The Greek elections – what actually happened?

The media coverage of yesterday’s critical Greek election has been truly appalling.  The BBC and newspaper websites simply tell us that New Democracy has “won” and that Greece is now on course to form a government that is more accommodating to the EU.  But New Democracy won last time, and this time Syriza did well.  So why have things changed?  Some of the websites give you the projected numbers of seats that each party has won.  But they don’t well you how they compared with last time – i.e. how many seats each party gained or lost.  The Economist, usually much better at telling you the relevant facts, is as yet saying very little.  To find out what actually happened you have to go to Wikipedia.

So what did happen?  New Democracy won an extra 21 seats.  PASOK, the other establishment party, lost 8 – so there was a net gain of 13 for the establishment.  Syriza gained 19 seats – but at the expense of a whole range of other anti-establishment parties.  Last time the two establishment parties fell just two seats short of a majority in parliament – and as no other party would give them any leeway, no government could be formed.  Now, between them, they have 162 seats in the 300 seat parliament – a majority.  What’s more the one “centrist” party – the Democratic Left, which lost 2 seats – was too frightened of Syriza to join a coalition last time, but seems happy to talk this time.  It has 17 seats, which would make up a comfortable majority, but even more importantly it would help give the government legitimacy – since the establishment majority only comes courtesy of the 50 seat bonus the Greek system gives to the leading party.  The three parties together would have a majority without this bonus, though not if the bonus had gone to Syriza.

Hope that helps.