How Greece’s electoral map changed radically over 10 years

A solution for Greece's IMF loansGreek protesters in Athens

Yiannis Mouzakis via Macropolis | As Greece heads into snap national polls on July 7, it is beyond doubt that there has been a substantial shift in Greek voters’ views and preferences, which translated into a strong rejection of SYRIZA across society.

On the night of October 6 in 2009, Greek TV channels put up the map of the country’s electoral districts; more than 40 were coloured in the green of PASOK, and just six in the blue of New Democracy (ND).

Out of 9.9 million registered voters, close to 71 percent participated, handing PASOK a win of 43.9 percent vs. 33.5 percent for ND. The socialists gained more than 3 million votes, while the conservatives gained just under 2.3 million votes.

Greece came under immense pressure in the months to come and ended up signing an adjustment programme with the eurozone and the IMF in May 2010. Tension built up throughout 2011, with mass protests outside the Greek Parliament in the summer. An attempt by Prime Minister George Papandreou to call a referendum led to his political demise and Lucas Papademos, an ex-central banker, assumed office at the end of the year.

This period caused a tectonic shift in Greek politics with unimaginable consequences. The first shock was felt in the May 2012 elections.

First shock

PASOK experienced a complete collapse in those elections, managing just over 833,000 votes, and coming behind SYRIZA, which jumped from 4.6 percent in October 2009 to 16.8 percent, with its votes tripling from 315,700 to 1.06 million. SYRIZA came within 130,000 votes of beating ND, which won the elections by gaining a paltry 18.9 percent. The centre-right party also experienced a collapse similar to PASOK, losing more than one million votes compared to 2009.

Exit poll data from that election is striking. PASOK only managed to mobilise 34 percent of its support, with 19 percent of its 2009 voters going to SYRIZA, 10 percent to the newly formed Democratic Left (DIMAR) and a third to other parties. Similarly, ND only kept roughly half its 2009 voters, losing 15 percent to another newcomer, the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), and 31 percent to other parties.

SYRIZA’s performance was down to the fact it drew 39 percent from PASOK, 12 percent from New Democracy and 26 percent from those who supported other parties in 2009. Less than a quarter of Greeks who voted for SYRIZA in May 2012 had backed the party in the previous elections.

This massive transformation was also reflected in the age group data from the exit polls.

SYRIZA beat ND among voters aged below 50, getting 19 percent of the vote, compared to 14 percent for ND. But the conservatives had a very strong showing among those over 50 with a 27 percent share, followed by PAOK with 19 percent and SYRIZA at 14 percent.

Exit poll data by occupation cast further light on the impressive performance by SYRIZA, a party whose main target two years earlier was to pass the 3 percent threshold to enter Parliament. The leftists managed to emphatically win five of the seven occupational categories in May 2012.

SYRIZA achieved the widest margin over ND among the unemployed with 22 percent vs. 13, followed by students, then private sector employees. Smaller margins were observed among public sector employees and the self-employed.

ND had a strong showing among farmers and housewives.

With Greece having already signed a second bailout earlier that year, the country had eight full quarters under the troika’s supervision. During that period, the economy was collapsing at unprecedented rates. Unemployment in May 2012 reached 24 percent.

When asked in the exit poll, nearly 74 percent said that their view of the adjustment programmes was decisive in the way they voted. Greek politics was entirely dominated by the MoU and the divide between the pro-memorandum and anti-memorandum camps.

*Continue reading at MacroPolis.