Greece has implemented a temporary “caretaker cabinet” to preside over governmental affairs until a follow-up to the May 6 elections is held on June 17. Political science Professor Lorelei Moosbrugger spoke with the Nexus about the issue.
Earlier this month the Greek Parliament failed to form a viable coalition after representatives from extremist parties gained unexpectedly large followings, threatening the dominance of the more moderate socialist and conservative blocs. Although the governmental structure is usually comprised of representatives from various parties, extremist right- and left-wing parties — such as Golden Dawn, a right- wing nationalist organization accused of neo-Nazi platforms — have garnered major support from citizens frustrated with political turmoil created by the European debt crisis and its impact on public policy.
According to Moosbrugger, the Greek citizenry has largely turned to extremist parties as a result of the perceived failure of the socialist and conservative blocs’ austerity measures. “They found these policies to have a really negative impact on their daily lives, and the biggest parties supported those policies,” Moosbrugger said. “So they went for extreme parties on either end of the ideological spectrum — far left and far right — who did not support complying with the austerity policies.”
Golden Dawn representatives were previously a minority in Parliament, holding a radical political agenda allegedly including continual praise for Hitler as well as a proposal to place landmines along Greece’s borders to deter immigrants. However, they have gained attention and support through vehement opposition of unpopular austerity measures, allowing them to claim over 6 percent of the votes. According to Moosbrugger, the growing support for Golden Dawn and other right- wing groups is a direct consequence of the nation’s dire economic conditions.
“During economic hard times in any country where people can vote for a far-right party, those parties tend to get more support because the people at the bottom end, the people who are doing the jobs that pay the least, are the ones who will be hurt the most by immigrants, and those are the people who are losing their jobs,” Moosbrugger said.
Despite their radical views, these parties still gain a competitive number of votes as they support less government spending and decreased job competition.
“It’s not just about [Golden Dawn]; it’s about who you don’t want to vote for,” Moosbrugger said. While politicians hope the June 17 election do-over will produce a Parliament that can cooperate, Moosbrugger said it remains unclear whether voters’ opinions will shift between now and then.
“I think that there’s a lot that can happen in a very short period of time, because the voters in Greece know that what they are talking about is basically either supporting austerity measures that the European Union has said are necessary for them to remain in the eurozone, or getting out of the eurozone, which will have a lot of negative impacts,” Moosbrugger said. “Most people just don’t know how that’s going to work because there is no exit strategy for getting out of the euro — there’s nothing written down that tells you how to leave.”
With rising political tensions and a temporary cabinet purposed only to guide the nation into the upcoming elections, Moosbrugger said the bigger and more moderate parties must focus on collaborating with other European nations in order to retain power.
“The determining issue is going to be whether the mainstream parties can come up with some kind of a deal with France and other EU members to offer a solution that a majority of the voters will believe is good enough that they can vote for the mainstream parties again and stay in the eurozone,” Moosbrugger said. “If they don’t come up with that, then they may not be able to get the support they need and this might be a major event. Greece could end up leaving the eurozone.”