Monday, May 7, 2012

Greek Voters Oust Ruling Parties in Backlash Against Austerity

The Wall Street Journal offers a dire headline, "Greeks Court Chaos in Mass Protest Vote: New Parties Vow to Redo Bailout Terms; Prospects for Coalition Rule Look Dim" (at Google):

ATHENS — Greek voters on Sunday delivered a stinging rejection of the country's two incumbent parties—the Socialist, or Pasok, party and the conservative New Democracy—and the austerity program they support, raising the specter of political instability that could ultimately challenge the country's future in the euro zone.

More than 60% of the popular vote went to smaller left- and right-wing parties that have campaigned against the austerity program Greece must implement in exchange for continued financing from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.

With the political landscape dramatically recast, difficult talks for a multiparty coalition were set to follow the election of Greece's most fragmented Parliament since the restoration of democracy and the fall of the military junta in 1974. But the prospect of a viable government emerging from these talks looked dim, raising the possibility of fresh elections before long—possibly by the middle of next month.

Greek voters' resounding rejection of austerity came the same day that the French elected Fran├žois Hollande as president, giving that country a Socialist leader who has pledged to shift the burden of hardship onto the rich and resolve the protracted euro sovereign-debt crisis by softening the current prescription of fiscal stringency.

With more than 95% of the vote counted, Greece's two mainstream parties looked set to secure just 150 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, which would prevent them from forming a governing coalition on their own. The projection includes a 50-seat bonus awarded to the conservative New Democracy party which holds a slim lead with 19.1% of the vote and 109 seats.

The two parties garnered just under 33% of the vote between them, a sharp drop from the combined 77% they won in the previous election less than three years ago.

At least seven parties, most of which reject austerity policies, were poised to clear the 3% threshold needed to enter Parliament—meaning the next Greek government will have difficulty implementing the reform program demanded by the country's European and international creditors in exchange for funding a continued bailout for Greece.

In a surprise result, the Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, which seeks to annul the austerity program, saw its share of the vote more than triple from the 2009 elections, to 16.4% of the vote and 51 seats—making it the second-largest party in Parliament—Interior Ministry projections showed.

Pasok took the brunt of voter anger, slipping to third place, with 13.5% of the vote and 41 seats, its worst showing in more than 30 years.

The far-right, anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party, with an estimated 6.9% of the vote, or 21 seats, will enter Parliament for the first time.

If final results confirm initial projections, a bipartisan coalition of New Democracy and Pasok is unlikely to deliver a viable government, capable of passing fresh reforms demanded by international creditors.
And here's this, from the editors at WSJ, "The New Greek Extremism":
As for the rise of the extremist fringes, this should serve as a warning of what happens in countries where mainstream parties fail. It's too soon to start making comparisons to the interwar years of the last century, when Fascism, Communism and Nazism all found their political footholds. But that's the scenario Europe may someday risk again if its centrist parties continue to fail.

Also, at Telegraph UK, "Angry Greeks send a message by punishing parties of austerity." And from The Guardian, "Greek voters vent anger towards austerity at ballot box: Parties that passed unpopular belt-tightening measures punished by electorate..."