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By Christoph Dreier in Germany:
7 May 2012
Greek parliamentary elections on Sunday resulted in a stunning collapse in the vote for the two main governing parties, PASOK and New Democracy, which received only 35 percent of the vote between them.
Those two parties used to get 80% or more of the votes between them in earlier elections.
The result is a clear popular repudiation of the policies of austerity, dictated by the EU, international banks and the Greek ruling class. The main beneficiaries of the shift in popular sentiment to the left, however, do not represent a genuine alternative.
The social democratic PASOK party, which has led the government since 2009, saw its vote plummet from 43.9 percent in the last elections to 15.5 percent. The vote for the conservative New Democracy Party, which forged a coalition with PASOK in December last year, fell from 33.5 in 2009 to 20 percent. The two-party system that has existed in Greece since the end of military dictatorship has been effectively terminated.
Official projections late Sunday predicted that PASOK and New Democracy would fall one seat short of being able to form a majority in parliament. That they are even close to the required number is only due to an anti-democratic provision that automatically allocates 50 seats to the party winning the highest percentage of the vote—in this case, New Democracy.
In a further indication of public disgust with the political system, the abstention rate was a record-breaking high of nearly 40 percent, according to estimates from the interior ministry. This is much higher than in the three previous elections, where abstention rates ranged from 25 to 30 percent.
In recent years the government has carried out historically unprecedented social cuts that have led to real wage losses of up to two-thirds, youth unemployment of more than 50 percent, and mass poverty and homelessness.