As an event, the last Eurogroup agreement marks the completion of the eight-year bailout program cycle. A new political landscape starts taking shape. The purpose of Kapa Research’s July 2018 poll is to approach the perceptions formed within the different strata of Greek society during the adventure of the most crucial post-dictatorship crisis. The analysis of findings leads to eight main takeaways:
Large parts of the electorate follow political developments with little or no interest because their personal and family interests are absent from the “picture”. Indifference and the tendency towards Abstention are strengthened and are reaching 50%. In the long term, this causes the deterioration of trust in institutions and public figures. In the short term, the recent distinction between “anti-bailout-programs” and “Remain in Europe” is being weakened, while the new big dilemma that will trigger tomorrow’s new major polarization has not been shaped.
Two opposing streams are dynamically developing within Greek society, without yet clear political delineation and representation. One stream is formed around the “FYROM” psychological factor, the hostile attitudes towards the “Left-wing government”, tax evasion, and the facilitation of foreign investments. The other stream calls for ending corruption, punishment and elimination of the “old system of vested interests”, opposes the Extreme Right and supports protection of the vulnerable social strata.
At a second – not negligible – degree, developments in Europe and especially in the wider region (electoral result in Italy, Turkish aggression, FYROM, etc.) fuel the nationalist movement with strong anti-systemic characteristics leading to extremities such as “the army should intervene” and “treason”.
The above-mentioned social processes intersect the traditional division between the “haves” and “have-nots” which was easily attached to the “pro-bailout” – “anti-bailout”. The higher-income strata are better prepared to utilize the normality that the country’s economy seems to be moving towards. They have a more economic/positive perception of Greek society and are interested in investments, new jobs and growth. However, they consider the divisive political discourse problematic since it generates risk.
The economically vulnerable, on the other hand, although they acknowledge the attempt to get rid of the bailout program and the austerity it entailed, do not see the real benefit of the debt restructuring agreement and stand awkwardly against any kind of success story. In this context of economic stalemate, and confirming the international historical experience, the nationalist audience and a negative stance against the Greece-FYROM agreements are widening within these social strata.
From November 2015 (a month after the last national election) to today, voting intention for SYRIZA ranges at the same low percentages in the polls. One reason is that SYRIZA has not been (or has not become yet) a state-oriented clientelistic party and thereby it does not benefit from the party-centered engagement which the political formations of the post-dictatorship period enjoyed. Large sections of society supported SYRIZA in the 2015 elections by making a short-term political choice, without being identified as “SYRIZA-supporters” per se.
Since then, the Prime Minister’s and his government’s own journey towards the European modus operandi has finally changed the political agenda. From the fear of derailment and exit from the Eurozone, today, the perception of a worsening economy polls at the lowest numbers of recent years. In this field Mr. Tsipras has a personal advantage, since he represents a generation that is hard to blame for the 2010 crisis.
But this is not enough to claim a second term in office. We are no longer in the age of good intentions. Citizens look for “skills and determination” and that is what will decide the outcome of the next election.
New Democracy has fully restored the tendencies of retreat that were being observed while the government was moving towards “normality” and – after almost a year – is rising in the voting intention metric. For the first time in the course of the last eight years – and after the damage it suffered from the Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn in 2012 – ND appears to re-penetrate the poorer segments of the electorate with the FYROM issue as vehicle. Its stance on this issue, however, does not enthuse the more liberal and “rational” audiences, who acknowledge to some extent the government’s achievements in the economy and foreign policy, but this does not affect – for now – the electoral influence of the party.
The shift of New Democracy is in progress and has not yet taken shape or clear identity features. Within-party disruptions were avoided, but it remains to be seen if the party will regain a new multi-collective character.
The situation for smaller parties is not going through any considerable shift. KINAL (Movement of Change) retains forces despite the unfavorable circumstances in its internal processes and KKE is stagnant. Golden Dawn gains in northern Greece, as well as within poorer strata, farmers and the unemployed. The Centrists’ Union and the Independent Greeks are at the margin of entering Parliament, while the Hellenic Solution seems to claim a share of the reactions to the Greece-FYROM agreement. However, in a non-election period, political polling is scientifically unable to answer confidently about the number of parties that will eventually exceed the 3% threshold.
Overall, political parties seek to incorporate in their identity the most successful “vote-collecting” models in Europe in order to cope with the upcoming election campaign. They are more worried to avoid becoming themselves victims of the crisis, rather than serving fundamental policy positions, long-term commitments and values. They do not just adapt, they mutate rapidly, and this enables a blind political collision.
A careful analysis of the survey’s findings convinces that the crisis has created a socio-political and psychological sub-landscape that bears two possible endings: a new post-bailout Greece or a new National Schism. Which of the two will prevail is what is mainly at stake in the next elections – this, along with addressing the issue of Abstention.