.
In the first of the elections in 2012, for example, a record 25 “also rans” won a staggering 1.2 million votes, or some 19 percent of the total. Taken together, that made them more successful than New Democracy, which took 1.19 million votes (18.85 percent).
In the second election in June, the 15 of them who could afford to run again took 368,277 votes, or almost 6 percent. That was more than the communist KKE received and just less than Democratic Left, which won 17 seats.
And then there is of course also the question of just how "hard line" Tsipras really is: assuming he does get an absolute majority, will he dare to end the gravy train of handouts, as meager as they may have been, from Germany and Brussels over the past 6 years just to risk returning to the Drahcma, and even more pain, if only for the next 6-12 months as Greece has its long-overdue external adjustment which would also allow Greece to finally return to growth but only after the very painful preliminary period. A period that would be even more painful for the rest of Europe as one after another peripheral nation, also drowning in unemployment, decides to take the Greek route?
According to Reuters, despite all the bluster and rhetoric, Tsipras will most likely just continue the same Euro-directed show and dance.
Renouncing much of the firebrand rhetoric that was once his hallmark, Tsipras has promised to keep Greece in the euro and dropped threats to "tear up" the tough requirements of its 240 billion euro bailout.
He has promised to renegotiate a deal with the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund "troika" and write off much of Greece's 320 billion-euro debt, despite clear signs from partners including Germany that they would refuse.
At the same time, he wants to raise the minimum wage, cut power prices for low income families, cut taxes and reverse pension and public sector pay cuts.
We shall have the answers soon: the first exit polls hit at 7pm local Time (noon Eastern) with the first official projections due out just over two hours later, at 9:30pm local. Once available, the official results will be updated in real-time on the following map.
We will provide updates during this historic for Greece and the Eurozone day, but in the meantime, here are some additional notable comments from twitter.
??? ????? ???? ??? ??? ????? ????!?? ???????????? ?????????.???? ????????;????? ????! pic.twitter.com/OlkS5k9Pcm— Costanza (@adamspectern) January 24, 2015
??????? ?????????? ??????? ?? ????? ???????? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ?????????. ???? via luben pic.twitter.com/MdyU3caxFZ— Sofia Lampiki (@SofiaLampiki) January 23, 2015