16/07/2007 - Results
As forecast by all of the polls (these were prohibited two weeks prior to the election and so could not take into account the effects the terrible management of the fires in August had on voting intentions), New Democracy (ND) led by outgoing Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis won the general elections which took place on 16th September in Greece. The party won 41.85% of the vote (+1.35 point in comparison with the previous election on 7th March 2004) clinching 152 seats (- 13), i.e. the absolute majority of the 300 members of the Vouli, the only chamber in Parliament. Its main rival, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) won 38.11% (- 2.39 points) of the vote and 102 seats (- 15).
All of the "small" parties recorded a progression in their scores, starting with the Communist Party (KKE) led by Aleka Papariga Syriza which won 8.14% of the vote (+ 2.24 points) and 22 seats (+ 10). The Left Wing and Progress Coalition (Synaspismos), led by Alecos Alavanos which rallied with other far left parties, under the name of the Radical Left Wing (Syriza), won 5.03% of the vote (+ 1.73 point) and 14 seats (+ 8). Finally with 3.79% of the vote (+ 1.59 point) and 10 seats, the Popular Orthodox Alarm (LAOS) led by Giorgos Karadzaferis has made its debut in Parliament – an all time first for this far left party.
Greek voters therefore chose to provide the outgoing government with another four years in office. Although the present government's poor management of the disastrous fires in the south of the country at the end of August, the death of 60 people, the destruction of 110 villages and the destruction of 200 000 hectares of fields and forest angered many Greeks, the trend that emerged just a few weeks before the general elections was not reversed. "Today you spoke out loud and strong. You gave New Democracy a clear mandate to continue with the changes and to continue the reforms that this country so badly in needs. Your message is very clear. As far as I am concerned I feel that my responsibilities are double. I have the responsibility of being better, of avoiding errors and of becoming more efficient; it is also my responsibility to be even closer to the citizens and to their problems. Problems have no colour. The future belongs to everyone, free of discrimination and exclusion," declared Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis. "The government has won in extremely difficult circumstances. Of course there is a message that New Democracy has to listen to," stressed the Mayor of Athens, Nikitas Kaklamanis. "There will not be a period of grace and we shall have to apply our reform programme immediately," warned Transport Minister, Michalis Liapis.
"We respect our citizens and we are confident in them. We are taking part in this democratic procedure happily and with great confidence," said the Prime Minister after having voted in Thessaloniki that lies in the north of the country. "To move forwards this country needs a government that can take decisions rapidly and courageously with regard to changes and reform," said Costas Caramanlis on 14th September last in a speech to close the campaign.
The Greeks have shown they are confident in their Prime Minister to continue the reforms started by his first government since the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement has never really succeeded in coming through as a real alternative to New Democracy. "We don't have all the results yet but New Democracy has won the general elections and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement has lost," maintained former Home Minister and PASOK Secretary, Costas Skandalidis when the initial results were announced, thereby acknowledging the Socialist defeat.
"The population has decided and the result did not fall in our favour. The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement is now at a crossroads. Our party fought well but did not succeed in winning. We all took part and had a role to play and we are responsible for this, starting with me," declared PASOK leader George Papandreou after the announcement of the first results. "New Democracy has succeeded with a major lead in spite of an unfavourable context. Although the poll results come out in the official results the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement has achieved its worst results in percentage since 1977," stressed Costas Yfantis, researcher at the Hellenic Centre for European Studies.
These general election results reveal the decline of support enjoyed by the two main Greek political parties. During the last election on 7th March 2004, New Democracy and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement won 85.4% of all the votes. They won 79.96% on 16th September. "Never since 1958 have the small parties won such a major share of the votes," stressed Constantine Routzounis, research director at the Kapa Institute. This trend was already to be seen in the last local elections on 15th and 22nd October 2006. During that election, the "small" parties achieved better results than usual since PASOK did not succeed in taking advantage of the population's discontent with New Democracy. In addition to this the result achieved by the candidates, who clearly remained aloof of the two main parties, surprised many political observers. Personalities who were either independent or who stood "neither for PASOK nor for New Democracy" achieved good results notably in the major towns. "Dispersion and abstention are possibly the signs of a slight loss of patience on the part of the population for the duo PASOK-New Democracy," said political editor Nikos Dimou at the time.
Costas Caramanlis, who is fifty, is the nephew of the former President of the Republic (1980-1995), Constantin Caramanlis. After studying law and political science, he became MP in 1989 and took over the leadership of New Democracy in 1997. He worked thoroughly and in depth for years in order to renovate, unify and pacify the party before becoming the youngest Prime Minister that Greece had ever known on 7th March 2004. During the three and a half years he has led the country Greece has experienced an economic upturn: more than 4% growth in the GDP, public debt that has dropped below the 3% mark demanded by the EU's Stability and Growth Pact (2.6% in 2006) and an unemployment level that has decreased by three points (8%).
Very quickly Costas Caramanlis will have to start drawing up and establishing a number of economic and social structural reforms that have been requested by the EU – the first of these being the reform of retirement pensions.
General Election Results 16th September 2007 in Greece
Participation rate: 74.1% (it is obligatory to vote in Greece)
Source: Greek Home, Civil Service and Decentralisation Ministry