5. Party-Voter Relations: Consolidation and Deconsolidation of Democracy in Greece
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106 5  •  Party-­ Voter Relations Consolidation and Deconsolidation of Democracy in Greece After the 1981 elections, Greek democracy consolidated. For three decades, all significant groups continued unabated in their preference for the regime, appearing to put an end to decades of uncertainty. But in 2009, a severe fiscal crisis, triggered by the world financial crisis of 2008, shook the Greek economy and eventually afflicted the political party system. When the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and New Democracy lost their dominance in parliament in the 2012 elections, a coalition government was established for the first time since the brief experience of 1989. Simultaneously and certainly in a more alarming fashion than the fragmentation of the party system, democracy also deconsolidated.1 Signs of this process are the presence of a totalitarian party as the third-­ largest group in parliament, increasing use and legitimization of violence by far-­ right and far-­ left groups, and public opinion occasionally shifting to nostalgic views of the past authoritarian regimes. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which established the coalition government after the 2015 elections, is not a direct threat to democratic consolidation . However, its populist understanding of democracy further polarizes politics and, coupled with its false hope to citizens, might push politics into an even deeper crisis. In this chapter, I analyze the consolidation of democracy in the aftermath of the 1974 transition from the colonels’ junta. One characteristic of regime consolidation was incorporating the lower classes through promises of patronage and rent distribution. As I show in this chapter, this feature was partly responsible for the 2009 crisis and the deconsolidation of democracy. The deal between the two mainstream parties and the voters, involving material benefits in exchange for votes, came to an end, resulting in the frustration and disarray of many Greeks facing the economic consequences of the crisis. Significant numbers began voting for radical parties (both on the left and Consolidation and Deconsolidation of Democracy in Greece  •  107 right of the ideological spectrum), lost their confidence in democratic institutions , and began looking for alternative options. Consolidated Democracy from the Post-­ 1974 Era until the 2000s After the 1974 transition from the junta, led by Konstantine Karamanlis, Greece fulfilled the procedural conditions of democracy. The right-­ wing New Democracy (ND), founded by Karamanlis, won the 1974 and 1977 elections, whichwereconductedfreelyandfairly.Allpoliticalparties,includingthecommunists ,wereallowedtoparticipateandarticulatetheirpoliticalpreferencesin these elections. The new constitution of 1975 guaranteed civil and human rights and prohibited unelected groups from exercising reserve and tutelary powers. The question of monarchy finally came to an end with the December 1974 referendum, which declared Greece a republic. Attitudinally, democracy became the “only game in town,” especially after the 1981 electoral victory of Andreas Papandreou and his center-­ left Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK ). After four years in office, it was clear that PASOK adhered to the rules and institutions of democracy and did not intend to establish and/or change the socioeconomic structure of the country. Consolidation of democracy in Greece was a result of the declining perceptions of threat among the elites from each other and the lower classes (see table 5.1). The communists stopped being a threat, thanks to the moderation of the United Democratic Left and the leftist politicians who remained in Greece after the civil war. The moderates established the Communist Party of the Interior (CP-­In) and disagreed with the CP over such issues as participation in democracy, the final desired outcome (social democracy or the dictatorship of the proletariat), and the methods used to achieve the desired outcome (gradual change or revolution).2 During the transition, the CP-­ In and the UDL gave full support to reconstructing democracy in Greece. Although the CP continued its radicalism until the mid-­ 1980s, it never won more than 11 percent of the votes. In 1985, the party changed its program and temporarily cooperated with the CP-­In and other minor leftist parties in the Synaspismos coalition. In 1989, Synaspismos formed a governmental coalition with ND, which became a major turning point signifying that the communists had moderated their policies to the level of forming a coalition with the rightists.3 Perhaps PASOK adopted a more radical outlook in the 1970s than the communists. The initial basic pillars of PASOK’s ideology were (1) “national independence,” meaning allying with the Third World and rejecting NATO 108  •  Between Military Rule and Democracy and the European Community (EC); (2) “social liberation,” denoting an openly Marxist position, advocating direct popular rule and socialization of industry; and (3...