SYRIZA heads for historic victory but without majority

SYRIZA was on the verge of a historic election victory on Sunday night but one that might not hand the leftist party an outright parliamentary majority, raising doubts about whether a government can be formed in the next few days.

With 70 percent of the votes counted at around midnight, SYRIZA held 36 percent and New Democracy 28.2. This would give SYRIZA 149 seats in Parliament, two short of a majority. The two parties were followed by Golden Dawn on 6.4 percent, Potami on 5.9 and the Communist Party (KKE) on 5.4. PASOK and Independent Greeks also looked certain to enter Parliament, both with close to a 4.7 percent share of the vote.

George Papandreou’s Movement of Democratic Socialists (Kinima) appeared set to miss out on a place in Parliament as it was under the 3 percent threshold for gaining seats, with 2.4 percent.

This means that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is likely to receive a three-day exploratory mandate from President Karolos Papoulias on Monday. If Tsipras cannot form a government, the mandate will pass to New Democracy for three days and then the third party for another three. However, as SYRIZA receives a 50-seat bonus for coming first, the other parties will not have enough seats to create a majority coalition and second elections would be needed, as in 2012.

In a triumphant speech before a large and boisterous crowd outside Athens University, Tsipras said the leftists’ victory was “a victory for all peoples of Europe fighting austerity.” “Greece is turning a page, advancing with firm steps in a Europe which is changing.”

“The mandate of the Greek people today cancels, in an indisputable way, the memorandums,” Tsipras said, referring to Greece’s loan agreements with its international creditors. “It makes the troika a thing of the past.”

He said his government would seek a mutual solution that would allow the country to emerge from its mountainous debt and pledged to to make good on his party’s promise to curb the corruption that contributed to Greece’s debt crisis in the first place. “Today the Greece of the oligarchs, of the elite, of the cover-ups was defeated. Victory was for the Greece that strives, that hopes,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, outgoing Premier and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras conceded defeat to SYRIZA but said he was proud of ND’s efforts and achievements. “The Greek people spoke and we all respect their decision,” he said. He added that his conscience was at ease. “I took over a country on the edge of catastrophe. I had burning coal in my hands,” he said. “We reduced the deficits. We created a culture of cooperation and coalitions that were unheard of in Greece. There were mistakes but we averted the very worst.” “I hope the next government will maintain what we have achieved,” he said, adding that ND was prepared to play “a decisive role in developments from now on.”

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos decried the pitiful showing of the once-mighty Socialists in the elections and heralded a party congress, indicating that there would be a leadership contest. “The small and insufficient percentage,” garnered by PASOK did not correspond to the efforts made and the “many truths” expressed by the party in the countdown to elections, Venizelos said. The PASOK chief also slammed ex-Premier George Papandreou, a former leader of PASOK, for setting up a rival party on “a whim” and undermining the party his father founded. Clearly furious, Venizelos accused Papandreou of “granting the third place to Golden Dawn.” Venizelos congratulated SYRIZA but indicated that it would require a broader consensus, noting that the June 2012 coalition had represented 47 percent of votes.

Papandreou’s party Kinima failed to get into Parliament. Speaking after exit polls that predicted his party would be excluded, he said his political movement would remain active irrespective of whether it is represented in Parliament. “It will be here tomorrow,” he said, noting that it was an achievement that a party less than a month old fared as well as it did. Papandreou indicated that SYRIZA would not be able to govern alone, underlining the need for “broader consensuses and alliances.” The former premier also called for a referendum on the strategy to be followed regarding the country’s debt.

The leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL), Panos Kammenos, hailed Greek voters because, “In a climate of fear and terror, they chose hope and independence.” He described ANEL as the “necessary good” for the country, saying it would help “bring the smiles back onto the faces of our children.” The main thing is “to be patriots and to pursue the good of the country.”

Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis, another possible ally of SYRIZA, said he would “not join a government with anti-Europeans.”

Repeating his party’s election slogan, Theodorakis expressed his intention “to change everything without demolishing the country.” He underlined the need for “broader coalitions.” “We congratulate Tsipras on his major victory and hope he will fulfill his pledges,” Theodorakis said.

KKE leader Dimitris Koutsoubas said the result of the elections was proof of the public anger against ND and PASOK but also indicated the “false hope” of many that a SYRIZA government could enforce a policy that benefits the people. Koutsoubas also expressed dismay at the strong performance of the neofascist Golden Dawn.

In a statement from Korydallos Prison, where he and fellow MPs are awaiting trial on criminal charges, GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos said his party had won third place in elections for a second time.