Monday, October 05, 2009

The left wins in Greece

Greece went to the polls today in a snap-election called by the ruling New Democrats in response to a loss of faith caused by corruption and the financial crisis. The result has been a victory for the left-wing Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Greece's major centre-left party. Though its not as much of a victory as you might think by looking at seat-counts. Greece uses a system of "reinforced proportional representation", with proportional representation across variable-sized multi-member regional constituencies (guaranteeing disproportionality) with a small national top-up. The "reinforced" comes from a 40-seat "winner's bonus" awarded to the largest party to ensure stable government. The result is effectively an FPP-outcome, with disproportionate power going to a plurality, and little need for coalition government or policy compromise. And thanks to changes made in 2007, which increased the number of bonus seats to 50, its going to get even worse.

The "good" news is that electoral law is a bit of a ping-pong ball in Greece; New Democracy changes it to be less democratic, PASOK changes it back the other way. The complicating factor is that (unless approved by a supermajority) such changes don't come into force until the election after next, so it'll be 2017 (assuming no snap elections) before any improvements happen. By which time they will no doubt have changed again...

As for the elections themselves, PASOK has inherited a serious mess: the country is broke, the EU is leaning on them for spending cuts, deregulation and privatisation, unemployment is sky-high and there is only a weak social safety net. The new government will have its work cut out for it to turn that around.

European Tribune has more discussion here.