There were few reasons for progressives in Greece to celebrate Sunday as the right-wing New Democracy Party cruised to a resounding snap election victory—ousting the Syriza government that has long been condemned for betraying its anti-austerity mandate—but one "silver lining" was the strong performance of the nascent leftist party MeRA25, founded by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
MeRA25, the Greek arm of the European DiEM25 movement, won nine seats in Greece's parliament, far exceeding expectations and allowing Varoufakis to head what one observer described as a "small but credible left-wing opposition."
In a video message following Sunday's election, Varoufakis vowed to fight both the "inane establishment which continues to implement socialism for the bankers and harsh austerity for everyone else" and "the fascists, the euroskeptics, those who want to deconstruct Europe" in his party's campaign against the crippling austerity Greeks have endured for over a decade.
"Our electoral wing in Greece performed an amazing feat today," said Varoufakis. "We're here to implement in practice our constructive disobedience, our European internationalism. We have a remarkable opportunity to break down this wall of silence, the troika-heavy and troika-dominated politics of this land, indeed of this Europe."
We did it!
A big thank you to all of our members, activists and supporters who truly made it happen. We're just getting started!
— DiEM25 (@DiEM_25) July 7, 2019
Varoufakis, who resigned from the Syriza government in 2015, took direct aim at outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for paving the way for the rise of the New Democracy Party, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
New Democracy's victory, Varoufakis wrote on his website, was "set in motion" the night of the Greek people's 2015 "no" vote against bailout terms proposed by the so-called European troika, composed of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.
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"Lest we forget, it was immediately after the Greek people's magnificent NO vote that Mr. Tsipras invited the leaders of New Democracy and pro-austerity forces to help him convert the NO vote into a YES," Varoufakis said. "Thus, a referendum that had the capacity to confine New Democracy to the dustbin of history was annulled and the people overthrown by an alliance of Mr. Tsipras and New Democracy."
"Is it any wonder, once Mr. Tsipras passed every austerity measure and privatization bill demanded of him by the troika with the implicit and explicit support of New Democracy, that New Democracy is back?" added Varoufakis. "The Greek people did what they have always done since their incarceration in our vast debtor's prison: they overthrew a government that imposed a new troika bailout along with its poisonous preconditions."
The former finance minister went on to describe MeRA25's entry into the Greek parliament as the "only ray of hope in this bleak setting," a sentiment that was echoed by progressives on social media:
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) July 8, 2019
Syriza slides to defeat in Greece after twice betraying a popular mandate against austerity and after a decade of hapless govt. Varoufakis’s party wins nine seats in parliament. Congrats to @yanisvaroufakis, @deineuropa, @HorvatSrecko & co.
— Vijay Prashad (@vijayprashad) July 7, 2019
Acknowledging that MeRA25's share of the vote was relatively small, Varoufakis said "it was large enough to make a crucial difference—just like a small candle whose light is capable of penetrating the darkness."
"As of today, we embark upon a steadfast campaign against the most parasitic and cruel form of oligarchy that New Democracy will strive to erect upon the foundation of Mr. Tsipras's bailout agreement with the troika of Greece's lenders," Varoufakis said. "Together with our comrades across Europe, and also as part of the Progressive International that DiEM25 co-founded, we shall fight both types of rising authoritarianism (that of the establishment and that of the racist ultra-right), while connecting our resistance to the crucial campaign for a European and, indeed, an International Green New Deal."