Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Alexis Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, gestures during his meeting with Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras, in Athens, on Friday, October 11. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Greece has been featured in global news many times in the last decade, often for its challenges. Despite the deep financial mismanagement and crises the country has faced, in the past five elections before 2015, governments of different ideological colors have largely kept fiscal and monetary policies the same. Against this background, the fact that the Greek legislative election in July brought in a right-leaning government has been received with great enthusiasm. This euphoria invites a fact-based reflection on the election results, and what they mean for Greece.

A Victory for Democracy?

Crucially, just over 42 percent of eligible Greek voters abstained in the July election. Despite it being a high proportion of voters, it is also puzzling for two reasons. First, voting in Greece is compulsory, a mechanism known to increase turnout. Second, we know that in disproportional systems, like the Greek one, voters tend to vote whether or not their views are expressed by the parties running. This lies in contrast to proportional systems, where non-centrist citizens that fail to find a viable party that is ideologically congruent with them are likely to abstain. To put it differently, voters in systems like Greece typically go to the polls even if there is no ideologically congruent viable party. Given that they are also obliged by law to vote, why did only a bit more than half of eligible Greeks cast a ballot? Read more