The Progressive Post

🇬🇷 The day when temperatures equalled voters’ turnout – and exceeded winners’ percentage


lawyer and communications expert, currently working at the University of Athens, senior member of PASOK-KINAL, the Greek Socialist Party, former President of Young European Socialists, former member of PES Presidency and of the Central Committee of PASOK

On 9 June, in Greece, the temperature was slightly over 40 degrees and so was voters’ participation in the European elections, whereas the three main parties’ percentages reminded of a cool day in early spring – if not winter. All three numerical facts are problems to be dealt with in the new EP mandate. 

It was the lowest voting turnout ever for Greek politics. A mere 41.4 per cent of the electoral body thought it worthy to cast their vote for the European Parliament (EP) elections, although it was the first time that the right to vote remotely was given to all citizens who would apply for it. The ruling centre-right party, Nea Dimokratia (EPP) won a faint 28.3 per cent, the poorest percentage ever for a winning party in Greece, the leftish alliance SYRIZA (GUE/NGL), a shadow of the once governing party, 14.9 per cent, PASOK (S&D) climbed from 7.7 per cent in 2019 to 12.8 per cent (with a sigh of optimism), the pro-Russian extreme right rose from 4.2 per cent in 2019 to 9.3 per cent, the Communist Party was at 9.2 per cent, Niki, another religious pro-Russian fraction of extreme right at 4.4 per cent, the leftish Plefsi Eleftherias 3.4 per cent, and a new extreme right party won the 21st Greek seat in the EP with 3 per cent.

In the last months, the debate was everything but European: the personal or family lives of the two main parties’ leaders, their TikTok videos and their tax declarations have been at the heart of a populist race between them – and, consequently, at the headlines of the media – far more than migration, climate change, European Foreign Policy, Ukraine, the Middle East, economic governance, AI, education, healthcare, civil rights or any other European issues. It was not that this electoral fight was underestimated as such; it was simply envisaged as another national poll. Greece, with huge sacrifices by the citizens and with the major efforts of PASOK when it was in power, has secured its European position through the recent crisis. Now, in the first European elections after the crisis, the governing centre-right and the leftish main opposition parties refused to confront the real European challenges: they poorly challenged their own recent electoral outcomes of last year’s national elections – and they both lost. The progressive voices were not enough to turn the general debate into another direction. But it is a sign of optimism and relief that PASOK managed to increase its electoral force even in this negative ambiance. Keeping realistic, we may say that a positive change is ahead of us, although there is still a long way to go. 

It is the job of progressive politicians and parties to put the genuine political agenda back into the centre. It is the job of Socialists and Social Democrats to spot the actual problems, to address the real challenges, to remaster policies which will indeed deal with the main issues of our times in a responsible and sustainable way, to the people’s interest. Security, healthcare, education, social welfare, a growing housing crisis, demographic challenges, wars in our close neighbourhoods and, of course, the environmental crisis, are the problems to be addressed most urgently. Everyone knows that populism is not the solution. Most citizens are fully aware that the extreme right cannot and will not deal with these issues. Yet, they get the vote. Why? It’s protest. It’s rejection. It’s a wake-up call. It’s the remains and the reminiscence of three years of lockdown, full of conspiracy theories and insecurities. It’s disappointment with the failures.

This is the difference between conservatives and progressives is We, progressives, need to get back the positive vote. We have to be honest and not only assume our own responsibilities, but let the citizens face their own. A real progressive party cannot merely complain and reject, just because some loud electorate rests on populism. It is not the work of Socialists to cry over abstention; our work is to increase participation. It is not the role of Socialists and Democrats to criticise the EU; it is to make Europe relevant for the citizens again. If the results in Greece have proved one thing, it is that the electorate takes the EU for granted, even if they did not debate enough on European issues. And if Greeks, after a long decade of crisis and almost drop-out, still feel naturally European, then everyone else in the Union also has a good reason to.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock/AlexandrosMichailidis

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