How the Greek Right screwed the scrum

Written By: - Date published: 8:21 am, June 18th, 2012 - 89 comments
Categories: elections, Europe - Tags:

You know how the Greek’s have this weird ‘winner’s bonus’ – 250 seats are proportionally allocated but the largest, and even by one vote gets another 50 seats. The rightwing got the bonus by a couple of percent over SYRIZA by screwing the scrum. How? By merging New Democracy and a small rightwing party – the Democratic Alliance. Only this allowed ND/DISY to beat SYRIZA. That trick, and PASOK going over to the right will allow a 40% coalition to govern with a majority.

89 comments on “How the Greek Right screwed the scrum”

  1. Kotahi Tane Huna 1

    Doesn’t sound like the cradle of democracy trusts democracy very much – ignoring the strength gained from diversity.

    • Bunji 1.1

      I think an argument about how the Right screwed the Greek election can be made, but I don’t think this is it.

      DISY was a group that split off ND before the previous election, and just failed to make the 3% threshold in May. Seeing their vote likely to collapse at this one, they folded back in. Simple.
      Between the 3% threshold and the winners bonus, along with a second election that was clearly about austerity & bailout (ND) or non-austerity and renegotiation (Syriza), this was always going to be a 2 party race.

      The Communist Party (KKE)’s vote halved, as those voters moved to Syriza; PASOK collapsed further as its voters went to try to get a bonus for their preference (largely to ND, the Syriza contingent having already left at the previous election). Everybody else was down, even Golden Dawn.

      How the Right screwed the election was having international Right governments making warnings about how voting for Syriza meant leaving the Euro – which Syriza wasn’t proposing. Particularly Merkel, but also Cameron and others. Generally foreign governments aren’t meant to through their oar in about domestic elections – it is after all about the people of that country deciding.

      Here was a major preach of international convention and diplomacy with some serious scaremongering. And there’s been very little comment on that.

      • Bunji 1.1.1

        The 50 seat winners bonus is of course stupid and distortionary and I imagine there will be more discussion about it in Greece now (they did always have 2 strong parties, ND / PASOK, so it wasn’t so obviously a problem previously, with vote more splintered, it becomes a bit ridiculous if the bonus is almost as big as the first seat allocation). But that’s the rules everyone operates under…

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          It’s obviously distortionary: anything over 40% delivers a majority. They might as well go with FPP and be done with it.

      • Gosman 1.1.2

        So advising the electorate that they can’t expect your taxpayers to bail them out and reminding them if they want to be part of a club they have to abide by the rules is interfering is it? I wonder if you agree that the UN reminding members to abide by their charter commitments is also interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries.

        • Bunji

          There’s a difference between reminding nationas of their international commitments in general and seeking to interfere at election time.

          Prince William didn’t come to teh RWC last year as it was too close to the election, despite his non-political stance on anything (just his presence was seen as too much of a help to whomever happens to be incumbent).

          Scaremongering that your country’s economy will definitely collapse when economics and international diplomacy don’t work like that are best left to the local parties during election time.

          • Gosman

            I disagree. Too often parties of the left promise that electorates can have their cake and eat it too. Considering that SYRIZA was campaigning on the policy of both staying in the Euro AND renegotiating the terms of their bail out, people reminding them that was fanstasy land stuff is not interfering. It is called confirming reality.

            • Kotahi Tane Huna

              “…parties of the left promise that electorates can have their cake and eat it too…”

              Really, is that what they do in NZ? Nine years of surplus budgets followed by right wing promises of unaffordable tax cuts (cake) and lying about “back room” austerity (eating it too) says you’re talking out your arse.

              • Gosman

                Four words for you – Interest free student loans.

                • Kotahi Tane Huna

                  Student loans? The ultimate privatisation of higher learning, the fencing off of knowledge itself.

                  Labour erred in not abolishing them.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1.3

        The EU would tell Syriza that you cant stay in the Euro and not have austerity. They are way beyond having to make the choices that they would like to have.
        Under whatever government is formed any bailout offered will be foreign banks mostly and not the greek population.

        Its a modern version of the Irish potato famine without the deaths of millions

      • xtasy 1.1.4

        Yes, you got it right! It was only due to an intensive scaremongering campaign by Samaris and Neo Demokratika that they increased their vote to nearly 30 per cent. It was more or less a two camp race, and Syriza was the only alternative to a continuation of Greece being governed by the same types of corrupt, opportunistic, populist and failing pollies and parties, who are to a fair degree responsible for where Greece has ended up.

        More Greeks voted against the continuation of austerity as it has been implemented, than who supported it. Indeed very, very few Greeks support the way their country is treated and run into the ground. Tsipras and Syriza will keep the pressure on and in the long run throw any new government coalition into disarray.

        It tells you something, when in a leading German economic newspaper the very conservative son (and businessman) of a late right wing German political leader, Max Josef Strauss, states, that Syriza was the only last hope to sort things out in Greece. He came to that assessment, because of the anti corruption, fair taxation and actually quite reasonable agenda that Tsipras presented in an article in the Financial Times Germany edition to get Greece back on its feet. Pasoc, Neo Demokratika and their leaders are exactly the wrong choice, given their corrupt, incompetent and irresponsible management of past decades.

        But the Euro Crisis will continue, no matter what happens in Greece now. The speculating market players and rating agencies working to their interests are now focussing on Spain and Italy, to break up the Eurozone.

  2. Gosman 2

    Of course they could always go into coalition with the Golden Dawn party. I’m not sure that would be terribly good. However it would be democratic.

    • Lightly 2.1

      but they wouldn’t have got the winners’ bonus if they hadn’t done the merger.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        Any politcal party is entitled to merge. SYRIZA could have done a deal with the Democratic left for example.

        • Lightly

          well, yeah. And it’s kind of strange that Greece has so many political parties when the winners’ bonus is such an incentive to have only 2.

          But what is clear is that ND and DISY merged only after the first election. The 2.5% DISY got in the May election is the same as the gap between ND and SYRIZA today.

          • Gosman

            You are not dealing with the fact that they are entitled to merge and that SYRIZA could have attempted to do this with the Democratic left party. The Democratic left party originally split from SYRIZA not so long ago so you would expect them to have a lot in common.

  3. Gosman 3

    This is ridiculous asertion as if either PASOK or SYRIZA got the most votes they too would get the 50 seat bonus. Given the closeness between New Democracy and SYRIZA it is not the right ‘screwing the scrum’ at all.

    • Bill 3.1

      I believe the argument Gosman is that the ND/DISY is in fact two parties masquerading as one party. Coalitions do not attract a the ‘bonus’ by winning more of the vote…only single parties do. So yup, it’s a con to present your coalition as one entity in order to attract an electoral bonus.

      • Gosman 3.1.1

        As stated any political parties could have merged in Greece. The fact that non of the leftist ones did is really their own fault.

      • Te Reo Putake 3.1.2

        Two parties masquerading as one … so the complete opposite of NACT, then?

  4. vto 4

    If it means that the austerity dealings now set and that the people pay for the failed shenanagins of the money printers then don’t worry, it will be temporary. The tide has receded too far now.

    • Gosman 4.1

      People will reject the democratic outcome will they? Interesting theory. Can’t see it happening myself.

      • vto 4.1.1

        of course you can’t see it gosman, that will surprise nobody.

        • Gosman

          Yeah, just like I didn’t see the Occupy movement fundamentally reorientate Western politics. How’s that sea change gong by the way?

          • vto

            And you think things like the Occupy movement for example among many many more organisations and events etc have not started to realign western politics? The political pendulum is not changing? There aren’t riots in the streets? There aren’t runs on banks going on right now?

            Best you stick your head back in the sand gosman, you’ll feel much better.

            • Gosman

              Riots and runs on banks aren’t unsual. More like politics as normal. I’d suggest there were more riots in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s than there are today.

              • Jackal

                So now we have to have riots before the right will listen?

                • Gosman

                  Where did I state that? I personally think it is highly improbable that rioters achieve much of their goals. I was in the UK when they had massive May Day riots in the early 2000’s in London. Did they achieve much?

                  • Kotahi Tane Huna

                    “Goals”? Do you honestly belief people riot with clear purpose?

                  • Kotahi Tane Huna

                    I made no comment about “standards” one way or another, just that the majority of rioters have no clear purpose.

                    • Gosman

                      You’ve taken a sample of their opinion to ascertain this then, or is this just merely speculation on your part?

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Binary thinking much Gossamer? Either I’ve sampled their opinion, or I’m speculating, or perhaps it’s some third thing you hadn’t considered…

                      “The main thing to understand about this group psychology is that individual psychology probably explains a small percentage of these behaviors.”

                    • Gosman

                      Where in that article does it support your statement that most rioters have no clear purpose?

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      The statement that much rioting is conducted due to peer involvement – the loosening of personal ethics that accompany such circumstances.

                      Affected by “crowd psychology” (which certainly exists whether or not it is well understood) individuals yield their individual choices to the crowd. When the crowd disperses, who can tell their purpose?

          • Jackal

            The Occupy Movement is still happening Gosman. Just yesterday there was a march in New York. Who are you to say it hasn’t achieved anything?

            Thanks for the explanation Zetetic re How the Greek Right screwed the scrum. I was wondering why the seat allocation was so disproportionate to the percentages.

  5. Bored 5

    So far in Greece we have seen riots, massed rejection of austerity leading to another election and extreme parties emerge on both ends of the spectrum. Meanwhile the authorities and bankers (German in particular) seem obsessed with enforcing more austerity.

    Gos contends that the Greeks will take their pills and comply: for the sake of the world financial system he so supports he must hope he is right. My judgement here is that we will see a 1930s style rejection of the democratic process that has demonstrably failed a huge section of the Greek community. More trouble ahead as Greece will now tear itself apart and the default will fall outside of the hands of technocrats and politicians to control.

    • Gosman 5.1

      I doubt that very much. The trouble is the Greek people are probably too exhausted to start a revolution, (which is essentially what you are stating will happen). Any moves in that direction will be easily suppressed and also the suppression will be supported by the rest of the EU.

      • Bored 5.1.1

        Gos, that’s a strange concept that you could be too exhausted to start a revolution….surely that is when they happen (in fact that’s why they happen, there are so many examples). Personally I don’t think revolution is in the air (as in the overthrow and topple a government manner) for the Greeks.

        What I do see coming however is an erosion of democracy from BOTH those in power and the electorate. Those in power will find the resistance (such as civil disobedience etc) makes austerity too hard to impose, tax revenues collapse and the economy constantly stagnant. Their power will suffer a crisis of legitimacy, and any repression will fail when they cant rely upon the rank and file police etc. In every successful revolution the organs of repression have failed and gone over to the other side.

        The Greek electorate themselves are going to see no clear mandate and question the whole democratic process a la Germany 1930s, the extremes will be the only beneficiaries. Revolution may be a wrong term for this, its more like “anarchy” with the progressive loss of legitimacy as the people vote with their feet away from the institutions of state. This is the more likely outcome of today’s vote.

        • Gosman

          Suits me fine. The Greeks need to lose their faith in their Government so that they don’t rely on it solving all their problems for them. A good dose of personal responsibility wouldn’t go amiss in that country given how much they have abused and been abused by their State..

          • Pascal's bookie

            Gosh. That’s not arrogant at all.

            This personal responsibility the Greeks need to show for their government. Germans too, I assume?

            They did quite nicely indeed out the EU/Euro project. Now it’s all turned to custard of course.

            I’m seeing a lot of the same arguments that were flying around when the banks needed bailing out after they foolishly lent metric fuckloads of money to people who couldn’t pay it back.

            The fecklessness of the greeks is vastly overstated IMO.

            Related snippets here:


  6. prism 6

    H…er and his brownsh..t thugs emerged from financial collapse. Greece has had a repressive military regime, with even song writers who didn’t please being forced into exile. Germany should be aware of this.

  7. prism 7

    Gosman – Annoying comment No.2. Why should you?

    • Gossie still has not addressed the primary issue, why should the largest party get 50 extra seats?

      • Gosman 7.1.1

        Because it it their version of democracy and most of the parties participating in it seem happy. It is like asking why should an electoral college get to choose the President of the United States. The answer is because the people are currently happy with the system.

        • mickysavage

          But it cements the tyranny of minority rule, the sort of thing that FPP used to do to New Zealand election results. 

          • Enough is Enough

            But you can’t balme one side over the other for this system, which I think is the theme of this thread.

            Lets pick our fights here. The right has won playing the rules of the game.

            • TheContrarian

              “The right has won playing the rules of the game.”

              Exactly. Hate the game not the players.  

              • freedom

                “The right has won playing the rules of the game.”

                yup, they seemed to . . , or did they just move the goal posts to a different park then not tell the ticket holders till after kick off

                • Gosman

                  I’m pretty sure the left wing parties in Greece were well aware of this rule prior to the election wouldn’t you agree?

          • Gosman

            That is your take on it. New Zealand decided to change their electoral system via a democratic decision. However that is not to state that the previous system was not democratic. It would be the height of arrogance, (something I expect from leftists), to argue that only countries following a particular system are truly democratic. If people are generally happy with the way they elect their representatives and have a choice then that is a democracy in my mind.

            • Pascal's bookie

              I’m not surprised to find a righty confused about the idea that “more democratic” is better than “less democratic”; which is much closer to what people are actually saying than your “not a democracy” nonsense.

          • TighyRighty

            And yet you saw nothing wrong with illegal election spending by labour to screw the scrum? Tyranny of minority rule indeed

        • freedom

          Many Americans i have spoken with over the years, and this includes educated professionals and business people, are completely oblivious as to how their electoral system actually functions. They are understandably quite shocked when it is explained that the Electoral College is not required to vote in line with the citizen votes of their District. Indirect voting must be the most devious hair-brained scheme ever sold to a Democracy. Then again in a country where defending the constitution is now a crime that gets you on a terrorist watchlist I don’t hold out much hope for any democratic reform in their future.

          • Gosman

            The US has made a number of changes to the way their Democracy works over the years (e.g. Direct election of Senators). It is not inconceivable that they will if they want to in the future.

            Nice to see the arrogance of the left coming through in your comments though.

            • felix

              Settle down Gos, you’re having a moment.

              Where’s the arrogance in pointing out how the U.S. system works? And where is there any reference to left/right issues in freedom’s comment?

              Breathe in. Breathe out. Close your eyes. Stretch. And continue.

            • ghostwhowalksnz

              That was about a century ago…1912 or so. Sort of defeats your point

              • freedom

                co-incidentally just after that nice Mr J.P.Morgan and his pals bunkered down at Jekyll Island to write the Federal Reserve Act

              • Gosman

                They have had constitutional amendments that affect their elections since that date. The point is if people want to change the system they can.

                • ghostwhowalksnz

                  Amendments that affect the voting ?
                  The last change was
                  “Prevents laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until the beginning of the next session of Congress”

                  Proposed in 1789 , passed in 1992……… mmmmm

                  • Gosman

                    I didn’t state it would affect voting, (although possible can). They have affected elections though, such as who is entitled to stand for President.

  8. gorj 8

    Not happy with the result, but isn’t SYRIZA is a merger of 4+ left wing parties in the first place? With the explicit purpose of getting the 50 seat bonus?

    • Bunji 8.1

      Actually it was more to make sure that each of the parties stayed over the 3% threshold – it’s just been a lot more successful since then…

    • ghostwhowalksnz 8.2

      But did they do it in the last 2 months so as to benefit from a system that ND has played with continuously over the last dozen elections. Moving the tipping point downwards so they make the cut.

      Reminds me of the German system which is of course very close to ours.

      Except CDU have a regional ‘sister party’ the CSU who only contest seats and lists in Bavaria where the CDU dont stand. They win all electorate seats in that state. Thus they go into parliament with a big swag of seats in their name but only a small share of the party list votes ( over 5%). The result means they can keep their ‘overhang’ electorate seats and thus in close elections have a built in advantage for the CDU/CSU government that results.

  9. Olwyn 9

    The ultimate result of this election is not yet 100% clear since the ND party still has to prove able to form a coalition with PASOK. Syriza’s big achievement, in my opinion, is that it has punched a big hole in the right wing/crypto-left wing managerialism that has come to dominate Western politics. PASOK can no longer pretend it is the moderate voice of the left, without making radical alterations to its thinking. This is no mean achievement, even if Syriza did not win the election.

    • alex 9.1

      Olwyn – An interesting and very sensible comment. Bit of a shock on this thread so far.

      • grumpy 9.1.1

        This saga is not yet over. The Greeks have been given a lesson in not to mess with the European power brokers. The armageddon like predictions were nothing more than a con, nothing like the chaos that was predicted would have happenned.

        The Greeks certainly are the turkeys who voted early for Christmas.

        • Colonial Viper


          Indeed, not over by a long, long shot.

          • Grumpy

            Agree, this will be lesson for Spain, Portugal, Ireland etc.

            They wanted to hack it with the big boys like Germany and did it on credit, time for payback.

            • RedLogix

              The Germans in particular loved the Euro because it was worth less than the Deutsmark, effectively giving the Germans a huge competitive advantage over the rest of Europe. Their export industries boomed, but of course the trade imbalance this created meant billions of Euro’s piling up in German and French banks.

              Who then lent them to the rest of Europe in order to keep them buying German and French goods.

              This kind of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ devaluation is exactly the kind of problem Maynard Keynes attempted to address with his Bancor proposal that he put forward at the Bretton Woods Conference.


              As with most right-wingers you reflexively play the ‘blame the victim’ game while demonstrating little awareness of reality.

              • Pascal's bookie


                And if anyone was “trying to play with the big boys” it was Germany and France, dreaming of a european superpower.

              • Grumpy

                ….and how he had a go at wrecking the Spanish economy prior to WWII…….

  10. Kevin 10

    New Democracy leader Antonis Samaris has been declared the winner of Greece’s General Election with 29.7% of the vote. His rival and closest challenger Alexis Tsipras of the SYRIZA Party won 26.9% of the vote but has conceeded to Antonis Samaris.
    Samaris has wasted no time in claiming the result is a “Victory for Europe” which may help to ease tensions in Europe regarding Greece’s debt position and has promised to act quickly to reform Greece’s economy.
    Mr Samaris was generous in acknowledging the sacrifices of the Greek people in the face of the crippling debt burden of his country and has promised a quick road to recovery and prosperity.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      and has promised a quick road to recovery and prosperity.

      Its this comment which marks him as either a bald faced banker serving liar, or totally incompetent and ignorant.

  11. Fortran 11

    The largest single number of tourists to Greece are the Germans.
    Already this has collapsed – the German tourists have gone elsewhere this year.
    Greece only has tourism as an export earner.

    • Te Reo Putake 11.1

      Er, surely they still sell a bit of olive oil, Fortran? And Feta cheese? Not to mention all those massive oil tankers and other Greek flagged ships which are actually their major source of foreign income. Righties, eh? You’d think they’d know a bit about how economies work, but nooooo ….

      • Fortran 11.1.1

        Te Reo Putake

        Do you really believe that the earnings from what is left of the Greek flagged vessels actually goes back to Greece ?
        As a shipowner would you send this back to a bankrupt country ?
        No – neither do they which is why the owners are very rich – profits got to tax havens.

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