Feb 26 2015

Who wanted what? An aftermath of the Public debate on Greek Elections

By Vasileios Bougioukos and Bernard H Casey

One of the possible surprises of the elections in Greece last month, was that SYRIZA didn’t poll particularly well amongst pensioners. After all, these people had suffered pretty draconian cuts, with the 2010 Memorandum and its successors reducing pensioners’ incomes – in some cases by up to 40%– and making benefits harder to claim. We looked at the data in detail using findings from Kapa Research[1]. The voting behaviour depicted by these data could offer useful insights.

Greek flag (4816414232)We started by dividing the parties according to whether they were Pro-Memorandum (Pro-M) or Anti-Memorandum (Anti-M).[2].

Pensioners went strongly for New Democracy (ND), the major party of the former Pro-Memorandum coalition government – 34% of them voted for it, rather more than did for SYRIZA (32%). When we calculate the votes attributed by Pensioners to Pro-M and Anti-M parties, the picture is the same – the Pro-Ms lead the Anti-Ms by two percentage points.

This outcome might well indicate that Pensioners felt they might actually lose out by Grexit. But, it might also reflect their sentimental attachment to the health care system and their fears – generated by pre-election rumours that an extremist-left wing government could damage system. And there might also be a “PASOK effect”. Some eight per cent of pensioners voted for the latter party – the highest share it got from any social group. Maybe an age factor was also at play. Older people might have a favourable attitude towards the party that ruled the country for almost 20 years since the start of the 1980s.

Another group that proved worth looking at was Businesspeople/Entrepreneurs. ND was their preferred party – it took 38% of their votes compared to SYRIZA, which got 31%. Equally, Pro-M parties received eight percentage points more of this group’s vote than Anti-M parties. If we include in the Anti-M block the ‘Other Parties’, the difference Pro-Anti drops to a three percentage points, but it still remains. Another intriguing point is that the far-right party (GD), which takes an anti-memorandum stance, gathered around nine percent of Businesspeople/Entrepreneurs’ votes. Thus, although the Pro-M block lead, there is an alarming rise of the extremist far-right amongst Businesspeople/Entrepreneurs – something that calls for further interpretation.

That 52 percent of Businesspeople/Entrepreneurs sympathised with Pro-M parties is not surprising. They might have had reason to fear Grexit. And, through the reforms undertaken by the governments that had signed the MoUs, they had achieved substantial labour market deregulation.   However, nearly on in 10 of them voted for GD. Some earlier Kapa Research (September 2014) might help explain this. It showed that people who had large loans from the banking sector indicated a propensity to vote for extremist parties.[3] If Businessmen/Entrepreneurs fit into this category, the rather high GD vote fits in. Moreover, we should not underestimate the impact of falls in consumption that is likely to have had a negative impact on many SMEs and might have led their owners to vote the Anti-M block.

It is also worth looking at the voting behaviour of Public and the Private Sector Employees. Both groups might be expected to be Anti-M – and, indeed, this block took 14 percentage points more votes form each than the Pro-Ms. However, rather more Private Sector Employees voted GD – two percentage point more. This might be perceived as an expression of social discontent by Private Sector Employees, who had been less well represented in the political arena for a long period of time, living in the shadow of the Public Sector. Moreover, Public Sector Employees were more likely to support to SYRIZA. After all, it promised to restore some of the privileges that they had enjoyed before the austerity programme started.

Last, we should point to the high proportion of Unemployed People that gave votes to extremist parties. Of course, these people were the group that had been the greatest losers of the crisis. Nearly three quarters of them voted for Anti-M parties, and six out of 10 for parties that could be classified as ‘extremist’.

[1]‘To Vima’ published on the 1st of February 2015

[2] In the former group we put ND, PASOK, Potami and KINIIMA, in the latter, SYRIZA, GD, KKE and ANEL

[3] SYRIZA, GD, and KKE

This piece originally appeared on LSE’s Greece@LSE blog

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Euro Crisis in the Press blog, Greece@LSE, nor of the London School of Economics.

Dr Vasileios Bougioukos holds a PhD in Economics from Bangor University (Wales). His research focuses mainly on wage bargaining, labour economics and social dilemmas. Moreover, he holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE.

Dr Bernard Casey  is currently Principal Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, and he is a member of the editorial advisory board of International Social Security Review. Bernard is also a Visiting Fellow at the Hellenic Observatory, LSE.

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How the Eurozone crisis changed Syriza and how the party can change the Eurozone crisis

Syriza’s win and the Greek elections: many shades of grey

Greek elections 2015: a short overview

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‘The future has just started’: the Greek national elections and the end of austerity in Europe

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