Greece will vote in national legislative elections Sunday to choose its 300 members of parliament, after the ruling conservative coalition failed to maintain its parliamentary majority in December. And no, this is not your ordinary election. Polls suggest a victory of the radical left party, Syriza, with more than 30% of voting intentions, and stakes for the country and beyond appear higher with the economy continuing to teeter toward default. Here are six crucial points that shape this election, with some help from John and Paul.
YOU expand=1] SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION The party expected to win makes no bones about it's ideological roots, as Syriza is the acronym for "Coalition of the Radical Left." It was founded in 2004 as a coalition of left and far-left parties, and gained a significant number of voters after the 2008 economic crisis and the riots that ensued. Led by the 40-year-old former member of the Communist Party Alexis Tsipras, Syriza promises to challenge austerity measures imposed by the European Commission, the Central European Bank and the International Monetary Fund beginning in 2010.
Greece’s debt reached 175.1% of its GDP in 2013 — Source: Eurostat
FIXING expand=1] A HOLE The conservative Prime Minister Antónis Samarás insists that the austerity policies are starting to pay off. But that likely wouldn't stop Syriza from restructuring the Greek debt (175.1% of the GDP in 2013), raising the minimum wage, declaring a moratorium on private debts towards banks, establishing a "development clause" that would limit the amount of revenue the country allocates towards the debt, and recapitalizing banks, somehow without affecting the public debt. The party also proposes free electricity for homes whose supplies have been cut off, distributions of food stamps and covering rents for homeless people.
A expand=1] LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS (OR ENEMIES?) Despite its lead in the polls, Syriza will probably not win with an absolute majority (151 seats). This means the radical left party will have to form a coalition with other political forces. This could turn out to be tricky when the possibilities are the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn or the communist KKE, which refuses any sort of alliance with Syriza. The most probable coalition would be formed with the new center-left party To Potami.
IMAGINE expand=1] THERE'S NO WINNER According to the Greek Constitution, if the elected party doesn’t succeed in forming a coalition, the mandate is transferred to the second party (in this case, probably the conservative New Democracy party, led by Antonis Samaras), then to the third if the second also fails. If all fail, like in 2012, a new election is organized, and everyone starts all over again.
expand=1]WENT OUT THROUGH THE BATHROOM WINDOW? A political deadlock would undoubtedly be another economic disaster for the country. But many say that a far more troubling scenario would be if a Syriza-led government was not able to reach an agreement on the Greek debt and pulled the country out of Eurozone. In early January, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported Chancellor Angela Merkel would be open to a "Grexit" if a radical left government was elected, though the news was quickly refuted by Merkel. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker later told Reuters that "any new Greek government will have to deliver on the commitments of its predecessors and continue reforms." The International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde also said Greece leaving the Eurozone would be catastrophic: "First of all, it is not allowed under the rules of the euro area, and secondly, I think it would be devastating for Greece."
GOOD expand=1] DAY SUNSHINE Syriza said it would limit "all-inclusive" holiday offers in those famous Greek tourist resorts, according to The New York Times. By doing this, it hopes to push tourists out of big chain hotels into more Greek-owned local businesses. Although around 25% of the population is still jobless, the tourism industry was back growing again last year with 21.5 million visitors.