“The priests are chanting.” Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, has now been sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece, three days after his party won the plurality of votes and seats in Greece’s second election of 2012.
The Athens News live blog for June 20 (follow link in first line) offered regular updates about the apparently highly contentions bargaining. And I do not mean between ND and partners. I mean within Pasok and Democratic Left, the two parties that will join ND in offering Samaras and his cabinet a vote of confidence. According to updates during the day, the Pasok caucus meeting went longer than planned and included various excitements such as yelling and the throwing of an iPad.
As I understand it, the government will be a single-party minority cabinet. No Pasok or Democratic Left MPs will sit in cabinet, but they are agreeing to support it.
Evangelos Venizeols, Pasok leader, “confirmed that Pasok will be taking part in the coalition with no parliamentary members and insisted that the most important part of this entire effort was not the government itself but the formulation of a national negotiation team.” (2:05 pm update)
Fotis Kouvelis, Democratic Left leader, stated that his “parliamentary group has decided to give a vote of confidence to the this government. Our support of course, depends on correct government policy being set in place. The process of policy formulation is still in progress, with our party pressuring for the negation of any measures that have already damaged our society and its people. Our country needs a government, this is important, but the policy it follows is even more important.” (1:07)
In the 2:20 update there is some background on the new Finance Minister, Vasilas Rapanos.
According to the election results posted by the Ministry of Interior, the government and its two support partners combine for 179 seats, which is 59.7%. ND has 129 of the seats, thanks to earning the 50-seat bonus for being the largest party, which it was by just less than three percentage points over Syriza (Radical Left), which will lead the opposition.
The government’s electoral basis–the sum of votes obtained by the three parties offering confidence–is 48.2%. Thus, while not actually endorsed by a majority of voters, the parties that empower this government are very close to a majority. And it is a majority of those votes that were cast for above-threshold parties; 5.98% of the vote was wasted on parties that did not clear the 3% threshold. (This is less than half what it was in the super-fragmented election in May.) The largest of the below-threshold parties had only 1.59%, so we can hardly say that these voters expected their votes to count for empowering a government, or a parliamentary opposition. (In May, two parties, the Greens and the Orthodox Rally, were at 2.9%.)
The big re-sorting of voters in this election, compared to May, seems to come from the lower wasted-vote percentage. (Turnout was actually down, but not by much: 62.5% vs. 65.1%.) Both ND and Syriza grew their support by similar amounts, and the margin of ND over Syriza was very similar in both elections. Pasok did, however, suffer a further, but small, decline. Independent Greeks also did about 3 percentage-points worse, with their voters perhaps going back to ND, from which IG is a splinter. In this election, no party cleared 30% of the vote, but that’s quite a change from May, when none cleared 20%. ((See Adam Carr’s Psephos for the May results, which are no longer on their former page at the Interior Ministry. The current page for the June election presumably also will be taken down, so here is the Psephos link Athens News has a useful page at which you can compare the results of the May and June election, district-by-district. BBC has a useful graphic comparing seat totals by party in the two elections (scroll to the bottom of the linked page).))
Golden Dawn, the (not-so-neo) nazi party, did about as well, winning 6.9% in June, compared to 7.0% in May.
The outcome, for now, seems about as “good” as could have been expected. Yes, the Greek electoral system–which is not proportional–risks significant distortion when even a party that has won the vote 29.7%-26.9% gets 50 bonus seats and 43% of total seats, while the runner up gets only 23.4% of seats. Yes, there is something unseemly about the old and discredited, formerly alternating in power, Pasok and ND teaming up despite Pasok’s spectacular fall in voter support in recent elections (including, as noted above, a small fall in the past six weeks). Nonetheless, the government is backed by nearly three fifths of parliament and about half the voters, and includes one of the parties opposed to the current bailout terms–more pragmatically so than Syriza, which can carp and organize protests, but will have no say in the country’s policy for now. Whether this government can come up with policy solutions, and whether it can even hold together, are questions for another day.