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Monday, July 8, 2019

Mitsotakis Clear Winner, Tsipras Not Too Big A Loser And Pollsters Discredited

In January 2015, riding on a wave of unforeseen popularity, SYRIZA registered 36,34% of the vote. In September 2015, after some of the most dramatic and economically damaging months in Greek history caused by SYRIZA, the party - despite broken promises and defections of radical leftists - still registered 35,46% of the vote.

In May 2019, after 4-1/2 years in government, SYRIZA faced broad voter disaffection and registered only 23,76% of the vote at EU elections. They had lost roughly one-third market share (!) relative to 2015. To make matters even worse, ND - who had been kicked out of office by SYRIZA back in 2015 - came out at 33,12% of the vote, almost exactly 10 full percentage points ahead of SYRIZA.

At that point, Alexis Tsipras took the flight forward and called early elections, presumably fearing that the longer they waited, the worse the situation would get for them.

Since the EU elections, media discussion did not even focus on SYRIZA's chances for a recovery. Instead, the discussion focused on the margin by which ND would win (10-12% were the most frequently quoted margins) and whether or not SYRIZA (and Tsipras) might even be sent to the dustbin of history. I do not recall a single poll showing SYRIZA at 25% or more, prompting a headline in the Ekathimerini a day before the election of "Tsipras eyeing more than 25%", essentially suggesting that Tsipras had unrealistic hopes. That commentary by Angelos Stangos included the following paragraph:

"In short, after all the despicable things this government has done under the leadership and guidance of Alexis Tsipras (there should be no doubt on this point), it will not bode well for the country’s future if, say, ND gets 40 percent and SYRIZA gets around 30 percent. This would make the leftists the absolutely unchallenged opposition and would strengthen Tsipras’ position beyond any possible reproach from detractors in the leftist camp. He would even be able to gloat about not suffering a real defeat."

ND getting 40%? Didn't sound unrealistic at all. SYRIZA getting around 30%? What was the man smoking?

Well, SYRIZA ended up getting 31,53% of the vote, 'only' 5% less than at its peak in January 2015. If one were to add the 3,44% which Yanis Varoufakis' party registered (after all, Tsipras and Varoufakis were on the same team back in January 2015), one comes to 34,97% of the vote, only fractionally less than in January 2015.

It is clear that the predictions of SYRIZA's and Tsipras' impending political death were greatly exaggerated. On the contrary, those SYRIZA party members who had believed the polls must have celebrated a victory party on the night of the election.

ND's win with 39,85% of the vote was most remarkable but not a total surprise relative to expectations. The winning margin over SYRIZA of 8,32% was certainly a disappointment to those who expected 10-12%.

And what can one make of that?

After worst-case scenarios before the election, SYRIZA came away from the election still standing. Actually still standing strong. When considering all the (unnecessary) pain which SYRIZA's policies inflicted on the Greeks and particularly when considering the complete disappointment which Tsipras must have been to his religious followers, a loss of 5% in market share is certainly a loss but not a defeat.

ND, in its direct battle against SYRIZA, was not all that successful. It could have obliterated SYRIZA but it did not. ND's remarkable win seems more the result of having obliterated smaller parties.

Yanis Varoufakis, after 4 years as an international media star, has returned to the nitty-gritty of domestic Greek politics. His 3,44% were undoubtedly an achievement which many would not have considered him capable of. Whether Mera25 will indeed be "the only ray of hope in this bleak setting" (Varoufakis) remains to be seen. It would be better for the country if ND succeeded in becoming that ray of hope which many Greeks so urgently wait for.