July 23, 2023

Elections in Greece: KKE Gains

R Arun Kumar

THE elections to the Greek parliament were held in two phases. The first phase took place in May but yielded inconclusive results, leading to a second phase which was held on June 25, 2023. In this second phase, the Conservative party, New Democracy, succeeded in forming the government. Greek laws stipulate that if no party is able to form a government after an election, a snap poll is called, and the party securing the highest vote share in that snap poll is granted 'bonus seats.'

The allocation of bonus seats is determined as follows: The party coming in first with a minimum of 25 per cent of the votes would receive 20 extra seats, and an additional seat for every half percentage point above 25 per cent, up to a maximum of 50 extra seats at 40 per cent (or more) of the votes. This particular law was enacted in 2020 and came into effect during this election when no party managed to form a government in the May elections.

In the June elections, New Democracy (ND) secured 40.55 per cent of the votes, while SYRIZA obtained 17.84 per cent, and the other older social democratic party PASOK received 11.85 per cent. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnered 7.7 per cent of the votes.

The voter turnout in the June elections decreased by nearly 7 percentage points compared to the turnout registered in the May elections. This decline was mainly due to the disillusionment of a majority of the people with the major political forces, which led them to abstain from voting. Post-election analysis showed that a significant number of voters who did not participate belonged to the two major political parties, ND and PASOK.  The voters of SYRIZA also did not turn out to vote in the June elections. Despite the ND voters not coming out to vote, the party managed to muster a majority due to the 50 bonus seats it obtained.

One encouraging aspect of the election was the consistent  rise in the vote share of the KKE. The KKE saw a 2.5 per cent increase in its vote share compared to the elections held in 2019. Even when compared to the votes it received in May, it witnessed a growth of 0.4 per cent. The increasing vote share resulted in an increase in the presence of KKE members in parliament, with a total of 21 MPs now representing the party. It could not get 5 more seats because of the bonus seats legislation, which were cut from it and given to the ND.

In an atmosphere where it is always pointed out that the Left, particularly the Communist Parties are losing badly in elections, the gains secured by the KKE stand out. This is all the more significant as it is happening in continental Europe. Interestingly, it should be noted that the media's favourite, ‘Left’ party SYRIZA, is consistently losing support due to the compromises it made with neoliberal policies and the austerity measures it enforced at the behest of international finance capital.

A significant factor contributing to the growing support for the KKE is its consistent struggles against the economic policies implemented by successive governments in Greece. The party has consistently led uncompromising struggles against the governments of ND, PASOK, and even SYRIZA. Notably, starting from the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, the KKE has consistently stood alongside the working-class confederation PAME, ensuring active participation in all working-class struggles.

During this period, on average, the PAME organised at least three general strikes each year, in addition to numerous sectoral strikes. The KKE stood along with the PAME and was actively engaged in campaigns and ensured its cadre's active participation at picket lines, fighting for the rights and interests of the working class. These efforts have resonated with the people and contributed to the increasing support for the KKE in Greece.

The KKE attributes its electoral rise to its 'ideological-political intervention' on crucial matters, encompassing history, economy, advances in science, technology, education, and health. The party has been actively involved in addressing contemporary social issues and promoting cultural activities, leading to the mobilization of broader support. A notable example is the increasing participation of people in the annual cultural festival – Odigitis, organised by the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE). Throughout its interventions, the KKE has steadfastly defended socialism, advocating it as the sole path forward for the working class and the people of the country.

The KKE has maintained its strong and militant ties in various sectors, including workplaces, neighbourhoods, villages, health care centres, educational institutions, and cultural arenas. The party has joined forces with hundreds of workers and breadwinners in protests against house foreclosures and the closure of small shops. They have also actively participated in demonstrations against workplace accidents. The KKE has led demonstrations condemning the mistreatment of migrants, particularly policies that have led to tragic deaths off its coast.

In solidarity with farmers, the KKE has joined demonstrations to defend their income and livelihood. The party's intervention in the health sector, especially during the pandemic, has been noteworthy. Hundreds of KKE volunteers provided care and fought for the rights of health care workers, earning recognition and praise for their efforts. Because of these efforts, the trade unions in health sector moved closer to the KKE.

Members and cadres of the KKE have been actively involved in providing assistance during natural disasters such as forest fires and storms, when the government abandoned the affected people. The party played a crucial role in organising the self-employed people and led their struggles for better conditions. The KNE, the party's youth wing, has been actively engaged in taking up the issues of students and young people. As a result of its activities among university and school students, its student-wing Panspoudastiki achieved first place in the student elections for the second consecutive year. An example of the KKE's work can be observed in its intervention during the tragic train crash in Tempe, where many students and people lost their lives. The KKE held the policy of privatisation and liberalisation of transport as responsible for the accident and mobilised people against the government's actions.

The KKE has presented its vision of 'workers' power and governance,' outlining its character and the conditions required for its realization, to the people. The party has consistently emphasized the role it will play in achieving this vision for a more equitable and just society.

The MPs of the KKE have been active in the parliament, consistently pushing the government to address working-class issues and their struggles. The party states that it has ‘used the parliament to expose the class politics of the government and other parties’.

As a result of all these militant and consistent political interventions, KKE was able to gain substantially in working class neighbourhoods. Notably, it gained in the working-class and popular districts such as Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, and other large cities.

An analysis of the voting pattern reveals that 7.9 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women voted for the KKE. Interestingly, the party's share among young people aged 17-24 years is even higher at 8.1 percent, surpassing the party's average percentage. Similarly, among those aged 25-34 years, the KKE obtained 8.9 per cent of the votes, while among the 35-54 age group, it secured 7.5 per cent. Among individuals aged 55 and above, the party received 7.1 per cent of the votes. These statistics indicate that the KKE received a significant portion of its votes from the youth.

If we examine voters by occupation, we observe that 9.5 per cent of university and school students, 9 per cent of private sector employees, 8.7 per cent of the unemployed, 8.5 per cent of public sector employees, 7 per cent of housewives, 6.2 per cent of the self-employed, 5.7 per cent of pensioners, and 5.2 per cent of farmers, livestock farmers, and fishermen voted for the party. These statistics clearly indicate that the majority of the support for the KKE comes from the working class and the farmers.

The KKE believes that this victory will enable it to further ‘regroup and give a mass character to the workers-people’s unions and organisations, as well as change the correlation of forces’. The party views the current correlation of forces as 'negative,' primarily due to the fact that parties supporting the interests of business groups, the EU, and NATO continue to enjoy the majority of workers' and people's support. The KKE asserts that this support does not stem from the acceptance of anti-popular policies promoted by ruling class parties but rather from the manipulation and deceit propagated by ruling class propaganda. Therefore, the party acknowledges the importance of conducting an intense ideological campaign to expose the class character of the government and mobilise people in the struggle against capitalism. Through such efforts, the KKE aims to challenge the prevailing narrative and create a shift in public consciousness, leading to a broader movement against capitalism.

The KKE also noted the increased presence of far-right parties in parliament and emphasized that there should be no room for complacency in the fight against them. The party recognizes that the roots of these far-right forces are deeply embedded in the current capitalist system, the EU's immigration policy, and the repressive and offensive measures targeting the workers' and people's movement. The KKE firmly states that dealing with these far-right forces cannot be accomplished solely through legislative measures. “This is a matter for the workers’-people’s movement. The KKE will continue to struggle in this direction, as it has done so throughout the previous period”, it said.

The ND government has clearly stated its intention to advance its anti-popular agenda and has made new commitments to the EU and NATO. It plans to implement anti-labour and anti-popular measures, which will involve imposing heavy taxation on the working class and the self-employed. As a result, the KKE has issued a cautionary message to the people, warning them that challenging times are ahead. The party has urged the people not to adopt a 'wait-and-see stance' or give the government a grace period. Instead, the KKE has called on the people to be proactive and ready to resist these detrimental policies from the outset.
The KKE entered these elections with the slogan: '100 percent militant, working-class, people's opposition.' Following the election results, the party swiftly reaffirmed its commitment to be at the forefront of militant struggles. The KKE emphasizes that it will continue to maintain its strong connections with the working class and actively intervene in all their struggles. With confidence, the KKE believes that it is now in a better position to convince the youth and workers and unite them under its banner.