Profile of parties running in May 6 Greek elections
Leader: Evangelos Venizelos
Brief history: The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) was formed by Andreas Papandreou following the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1974 and grew to be the dominant force in Greek politics for the next 38 years. It came to power in 1981 and became synonymous with a state-centric economic model and the broadening of the public sector. Heading the party’s so-called “modernizing” wing, Costas Simitis succeeded Papandreou in 1996. He led Greece into the euro on the back of some belt-tightening but made way for George Papandreou, Andreas’s son, before the 2004 elections as PASOK began to flag after many years in office and was unable to shake off its association with corruption. Following a period of unsure leadership, George Papandreou was elected prime minister in 2009 but soon had to deal with a major debt crisis that led to Greece being bailed out by the EU and IMF. PASOK’s reliance on higher taxes rather than public reforms and spending cuts to reduce Greece’s deficit undermined the party’s popularity further. Papandreou resigned as prime minister last November and as PASOK leader earlier this year. He was succeeded by one-time leadership rival and former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Main campaign points: Venizelos says he will ask the EU and IMF to extend Greece’s fiscal adjustment period by one year, until 2015, in order to ease the impact on taxpayers. He has also presented a “National Regeneration Plan” which is based on a reformed tax system that will remain stable for 10 years and will ease the burden on low income earners and pensioners. PASOK also advocates incentives for young people to turn to farming and steps to increase liquidity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The party has pledged to clamp down on illegal immigration and Greece's citizens' protection minister, a Socialist, recently announced plans to create 30 detention centers to house undocumented immigrants, who don't qualify for asylum, before they are deported. There is not much left of Papandreou's “green growth” policies in PASOK's new program.
Campaign slogan: Greeks are trying and will succeed
2009 election result: 43.92 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 14 percent
Leader: Antonis Samaras
Brief history: The conservative party was founded in 1974 by veteran politician Constantine Karamanlis, who became Greece’s first prime minister following the fall of the military dictatorship. Karamanlis stepped aside in 1980 and the party suffered a series of election defeats at the hands of PASOK before Constantine Mitsotakis led it to power in 1990. But his turbulent period in office ended in 1993 when an ND mutiny led by Antonis Samaras triggered the government's collapse and PASOK's return to power. Costas Karamanlis, nephew of Constantine, led the party to a narrow election defeat in 2000. In 2004, however, he became Greece’s youngest prime minister thanks to a big election win and a policy of appealing to the middle ground. However, Karamanlis’s government largely struggled to deliver on the economic and public sector reforms it had promised and in its later stages became embroiled in corruption scandals. It suffered a landslide defeat in 2009, leaving behind a burgeoning public deficit and debt. Rehabilitated after a long period in the political wilderness, Samaras succeeded Karamanlis and quickly sought to move the party to the right. New Democracy opposed the first EU-IMF bailout but last November reluctantly joined the coalition government that negotiated the second loan agreement.
Main campaign points: Samaras argues that the terms of the EU-IMF loan deal do not allow enough scope for growth. He advocates a 15 percent flat tax for business and the lowering of VAT. He also supports a fully fledged privatization program and has suggested that some 11 billion euros in savings that Greece has to make in 2013 and 2014 can come from slashing public sector waste. New Democracy has pledged to tighten up immigration rules and repeal a law allowing second-generation migrants to claim Greek citizenship. Samaras, who does not shy away from references to “God” or “the nation,” has sought to ramp up the conservatives' ethical message, promising to do away with deputies' parliamentary immunity from prosecution and set up a parliamentary committee to investigate past misdeeds that led to the country's economic meltdown.
Campaign slogan: Greece is going to make it
2009 election result: 33.48 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 21.5 percent
Communist Party of Greece (KKE)
Leader: Aleka Papariga
Brief history: Founded in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Greek Communist Party was initially known as the Socialist Labor Party of Greece. It adopted Marxist-Leninist principles in 1924 and has since functioned according to democratic centralism. It played a significant role in the formation of trade unions but the party was outlawed by dictator Ioannis Metaxas in 1936. Members of KKE played a significant role in Greece’s resistance to the Nazi occupation in World War II but political differences then sparked the civil war, which ended in 1949 and led to KKE being outlawed again. It did not regain legal status until the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1974. However, the Communist Party split into two: the “exterior,” which took its lead from Moscow, and the “interior,” which developed a more independent voice. The latter merged in 1989 with other leftist parties to form the Synaspismos coalition, which later became part of SYRIZA. KKE has maintained a staunch Marxist-Leninist line since then, refusing to cooperate with other parties -- even to organize strikes or demonstrations -- and insisting on nothing less than the overthrow of the capitalist system.
Main campaign points: KKE is the only party to openly favor a Greek exit from the eurozone and the European Union, arguing that the Arab Spring has opened up other avenues of cooperation. It wants a freeze on all private debts to the banks and the state until Greece exits the crisis, a minimum pension of 1,150 euros and a freeze on privatizations. Party leader Aleka Papariga says KKE will not take part in any coalition government and that voters should back her party so it can obstruct the imposition of measures that would damage workers’ interests and incomes. KKE wants to legalize immigrant workers and grant asylum to the victims of imperialist wars. It advocates scrapping Dublin II regulations, which enable European governments to send illegal immigrants back to the first EU country of entry.
Campaign slogan: Fight back
2009 election result: 7.54 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 11 percent
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS)
Leader: Giorgos Karatzaferis
Brief history: LAOS, a right-wing nationalist party, was formed by Giorgos Karatzaferis in 2000 after he was expelled from New Democracy following his criticism of party leader Costas Karamanlis. While LAOS initially espoused an ultra-nationalist line and welcomed members with an extremist past, the party has -- at least publicly -- gradually eased some of its rhetoric, although it remains hardline on the immigration issue. LAOS was the only party apart from PASOK to vote in favor of the first bailout in 2010 and became a junior partner in the coalition government formed last November. Karatzaferis, however, decided to quit the administration shortly before the second loan agreement was voted in Parliament. In the process, LAOS lost its two most prominent MPs -- Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis -- to New Democracy. Karatzaferis’s equivocal stance over the last few months led to a serious dip in LAOS’s poll ratings.
Main campaign points: LAOS is still a party that is based around the ubiquitous Karatzaferis, who is adept at using media coverage to his advantage. The party wants the mass repatriation of illegal immigrants in a bid to curb crime and unemployment, and has called for a change in the law to allow victims to shoot robbers. LAOS has said that the next Greek government should negotiate a new haircut with its lenders so that its debt falls to between 100 and 120 billion euros, or about a third of what it is now. It wants Germany to pay war reparations for crimes committed by the Nazi regime during its invasion of Greece in World War II.
Campaign slogan: Everything for Greece
2009 election result: 5.63 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 3 percent
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)
Leader: Alexis Tsipras
Brief history: SYRIZA was born out of the cooperation of a number of leftist groups, some with their roots in communist movements. Following a bumpy start, the coalition more than doubled the number of its MPs to 14 in the 2007 elections under the leadership of Alekos Alavanos. A year earlier, Alavanos had placed 30-year-old Alexis Tsipras on the party’s ticket for municipal elections in Athens to some success. In 2007, Tsipras was elected party leader at the improbable age of 33 and the party’s poll ratings soared as voters appeared encouraged by the leftists’ youthful look. However, this attraction proved fleeting and SYRIZA’s support dropped slightly in the 2009 elections, partly on the back of Tsipras adopting an equivocal stance during the unrest in December 2008 that followed the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy in Athens by a police officer. SYRIZA suffered a further blow in 2010, when four experienced MPs quit the party to form a new movement, Democratic Left, due to concerns about positions on a number of issues, most notably Greece’s relationship with the EU. In recent months, SYRIZA, which opposes the terms of the EU-IMF bailout, has seen its poll ratings rise again.
Main campaign points: Tsipras, who hopes he can lead SYRIZA to third place in the elections, has said he would accept support from the right-wing Independent Greeks if there were a possibility of forming a left-wing government that would oppose the terms of the new bailout. Although fuzzy on the question of keeping the euro, SYRIZA supports Greece's membership of the European Union, but opposes the belt-tightening measures mandated by the memorandum. It proposes sustainable economic policies, it rejects the EU's reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it envisages the regeneration of workers' cooperatives, and rejects the deregulation of maritime transport. SYRIZA is in favor of abolishing the Dublin II treaty, legalizing all immigrant workers and speeding up the asylum process. The party advocates a change in the voting system and is in favor of a simple proportional representation, which would give all parties seats in Parliament based directly on their share of the vote.
Campaign slogan: They chose without us, we’re moving on without them
2009 election result: 4.60 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 13 percent
Leader: Six-member committee led by Ioanna Kontouli
Brief history: Unlike some other European Union countries, the Greens have found it difficult to break into the political mainstream in Greece. Their most significant achievements were in 2009 when they won a seat in the European Parliament and more than doubled their support in the national elections despite falling short of entering the Greek Parliament.
Main campaign points: The Ecologist Greens favor a move to more sustainable development and the creation of jobs through “green growth.” They are calling for more emphasis to be placed on organic farming and sustainable fishing and for Greece to make better use of its renewable energy sources. In terms of economic policy, the Greens favor higher taxation for large incomes and lower taxes for SMEs. They propose lending from the European Central Bank and the issuing of eurobonds as a means of overcoming the debt crisis. Their stance would make them a potential coalition partner for a left-leaning government. The party wants a common immigration and asylum policy for the EU and a revision of the Dublin II treaty. It is in favor of decriminalizing drug use and the cultivation of drugs, particulalry marijuana, for personal use.
Campaign slogan: Think clearly
2009 election result: 2.53 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 3.5 percent
Leader: Fotis Kouvelis
Brief history: Democratic Left was formed when four MPs quit SYRIZA in 2010 to form a more clearly pro-European movement. The party is led by Fotis Kouvelis, who briefly served as justice minister in the past. His mild-mannered approach has proved popular with many voters. Until April 20, Kouvelis was the only party leader with an approval rating of more than 50 percent. The party recently attracted several PASOK MPs who were ousted from the Socialists for voting against the new bailout. Kouvelis has ruled out having a fully fledged role in a coalition government with ND and PASOK but has hinted that Democratic Left might provide support in Parliament if agreement can be reached on certain policies.
Main manifesto points: Democratic Left rejects Greece's bailout deal but is keen on the country's eurozone membership. It advocates finding the 11 billion euros in savings for 2013 and 2014 from alternative sources, such as modest improvements in fighting tax evasion, corruption and cutting public waste. It calls for the introduction of eurobonds and a more active role for the ECB. On the issue of illegal immigration, it wants a revision of Dublin II and the repatriation of undocumented immigrants.
Campaign slogan: The responsible left
2009 election result: N/A
April 20 opinion poll rating: 9.5 percent
Leader: Panos Kammenos
Brief history: Independent Greeks is a right-wing nationalist party that was formed by ousted New Democracy MP Panos Kammenos in February. Kammenos, known for his bombastic style, believes that Greece was the victim of an international conspiracy and that the EU-IMF bailouts have allowed its lenders to exploit the country. Kammenos, whose party platform was first unveiled on Facebook, has labeled the politicians who negotiated the bailouts -- especially former Prime Minister George Papandreou -- as “traitors.” He has attracted to his party 10 fellow deputies who were also expelled from ND and has enjoyed a rapid rise in the opinion polls, aided by his effective use of social media. Kammenos has suggested he would be willing to work with leftist SYRIZA -- despite being on different ends of the ideological spectrum -- since both parties oppose the EU-IMF memorandum. Kammenos has already struck cooperation with the tiny leftist party People’s Chariot (Arma Politon).
Main manifesto points: Kammenos has called for the nationalization of the Bank of Greece and the creation of a Greek investment bank that would protect the country’s property from being seized by its lenders. He has said he wants to drive the IMF out of Greece. Kammenos insists the country can cover any funding gap by getting advance payments for the oil and gas reserves which are currently the subject of exploration missions. He has been highly critical of Berlin, seeking payment of German war reparations. Kammenos has vowed to investigate whether Greek officials colluded with speculators to profit from a Greek default. He has had little to say on the migration issue, save sporadic calls for a European response to the problem.
Campaign slogan: We are many, we are independent, we are Greeks
2009 election result: N/A
April 20 opinion poll rating: 11 percent
Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn)
Leader: Nikos Michaloliakos
Brief history: Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos had been active in far-right politics for a number of years before Chrysi Avgi was officially recognized as a party in 1993. He met with leaders of the 1967-74 military junta while serving a jail sentence for illegal possession of explosives and has said he was “proud” to serve in the same jail wing as the imprisoned colonels. The party expresses open admiration for the 1936-41 dictatorship led by Ioannis Metaxas and associates itself closely with Nazi ideology and imagery, although Michaloliakos insists he is only a nationalist who is fighting the “new world order” and corruption in Greek politics. Chrysi Avgi has advocated vigilantism in the past and party members have been tried for attacks on leftists and immigrants. The party gained its first major electoral breakthrough in the local elections of 2010 when Michaloliakos won a seat on the Athens municipal council. The party has campaigned heavily in parts of central Athens where some residents feel threatened by rising crime and the concentration of undocumented immigrants.
Main campaign points: Chrysi Avgi is opposed to the EU-IMF loan deal but does not favor an exit from the eurozone at this point. Its main focus has been on calling for the expulsion of all illegal immigrants from Greece. It wants land mines placed on the Greek-Turkish border to stop illegal immigrants entering the country. Michaloliakos told NET TV that he believes second-generation immigrants born in Greece should be allowed to live in Greece but not have the right to vote or stand for office. Michaloliakos says that once his party is in Parliament it will create private security firms to patrol working-class Athens neighborhoods and medical centers to provide treatment to the poor. Chrysi Avgi calls for the cancellation of Greece's bailouts and erasing of any debt accumulated since 1974 that is deemed “illegal and odious.”
Campaign slogan: So we can rid the land of filth
2009 election result: 0.29 percent
April 20 opinion poll rating: 5.5 percent
Leader: Dora Bakoyannis
Brief history: Former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was expelled from New Democracy for voting in favor of the first EU-IMF bailout despite instructions from the man that beat her to the party leadership, Antonis Samaras, to the contrary. Bakoyannis set up Democratic Alliance as a liberal centrist party that aimed to be a halfway house between PASOK and ND. Despite attracting some conservative MPs to her party, Bakoyannis has enjoyed extremely limited success with her venture. Democratic Alliance supports an agenda of structural and political reform but voters appear unconvinced that Bakoyannis, an established political figure whose father -- Constantine Mitsotakis -- served as prime minister, can represent the change she espouses.
Main manifesto points: Democratic Alliance has backed Greece's loan agreements, deeming support as critical for keeping the country in the EU and the eurozone. The party wants a smaller government, with fewer civil servants, and has called for a single 20 percent tax rate for all Greek citizens. It would like to see more privatizations, further deregulations of closed professions, and a new legal framework regarding strikes and the operation of unions. The party says no more migrants should be admitted to the country until 2020, while calling for the immediate processing of all outstanding asylum applications. Bakoyannis supports the reduction of the number of MPs from 300 to 200.
Campaign slogan: It’s not your fault, it’s the state’s, so change it
2009 election result: N/A
April 20 opinion poll rating: 2 percent
Leader: Stefanos Manos
Brief history: Founded in 2009 by former Economy Minister Stefanos Manos, the liberal Drasi attracted less than 40,000 votes at the European Parliament elections that year and did not take part in the subsequent legislative elections. Manos started his political career as a New Democracy MP in the 1970s, but after serving in government in the early 1980s and 1990s he attempted to form his own movement. Its lack of success led to Manos later standing for election on the PASOK ticket. Manos, who is the party's only professional politician, was one of the first advocates of a privatization program and has repeatedly called for widespread public sector reform but has found it difficult to make his message resonate with voters. Drasi recently joined forces with the smaller Liberal Alliance, led by gay and human rights activist Grigoris Valianatos.
Main manifesto points: Drasi backs many of the policies in the EU-IMF memorandum, including tighter fiscal discipline, privatizations and state sector layoffs. Manos has proposed the abolition of employer and employee social security fund (IKA) contributions. He supports granting every citizen a pension of 700 euros at the age of 67. Drasi proposes the legalization of drugs and gay marriage, and wants citizenship granted to all foreigners born in the country. It says the school curriculum must be redesigned in a way that does not cultivate a religious and national conscience.
Campaign slogan: We are citizens, not customers
2009 election result: N/A
April 20 opinion poll rating: 1.5 percent
Leaders: Louka Katseli & Haris Kastanidis
Brief history: Social Pact was formed in March by two former ministers who were ousted from PASOK for opposing the new bailout. Ex-Economy Minister Louka Katseli and former Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis formed that party to give a voice to disgruntled PASOK supporters but their late start compared to Democratic Left is one of the reasons that Social Pact will struggle to make an impact at the ballot box.
Main campaign points: Social Pact says Greece’s membership of the euro is “not negotiable.” However, it opposes the austerity attached to the country’s bailout programs and has called for measures that support growth and social justice. Kastanidis, a close associate of ex-Prime Minister George Papandreou, insists that the former premier had been right to call a referendum on Greece’s eurozone membership. Kastanidis was one of those who advised Papandreou to propose the idea, which triggered the latter’s downfall.
Campaign slogan: For Greece, in Europe
2009 election result: N/A
April 20 opinion poll rating: N/A