Single-party governments are becoming a thing of the past, also in Greece. This is not necessarily bad news for the debt-hit country.
It is sometimes ignored that as head of SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras does not enjoy an absolute parliamentary majority. His leftist party only controls 144 seats in the 300-seat House, although he does have the backing of nine MPs from the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party (ANEL).
Together, the 153 deputies make a tissue-thin majority, especially when taking into account the measures that they have had to vote through.
Looking at the outcome of the January 2015 election, Tsipras only managed to win a minority of 149 seats. He had to reach out to ANEL leader Panos Kammenos to form a government.
The administration of former conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras was also the product of a political alliance, as his New Democracy party had to work with socialist PASOK and (albeit for a shorter period) Democratic Left (DIMAR).
Ex-central bank chief Lucas Papademos also had to rely on an alliance of parliamentary groups so he could lead the country during the most crucial period of the bailout years. In addition to Samaras’s ND, the alliance under Papademos also included Evangelos Venizelos’s PASOK, Fotis Kouvelis’s DIMAR and Giorgos Karatzaferis’s Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS).
The last Greek leader to form a one-party government was George Papandreou in October 2009, when he won 44 percent of the vote and 160 parliamentary seats. He lost that majority just two years later in November 2011. After winning 42 percent of the vote and 152 seats in 2007, Costas Karamanlis also saw his majority evaporate after two years in office.
Up until the creation of the euro area, Greece, along with Spain and the United Kingdom, had been dominated by one-party government rule. In contrast, eight European countries had coalition governments after World War II, while six have made the transition to multiparty governments in the past 15-20 years.
European politics has entered an era of coalition governments. Too bad such coalitions often verge on the reactionary due to the rise of far-right parties.
In France and Germany, such collaborations mostly involve parties of the political center, which also works in favor of Europe’s stability.
We now have an opportunity to think how different the situation in Greece would be today had the mainstream parties continued to work together after 2014. Instead, Greece got an alliance between two fringe parties. The next election could help us realize that the end of one-party governments presents the Third Hellenic Republic with an opportunity to save itself.