Greek local elections: a first assessment – positive steps for the Left

Translation of the statement produced by Xekinima after the local elections of October 8.

Abstention was the winner in the first round of the Greek local (regional and municipal) elections on October 8. Abstention increased nationally by 5.7% compared to the 2019 local elections, reaching 47.5%. In Athens and Thessaloniki abstention reached unprecedented levels – 70% and 60% accordingly. This reflects a mood of dissatisfaction and disillusionment about election politics- a conscious stance by some layers and an unconscious one for others.

However, abstention benefits the ruling parties as it boosts their victories. People generally have the impression that these parties have won, when in fact their relative majority only concerns about 50% of the electorate that went to the polls.

In this context, the lead of New Democracy in most regions and big municipalities and the low results of SYRIZA and PASOK candidates are not surprising. They confirm the trends that were evident in the May and June parliamentary elections. New Democracy continues to rally its traditional voter base and is moving closer towards election results it was scoring before the debt crisis.

The big wildfires and floods did not cause any significant voter shifts. New Democracy was able to convince its voters that the government did everything in its power to deal with the “natural disasters caused by the climate crisis”. At the same time, the opposition (PASOK and SYRIZA) failed to convince voters that it would actually make any difference in that field. After all, the opposition parties’ election promises were never fulfilled when they came to power. Instead, they continued with the same anti-poor and corrupt policies.

As far as SYRIZA is concerned, the local elections also proved that its new ship-owner president, Kasselakis, is neither broadening the electoral base nor creating any momentum, on the contrary PASOK has been able to increase its support at the expense of SYRIZA.

Rise of KKE candidates

But the local elections also had a very positive aspect. In most regions and municipalities the left scored better results compared to the previous local elections in 2019. The fact that this was achieved despite the rise of abstention rates makes it even more significant.

In the regional elections, the CP (KKE) increased its votes in all 13 regions, ranging from 0.6% to 5.8%, compared to the 2019 regional elections. KKE got between 5,7% and 13,9% of the vote in the 13 regions.

The regions where KKE had its biggest rise in percentages was Attica, where it scored 13.9%, and Thessaly, where its share rose to 12.8%. There was also a significant vote increase in the municipalities of Athens and Thessaloniki. In Athens, it scored 2,500 more votes than in 2019, increasing its percentage from 7.4% to 12.8%. In Thessaloniki, the second biggest municipality in the country after Athens, it scored 1,000 more votes, increasing its percentage to 6.8%.

It is also important to note that in Patras, the third larger city in Greece, despite a dirty campaign by the establishment parties, the KKE Mayor Kostas Peletidis has maintained a significant lead over his main rival (who has the support of New Democracy, PASOK and SYRIZA!) in the first round. The mayor position will be contested in the second round, coming Sunday.

United fronts of the radical Left

The most important and positive results, however, regard the united front formations of the anti-capitalist left that stood in Athens, Thessaloniki and a number of other municipalities in Greece.

“I poli anapoda” (Η πόλη ανάποδα-“The city up-side down”) in Thessaloniki got 3,000 more votes (from 2,000 to 5,000) and tripled its share of the vote to 5.5% compared to the previous local elections! Over the past five years, this coalition has been an example of successful cooperation of an important number of (about 10) anti-capitalist left organizations, a beacon in the prevailing scattering atmosphere of left forces. At the same time, it was also a model on how to intervene and mobilise the city’s neighbourhoods. I poli anapoda helped the residents of many areas of Thessaloniki to form struggle committees, to mobilise and win victories against the attacks they faced (such as building more concrete structures in the few open green spaces inside the city). The residents were able, among other things, to cancel plans of the city’s ND controlled local council to avoid building a new kindergarten, and replace it with a block of luxury flats. At the same time, I poli anapoda did not simply denounce the policies of the local council and the government, but had well-crafted counter-proposals on how the city should be run, mobilizing local action committees on these proposals.

In Athens, the Subversive Alliance for Athens (a united slate by three different local organisations) received 8,500 votes and 6% of the vote. This is a much higher number of votes and percentage than the simple addition of the forces that stood separately in the 2019 elections. This also shows the momentum that unifying projects of the Left can gain, even if these projects are basically electoral partnerships under the pressure of the new undemocratic election law passed through parliament by New Democracy (which sets a threshold of 3% in order to elect a councilor).

The results of a number of formations in smaller municipalities have also been very successful. In the municipality of Neapoli-Sykies, I poli allios (Η Πόλη Αλλιώς– “An alternative city”) more than doubled its votes (from 1,244 to 2,500) and tripled its share of the vote, reaching 9%. Gi kai Eleftheria (Γη και Ελευθερία– “Land and Freedom”) in Rafina, which was born out of the residents’ struggle to save the great river of Rafina, got 4.9%. In Agia Paraskevi, Fisai Kontra (Φυσάει κόντρα– “Against the wind”) also got 4.9%. In other municipalities, the forces of the anti-capitalist left managed to hold their ground. In Zografou and Kallithea, the united front formations got 3.5%, while in Nea Smyrni, the local alliance maintained its 4.3% of the vote.

Fascists fall short of their expectations

What is also optimistic, is the decline of Kasidiaris’ forces in the Municipality of Athens. Ilias Kasidiaris was a leading member of Golden Dawn that broke ranks with them and formed his own party. He is still in jail serving the sentence for leading a criminal organization, but managed to get his party elected in parliament at the recent national elections.

Despite the support of his “Spartan” MPs and despite the great mobilisation of the extreme right for the pan-European neo-Nazi rally organised in Athens on November 1st, Kasidiaris lost half of the votes he received in the 2019 local elections (11,643 compared to 21,963) and fell from 10.5% to 8.3%.

The great success of the united front projects of the Left in the local elections and the need for relentless anti-fascist struggle are the key elements that the anti-capitalist Left must work on in the coming period. We must build on them starting today, because they are the key to the future.

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