Greece’s Syriza Wins EU Elections in Warning to Samaras

Protest Parties Surge In European Elections
Syriza's party supporters wave flags during a speech of the party's leader Alexis Tsipras, after the results of the European elections, outside the Athens University, on May 25, 2014. Voters in Greece, the first debt-crisis victim, handed first place to Syriza, a party which chafed at the budget cuts demanded by German-led creditors in exchange for international financial aid. Photographer: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Greece’s main opposition Syriza party placed first in elections to the European Parliament without winning by a big enough margin to destabilize Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government.

“In the short run there is no problem of government stability,” Dimitris Sotiropoulos, associate professor of political science at the University of Athens, said in a phone interview. “While both governing parties have lost several percentage points each, their combined popular support is above the popular support of the main opposition.”

Greek bonds rose today after Syriza, short in Greek for Coalition of the Radical Left, got 26.6 percent of the vote in yesterday’s election, compared with 22.7 percent for Samaras’s New Democracy, according to a count of 98.4 percent of ballots posted on the Interior Ministry website. Samaras’s junior coalition partner, Pasok, running as the Elia alliance, took 8 percent.

“Those who tried to turn the EU election into a plebiscite failed,” Samaras said in comments televised live by state-run Nerit TV. “They failed to create conditions of instability, uncertainty and political ungovernability.”

The European vote, together with Greek local and regional elections, was seen as a test of the ruling coalition’s stability. While Samaras has presided over Greece’s return to capital markets, the effects of the debt crisis and a six-year recession remain visible in a country where more than half of young people are out of work.

The yield on Greece’s benchmark 10-year bond fell 28 basis points to 6.21 percent at 12:12 p.m. in Athens today.

Seat Share

Translated into seats in the European Parliament, Syriza gets six lawmakers, New Democracy five and Elia two.

Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, said in a televised statement early today that the party’s win sent a clear message against the budget-cutting austerity measures tied to Greece’s 240 billion euro ($327 billion) bailout from the euro area and International Monetary Fund, and called for immediate national elections.

“It’s the first time in Greece’s political history that a party of the radical left wins an election with a real margin,” Panagiotis Lafazanis, a Syriza lawmaker, said in a telephone interview. “The result of the Greek election brings hope to the country and is positive for Europe.”

The nationalist Golden Dawn party, whose leader and five other lawmakers are in prison pending trial on charges of running a criminal organization, jumped to third place, with 9.4 percent of the vote, from a fifth-placed showing in general elections in 2012. The result gives them three seats.

‘Conscious Vote’

“The rise of Golden Dawn is the most alarming result of this elections,” Christos Dimas, a lawmaker for New Democracy, said in a phone interview. “This time it was a conscious vote for the extremists. Voters could not say they didn’t know what Golden Dawn stands for.”

To Potami, a new party, placed fifth with 6.6 percent, or two seats, followed by the Communist Party with 6.1 percent, which also gives them two EU lawmakers.

In local elections, New Democracy-backed candidates won governorships in seven of the country’s regions, with Syriza winning in two, including the Attica metropolitan region that includes Athens. Independent candidates took four governorships.

In Greece’s two biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, the incumbent mayors, both independents, were re-elected. The Communist Party took Patras, the third-biggest city.

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