Greece Elections: Call it a Comeback

Greece Elections: Call it a Comeback

European Parliament elections in May didn't go well for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as his radical-turned-mushy-left Syriza party was drubbed by the resurgent center-right New Democracy (ND) party by 9.3 points. The scale of the loss prompted Tsipras to call national elections early to staunch the political bleeding.

It didn't work. His party lost to ND and its US-educated, pro-market leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis this weekend by more than 8 percentage points; that's a large enough margin for New Democracy to secure a return to political power, as well as a comfortable majority in Greece's parliament.

Greece's New Prime Minister Is 'Cautiously Optimistic' 10 Years After the Debt Crisis

Some key points for consideration beyond the headlines you'll be reading this week:

This next one will be the most stable Greek government we'll see for a while. For years, one of the defining features of the Greek electoral system was the 50-seat bonus the first-place party received in Greece's 300-member parliament for, well, coming in first. The idea was that the bonus would help provide a political cushion for the governing party and the political space it needs to move its agenda forward.

But in 2016, Syriza abolished the 50-seat bonus, arguing that it's undemocratic (which has a certain logic to it). Changes to Greece's election laws must be grandfathered in though, so this round of elections kept the 50-bonus-seat system in place, and the next one will do away with it.

As it is, Greek governments have struggled to stay in power, particularly given the politically ugly choices they've had to make (this was the fifth snap election since 2012), and given the depth of Greece's crisis, plenty more tough decisions will be needed in the coming years. Structurally speaking, this new Mitsotakis-led government is looking like the last with any kind of political crutch to stand on.

The return of political protests? When Greece first started implementing austerity measures demanded by its international creditors (primarily the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, aka "the Troika"), it was beset by large-scale protests that caused millions in property damage in downtown Athens on a semi-regular basis. Those protests largely died down once Tsipras took office—his critics accused him of having been the driving force behind those original protests, while his supporters argued that the protests died down because the Greek people recognized they finally had a prime minister in Tsipras that was willing to fight for them.

It could also be that the Greek people just got protest-fatigue. Regardless, the return of New Democracy—one of the two establishment parties that first drove Greece into its current mess—has the potential to touch off the kind of political violence the country hasn't seen since Syriza took power in 2015.

The comeback kids. But if there's a bigger lesson for the world to take away from Greek elections this Sunday, it's this: even populist movements run out of steam. Syriza was one of the very first populist governments to come to power, though its electoral victory was mostly written off as a product of Greece's unusually dire circumstances rather than as part of a larger anti-Establishment movement rippling around the world.

Whatever the reason, Syriza was unable to deliver on its lofty promises of rolling back austerity measures and bending Brussels to its will. It's not enough to make promises; you also have to deliver.

And four years later, the Greek people decided to bring back the party in office before Syriza stormed to power (albeit one that's under new leadership).

It's a reminder that populism, like politics generally, is cyclical.

UPDATE: This text has been updated to reflect Mitsotakis' victory in the election.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

More Show less

China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

More Show less

Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

More Show less

5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the first act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. And a Quick Take for you. I wanted to talk a bit about Taiwan. I'll tell you, I've talked about it in the media over the last couple of weeks and almost every questioner has been trying to prod me towards, "are we heading to war?" Then I was with some friends at the Trilateral Commission on Friday. I like that group a lot. It's one of these groups that a lot of conspiracy theorists pretend secretly run the world, like the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations. Now having attended all three, I can tell you, if they do run the world, they are not inviting me into the rooms where they're making those decisions. If they are doing that, they're also doing a lousy job of it.

Nonetheless, it was fun until I was on stage and the first question I got was about, "Hey, so the Chinese are changing the status quo. Do you think that means we're heading towards war?" I just want to say that, first of all, I am clearly less concerned about the imminence of confrontation and military conflict between the United States and China than almost anybody out there. Accidents are certainly possible, but particularly around Taiwan, where both sides know the stakes and have made them abundantly clear for decades now, and everyone involved gets it I think it's much less likely.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal