ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Although widely debated in broader socioeconomic terms, the Eurozone crisis has not received adequate scholarly attention with regards to the impact of alternative political systems. This article revisits the debate on majoritarian and consensus democracies drawing on recent evidence from the Eurozone debacle. Greece is particularly interesting both with regards to its potential ‘global spillover effects’ and choice of political system. Despite facing comparable challenges as Portugal and Spain, the country has become polarized socially and politically, seeing a record number of MP defections, electoral volatility and the rise of the militant extreme right. The article explains why Greece, the country that relied most extensively on majoritarian institutions, entered the global financial crisis in the most vulnerable position while subsequently faced insurmountable political and institutional obstacles in its management. The article points to the paradox of majoritarianism: in times of economic stress, the first ‘casualties’ are its strongest elements – centrist parties (bi-partisanship) and cabinet stability.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The Greek Debt Crisis and Southern Europe
Majoritarian Pitfalls?
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
As a result of the sovereign debt crisis, Southern European societies are facing
unparalleled socioeconomic problems. Despite a bailout by the IMF and the EU,
Greece has been on the brink of default since 2009, as has Portugal, while the
Spanish economy, suffering from rocketing unemployment, is struggling to cope
with its own sovereign debt. In addition, the debt crisis has brought to the surface
a number of social and political problems rooted in the legacy of their respective
democratic transitions. In this respect, Greece is the worse off of the three: it is facing
electoral volatility, the contraction of its centrist parties, and, more worryingly, the
electoral rise of the far right. Across the globe, the countrys situation pits those sym-
pathetic to the plight of vulnerable citizens facing unbearable sacrices against those
who are highly critical of an irresponsible government that has failed to implement the
reforms stipulated in costly rescue packages. Because Greece has become a synonym
for fragility and mismanagement in the Eurozone crisis, we privilege it over Spain
and Portugal, reserving the latter two (as well as other countries in the Eurozone)
for comparative purposes.
For the most part, the media presentation of the sovereign debt crisis offers a uni-
form framing of the problems encountered by the three Mediterranean countries and
ignores the role of political systems. Yet as early as the late 1980s, Arend Lijphart
and colleagues highlighted signicant differences between Southern European democ-
Although Greece, Spain, and Portugal share important cultural, social, economic,
and historical characteristics, when their democratic regimes are compared with the
worlds other democracies in terms of the contrasting majoritarian and consensus
models, they turn out not to form a distinctive and cohesive cluster.Spain and Portugal
combine majoritarian-consensual features; Greece is the most eccentric,aclose
approximation of the majoritarian model.
What exactly do we mean by this distinction? According to Lijphart, the most
conceptually vigorous way of categorizing political systems is to divide them into
majoritarian and consensus democracies.
What is at stake is whether regimes assign
decisions to a simple majority or plurality (majoritarian) or to as many people as pos-
Both consensus and majoritarian democracies aim to foster moder-
ation either by privileging single-governing parties encompassing a wide spectrum of
interests and voters (majoritarian) or by encouraging multiple parties who moderate their
positions to become attractive post-election coalition partners (consensus).
For advocates of consensus democracies, it is safer to elect a legislature of rep-
resentatives and let these representatives bargain to nd the most preferred policy.
Multi-party executives encourage responsibility by forming a broader coalition of politi-
cal parties contributing to long-term stability, coherence, and continuity in decision-
making. Consensus democracies generally emphasize broader representation for
minority groups and vulnerable segments of the population.
Majoritarian political sys-
tems aim instead to prevent party fragmentation by favoring larger political parties.
However, in their attempt to manufacture articial majorities, they often leave impor-
tant social and political groups excluded or underrepresented.
For the most part, majoritarian democracies favor responsiveness over representa-
tion and emphasize mandates, efciency, and alternation. Single-party governments
are arguably easier to coordinate and more likely to resolve serious disagreements.
More importantly, they are seen as solely accountable for their successes and failures.
A critical condition in the majoritarian model is clarity of responsibility, a clarity that,
according to Powell, is relevant in electoral terms.
By way of contrast, coalition gov-
ernments cannot survive serious disagreements, and even when they fall apart, they
generally return the same people to government.
For the most part, proponents of
majoritarianism do not question that proportional representation provides a fairer and
more inclusive environment, but they point out that sacricing some proportionality is
worthwhile as it contributes to more effective governance.
Until 2008, Greece appeared as a stellar example of the merits of majoritarianism.
The country had achieved a remarkable level of economic and political stability.
Moreover, the Greek example demonstrated that majoritarianism could adapt to meet
the needs of societies facing distinct cultural and historical challenges. The divided
Greek society (following the Greek Civil War, 194649, and the ColonelsJunta,
196774) balanced stability and representation by enabling parties with more than
3 percent of the electorate to be included in parliament. At the same time, the electoral
system restricted access to power, as none of these parties were necessary in the for-
mation of governing coalitions (with the exception of the 198990 period). In essence,
either the center-right or the center-left could potentially win a comfortable majority
in parliament with a plurality of about 40 percent of the national vote. Arguably,
Greece combined the advantages of multi-party democracy with those of single-party
governments; the extreme right received only occasional representation while the
extreme left was partly co-optedin parliament.
Political systems also have an impact on long-term economic outcomes. Con-
sensual political institutions have generally been associated with lower income
Yet, even proponents of consensus democracy recognize the economic
Comparative Politics October 2014
benets of majoritarian systems. As Lijphart admits, there is a correlation between
sustainable economic growth and majoritarian institutions.
Rogowski and Kayser
demonstrate that majoritarian democracies favor lower prices and, therefore, benet
consumers while generating lower levels of taxation and less government spending;
this suggests better scal prospects for Greece, the country with the strongest ver-
sion of majoritarianism in Southern Europe.
In addition, the country was the rst
to join the EEC and did not face decolonization issues and refugee ows as did
Portugal or secessionist violence as did Spain.
Given the consensus in the literature, one might expect that in times of crisis,
majoritarianism would reinforce governmental stability, rm decision-making, and
effective implementation of structural reforms. Instead, Greece eventually faced the
biggest economic, political, and social problems in the Eurozone crisis. At the begin-
ning of the crisis, Greece had the highest sovereign debt and was facing imminent
default. Later, when all countries were in trouble, Greece was the least protected by
its political institutions; worse yet, it converted the debt crisis into a political one,
marked by political polarization, electoral volatility, relative instability, and a wide-
spread crisis of representation.
As Greece is the most eccentricform of majoritarianism in southern Europe
according to Lijphart et al., it makes sense to deploy the Greek experience as a case
study of the virtues and vices of the majoritarian democracies in times of uncer-
This article uses the Greek case to explain the causes of elite polarization
in critical junctures and to identify the impact of majoritarianism both in the preven-
tion and management of severe nancial crises. It argues that Greek political insti-
tutions not only prevented necessary institutional reforms before the crisis but also
eliminated incentives for centrist political parties to adopt necessary consensual poli-
cies once the crisis hit. More specically, majoritarian institutions in the post-1970s
period triggered a vicious cycle of electoral outbidding that derailed public expen-
diture, weakening state institutions that might have averted the disaster. Then, in
the decade preceding the Eurozone crisis, the cost of running the Greek state grew
rapidly with, for instance, the doubling of the average expenditure for public sector
More importantly, in mid-crisis, majoritarian norms eliminated con-
sensus building and rewarded centrifugal forces, thus restricting continuity and credi-
bility in decision-making.
Furthermore, the Greek case is crucial with respect to the global uncertainties it
could trigger. As a prominent historian has argued, the country has frequently been a
precursor of major events of international signicance.
Greece is widely seen as
the forerunner of both the debt crisis and its spillover into grassroots street protests
In short, Greece offers a critical case to evaluate the merits and defects
of political systems in times of uncertainty. In what follows, we contribute to the
debate on majoritarian vs. consensus democracies
and, by extension, to the literature
on democratization,
political learning,
and institutional reform in the Eurozone
revisiting the success story of the Southern European states and offering
insights into effective policies of institutional reform.
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
Anticipating the Crisis: EccentricMajoritarianism
To many informed observers, the Greek sovereign debt crisis differs from that in other
Southern European countries (as well as Ireland).
Stein shows that the Greek crisis is
one of the state and its budgetary policy, while Spain has a crisis of banks and Portugal
is somewhere in-between.
In addition, Greece has ended up with the worst nancial
problem. Therefore, given the role of the state in the worst-case outcome/Greek version
of the crisis, it seems logical to examine the relationship between the form of govern-
ment and vulnerability.
There are several indicators of Greek exceptionalism.Table 1 shows that Greece
ranks lower in indicators evaluating government effectiveness and the management of
the economy. Majoritarian politics led to an unsustainable clientelist system associated
with one of the highest budget decits in the EU. In the thirteen years preceding the
Table 1 Executive Performance: Administration, Economy, and Accountability
Control of
Greece 0.79 7.14 5.9 0.84
Ireland 1.62 8.57 0.6 1.60
Spain 1.40 7.98 0.5 1.16
Portugal 1.11 7.97 3.3 1.20
Source: Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-six Countries,2
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
Table 2 Indicative Variables of Majoritarianism
Minimal Winning
One-Party Cabinet
Number of
Parliamentary Parties
Cabinet Durability
(in months,
Greece 97.7% 2.32 34.6
Ireland 31% 2.95 34.1
Spain 55.4% 2.85 40.1
Portugal 71.6% 2.61 34.4
Source: Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-six Countries, 2nd edition
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
Comparative Politics October 2014
debt crisis, Spain maintained a balanced budget, while Greece produced decits
almost double those of Portugal. If we follow the literature, this is an inexplicable
paradox. Table 2 based on the updated data of Lijphart, clearly portrays Greece as
the closest approximationof majoritarianism in the region,
marked by single-
party majority governments and fewer parties in the parliament. In addition, cabinet
durability/stabilitybased on strict party disciplinehas been a tenet of Greek eco-
nomic growth since the consolidation of democracy (see Table 2). As noted above,
even supporters of consensus democracies consider this a virtue of majoritarianism.
For one thing, moderate voters choose between two parties that differ only slightly
in socioeconomic policy. For another, swift succession in government more accurately
reects the electorates preferences, punishes a failure to perform, and increases the
likelihood of rm policy implementation.
Yet, as Greek experience illustrates, a
majoritarian systems economic growth may be unsustainable, and therefore the gen-
eral consensus in the literature could be put in question.
To see how this might happen, we must look at the nature of electoral competi-
tion in the country. Greece has employed a set of electoral devices more specically
described as reinforced PR(proportional representation) by granting a premium of
either forty or fty seats, out of three hundred, to the rst party, in addition to other
majoritarian mechanisms. As majoritarianism, in its extreme form, rather than rep-
resentation is strengthened, Lijphart et al. have labeled reinforced PRas an oxy-
On this same issue, critics of Lijphart have also argued that among the
PR systems, the worst is pure PR (Italy, Israel), and the least bad is PR with majori-
tarian devices (Germany, Greece).
In essence, the major innovation of the Greek
electoral system was that it aimed to combine multiparty parliaments along with single
party executives.
In theory, the Greek political system could have combined the two. However, in
reality, it set a lethal institutional trap: to ensure the formation of a majority govern-
ment, mainstream political parties had to rely on institutionalized electoral outbidding
across a wide spectrum of issues.
Even insignicant differences in the popular vote
between the two main parties could translate into parliamentary majorities. In turn, this
perpetuated a populist discourse and clientelistic networks that attracted swing voters
while maintaining the loyalty of partisan voters.
The logic of populismin Greece created a vicious cycle of constant competition
between the two major parties. As shown in Table 1, this caused government decits
and created an enormous sovereign debt crisis that differs considerably from the crises
in other Southern European countries. Equally, the use of public resources as an instru-
ment of electoral competition created a state crisis,inhibiting the implementation of
reforms in a time of crisis.
The institutionalization of electoral outbidding, coupled with the dominance of
the logic of populism and clientelistic networks, made the state/public sector an instru-
ment of party politics.
In Greece, the number of those employed in government as a
percent of the active workforce (7.9 percent) is lower than any other OECD member
(except Japan).
Yet this image radically changes if we take the whole public sector
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
into account: according to OECD, Greece is the OECD member with the highest
share of its active workforce employed in public corporations(12.8 percent in
2008, for a total of 692,000).
It is estimated that since the 1980s, the public sector
has doubled due to the instrumental use of public resources in electoral outbidding.
Besides targeting median voters nationwide, political parties have inventednew
critical constituencies in the public sector and created partisan armies within the civil
Civil servants are assigned different legal statuses, ranging from tenured
(the most privileged) to non-tenured persons hired under private law; the latter
must continually seek the support of MPs to gain a permanent position or renew their
existing contract.
Figure 1 illustrates the percentage of government employees as a share of total
employees in the period preceding the crisis. The juxtaposition of Greece to Spain is
revealing. At a glance, we see both the larger public sector and the disproportionally
higher cost of sustaining it in Greece. The average expenditure for compensation in
the public sector increased by 100 percent in the decade preceding the Eurozone
and the cost of general government employee compensation represented 13 per-
cent of the GDP in 2009, at the beginning of the crisis. What is the obvious conclu-
sion? A majoritarian electoral logic and the pursuit of material rewards by various
constituencies led to a costly, ineffective, and expanded public sectorGreeces Achilles
heel when the crisis erupted.
Interestingly, popular discourses on the Greek debt crisis deemphasize the role
of political institutions and choose to focus on the corrupt nature of the Greek state
(and its people). Tax evasion has been branded a national sportfor Greeks by the
Figure 1 The Size and the Cost of the Public Sector in 2007
Source: Greece at a Glance: Policies for a Sustainable Recovery, Better Policies Series,OECD,
March 2010, available at
Comparative Politics October 2014
media and policy advisors; IMF head Christine Lagarde has even described a portion
of the Greek population as people who are trying to escape tax all the time.
However, the perpetually corrupted state/peoplethesis does not offer a sufcient
alternative explanation. Rather, the evidence suggests that tax evasion was not the
outcome of inefcient state mechanisms but a deliberate political strategy deployed
by governing parties aiming to get re-elected in Greeces distorted majoritarian system.
Leading government ofcials themselves admit that governments purposely relaxed
tax audits in the months preceding electionsparticularly in regions where critical
constituents were basedleading to a free fall in the collection of taxes.
It is interesting that powerful MPs, even ministers, seeking re-election in an open-
list system had to lure local constituents. Even modernizers, such as former Prime
Minister Constantine Simitis, who pioneered and realized GreecesEconomicand
Monetary Union (EMU) accession, could not escape this logic. Nikos Christodoulakis,
former Minister of Finance in the Simitis administration, co-authored a paper on
the undeclared war between parties to form majority governments. Skouras and
Christodoulakis estimate that the cumulative cost of this relaxed implementation of
state laws represents about 8 percent of the GDP.
It is hardly surprising that the available evidence shows Greece to be less efcient
in its value-added tax (VAT) collection (see Figure 2). VAT is broadly considered an
administratively easy tax to collect, even under conditions that seem prohibitive such
as ineffective state institutions. For this reason, VAT has spread like wildrein the
past decades and has been described as an important innovation in the eld of taxa-
Its failure in Greece should not be attributed to ineffective state institutions or
disloyalcitizens but to party competition within majoritarian rules, which inevitably
perpetuated the countrys resource vulnerability.
Figure 2 Eciency of VAT Collection in 2006
Source: Greece at a Glance: Policies for a Sustainable Recovery, Better Policies Series,OECD,
March 2010, available at
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
Gradually, the logic of majoritarianism expressed in outbidding became a hege-
monic feature of Greek party politics. It was so pervasive that when the 2009 election
was announced as an opportunity to address the coming debt crisis,
parties could not
disengage from it. Just days before the election, when Papandreou, the leader at the
time of Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the main opposition party, was asked
about his economic plans, he said: The money is there; it is only that Mr. Karamanlis
(the incumbent PM) prefers to give it to the few and powerful.
In Greece, the blame
game and the costly game of outbidding became an election-winning formula for
PASOK and New Democracy (ND) at the expense of other issues.
In short, the majoritarian logic spread into economics and institutions, leading to
the expansion of an extremely heavy state, party-sponsored syndicalism, a politicized
an ineffective judicial system, and the gradual devaluation of higher
education. The prevalence of majoritarianism gradually weakened state institutions.
As a result, they were unable to manage the crisis. Worse yet, state institutions became
part of the problem.
Majoritarianism and the Eurozone Crisis
Although there is a plethora of research on the virtues and vices of majoritarian and
consensus models of democracy, little attention has been paid to how these democra-
cies perform in times of uncertainty or crisis. An exception is Roberts who highlights
the importance of studying critical junctures,such as economic crises, because they
shed light on how crises or exogenous shocks can unsettle existing institutions and
force actors to make contested decisions.
Consensus democracies could incorporate
a broader range of views effectuating the implementation of unpopular policies, but
strong and decisive majoritarian systems could arguably navigate an ailing economy
away from a crisis. The type of democracy determines how institutions intervene
to resolve social conicts.
In times of crisis, a signicant variable that often goes
unnoticed is the institutional structure of democracy.
Despite having the closest approximation of the majoritarian model of democracy,
Greece faced the most challenging problems in managing the crisis and implementing
reforms. The literature would have predicted otherwise, as Greeces majoritarian system
should have secured cabinet stability and rm decision making. Greece had few veto
playersfacilitating reform,
and the argument of stability seems to have guided policy-
makers. In an interview with Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the former Greek minister who
designed the latest amendment of the electoral law (to become even more majoritarian
by granting the winning party a fty-seat premium), we were told that a major incentive
for this change was to lower the threshold of forming a (majority) government and
facilitate government durability in the face of a crisis.
He added: A strong government
is far more effective than coalition governments.
Yet the widely shared belief among Greek political elites that majoritarianism will
reinforce stability has backred. As Table 3 illustrates, Greece has been the country
Comparative Politics October 2014
in the EU to have suffered the most from instability and political polarization in
the rst three years of the crisis; Greece went through three cabinets (a majority, a
caretaker coalition, and a multiparty coalition cabinet), while Spain and Portugal
remained relatively stable.
The Papandreou period in particular yields important insights into the pitfalls of
majoritarianism in times of crisis. As mentioned above, Papandreou did not escape
the logic of electoral outbidding despite his generally moderate attitude and exten-
sive engagement in global politics (serving as President of Socialist International).
However, his plummeting public support during the crisis demonstrated that a
government with an articial majority is a liability, not an asset. In addition, voters
in Greece saw both parties as responsible for the crisis, a view that runs counter to
the majoritarian thesis of clarity of responsibility.Finally, both main parties, par-
ticularly PASOK, collapsed, leaving a dangerous vacuum to be exploited by anti-
systemic forces.
Following Papandreou, a new coalition government was formed under former
Vice-President of the European Central Bank, Loucas Papademos. However, its man-
date was restricted to two very specic objectives: rst, implementing the rescue
package of the EU Summit in October 2011, most signicantly the Private Sector
Involvement (PSI) bond swap; second, leading the country to elections in the rst half
of 2012. After two costly rounds of elections in the summer of 2012, the collapse of
support for both ND and PASOK, and the threat of imminent default, a stable coali-
tion government was formed.
Critics might argue that Greek political elites are fettered by conditionality attached
to bailout plans; therefore, the political consequences merely reect the failure of a plan
imposed by international creditors which was doomed to fail anyway.
A related argu-
ment states that so long as the global economy is in recession, it is futile to expect
a Greek recovery; recession will continue to poison the Greek political system and
society. In the previous section we showed that endogenous institutional factors explain
the vulnerability of Greece in the global crisis, but Greece is not the only country of the
Eurozone under external conditionality. As noted earlier, we will use Portugal and Spain
Table 3 Indicators of Polarization and Stability in the 20102012 Period
Net Electoral
Number of
Number of Cabinet
Changes (since 2010)
Greece 42.4% 75 3
Ireland 28.2% 8 1
Spain 15.3% 0 1
Portugal 12% 0 1
Sources: Spanish Ministry of Interior, Portuguese Ministry of Interior, Ocial election results booklet of the
Irish government, Greek Ministry of Interior, and Lexis-Nexis.
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
for comparative purposes. Portugalthe most consensualalternative to Greecehas
the lowest level of electoral volatility of the three debt-ridden countries in Southern
Europe (Table 3).
How domestic leadership responds to a crisis could be more important than the
management of the nancial problem per se. We share Kalyvas’“consciously provin-
and argue that if the current crisis continues, none of the Southern
European leaders would be able to take effective action. However, if the world economy
recovers from a severe yet manageable crisis, a particular countryschoiceofreforms
and institutions will determine its future prosperity and socioeconomic stability.
Although global dimensions are important, we focus on internal institutional aspects.
To evaluate the validity of the majoritarian argument, namely that majoritarianism
reinforces stability through bipartisanship, we juxtapose electoral volatility and levels
of MP defection in the three countries. We nd that in times of crisis, majoritarian
institutions accentuate polarization by weakening bipartisanship (the foundation of
majoritarian model), triggering instability, and promoting zero sumvoting. All inhibit
stability and continuity in decision-making.
Electoral Volatility: Political Cost and Polarization
Greece has high levels of net electoral volatility (42.4 percent), standing in stark con-
trast to Spain (15.2 percent) and Portugal (12 percent) (Table 3). Why did the eco-
nomic crisis ignite a political crisis of that scale only in Greece? Similar political
effects are visible in other debt-ridden societies, but they are not so severe. The study
of electoral volatility is important because it sketches political polarization. By discov-
ering who is punished and who is rewarded (i.e. incumbents, opposition, or extremes)
in times of crisis, we can measure how public discontent shapes winners and losers
in different models of democracy.
Since 2010, the Greek public has steadily expressed a preference for coalition
governmentseither between the two major parties or across the boardinstead of
majoritarian solutions.
This public preference was reectedintheresultsofthe
May 2012 general elections, which dictated some form of coalition government.
However, bids to form a broader coalition government were once again hindered by
majoritarian considerations. The two parties with the larger share of votes (ND and the
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)) preferred to hold another round of elections
seeking to secure the fty seat premium to get leverage in the formation of government
rather than cooperate. The election of June 2012 was a landmark. For the rst time in
the post-1974 period, seven parties entered Parliament; a party of the extreme right,
Golden Dawn, secured eighteen seats, while the socialist PASOK, in power for most
of the time since democratic consolidation, went into electoral free fall.
This contrasts with the Portuguese experience where political elites, facing equally
pressing calls for reform, reached an early consensus, enabling comfortable majorities
to pass congressional budgets on severe austerity measures. The institutional role of
Comparative Politics October 2014
Presidenta key arbiter/conict resolution mechanism in consensus modelswas
pivotal in overcoming political conicts and reaching a consensus. Similarly, in Spain
the socialist party (PSOE) and the conservative opposition (PP) jointly endorsed a con-
stitutional amendment for a German-styledecit gap.
Although Greece has tried
both majority and coalition cabinets, political elites have failed to reach timely agree-
ments on policy, despite the danger of pending default and the growing public demand
for a consensual approach.
A majoritarian institutional design also takes a heavy toll on centrist/moderate
forces. As Figure 3 shows, the primary casualties in times of crisis are the parties of
the center. These parties are generally perceived to be more moderate and, hence, more
likely to reach consensus and/or form coalition governments. Bipartisanship, a source
of stability in Greece for decades, crumbled within the rst three years of the crisis.
Figure 3 compares Greece to the other South European debt-ridden societies and
Ireland. It is not a coincidence that Spain, the other majoritarian democracy in the
region, has the second highest decline in the support for bipartisanship. Meanwhile,
Portugal, which has a coalition government within a consensus model, has not expe-
rienced high levels of electoral volatility or seen a dramatic decline in support for
mainstream parties.
Even when coalition governments are formed in a majoritarian society, they
must work within a framework that undermines their durability and legitimacy.
Since sharing power is not the norm in majoritarian democracies, the cost of
Figure 3 Bipartisanship in Crisis
Sources of opinion polls: Portugal Eurosondangem,available at,
last accessed Sept. 1, 2013; Spain SigmaDos,available at, last
accessedSept.1,2013;GreecePublic Issue,available at, last
accessed Sept. 1, 2013; Ireland Red C,available at, last accessed
Sept. 1, 2013.
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
participating in a coalition government can be excessive, especially at the polls.
However, the blame game and irresponsible opposition (in this case, refusal to
cooperate in the face of impending economic failure and taking advantage of
the electoral costs paid by those who do cooperate) constitute structural features
of the Greek political system that precede the crisis. Admittedly, blame avoid-
anceis a central ingredient of contemporary politics across modern democracies.
However, while Hoods points to several strategies for blame game, his reference
to choosing the least blame policy procedure or method of operating
is par-
ticularly relevant for Greece. A senior electoral strategist in Greece has called this
the ripe fruitstrategy.
It is worth noting that this strategy was successfully pur-
sued even in the advent of the crisis. When a coalition government was nally
formed in Greece in 2012, the second largest party, the leftist SYRIZA, resisted
participating in government, refusing to pay the cost of cooperation and seeking
to take advantage of those who would do so. In Portugal the cost of power-sharing
is considerably lower despite similar challenges, but, of course, Portugal is not a
majoritarian democracy.
Defections and Instability
MP defections indicate the extent of polarization, quality of representation, and stability
of a democracy.
As noted above, one of the most remarkable achievements of the
Greek democracy in the post-1974 period was government stability, marked by strict
party discipline and long cabinet durability, verifying the primary hypothesis of
the majoritarian model. In contemporary Greek political culture, acts of defection
have been stigmatized because even rare defections have been associated with ideo-
logical polarization and instability, such as occurred during the period preceding the
1967 coup.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was himself a defector. In 1993
his decision to defect and establish a splinter party (Politiki Anoixi)triggeredthe
collapse of the conservative government. In addition, the biggest wave of defec-
tions in contemporary Greek history came during his premiership in autumn
2012. The Greek parliament became the focus of attention for international media
during voting on pivotal laws associated with the implementation of the bailout
plan, including the budget and other austerity measures; most European capitals
held their breath as, in every major vote, a considerable number of MPs crossed
the oor.
As Table 3 illustrates, in the period 201012, seventy-ve Greek MPs crossed
the oor, a sharp contrast to other debt-ridden countries in Southern Europe. The
Portuguese constitution prohibits defections (Art. 160), illustrative of the institutional
checks and balances in proportional/consensus models. Meanwhile, Spainsstrict
party discipline places restrictions on defectors;
in addition, both major parties
reached a subtle consensus not to accept defectors from other parties.
Greece is
Comparative Politics October 2014
also different from Spain and Portugal because massive benchmark coupswere
staged by dozens of MPs in the ruling socialist party, forcing former PM Papandreou
to step down and create a unity government; these are not shown in the table.
Simply stated, the unprecedented number of defections in Greece indicates the ability
of institutions to supersede political culture and bring about phenomena which cultural
explanations would not have predicted, such as mass defections. As Kam argues, the
open voting is a symbolic and political act directed primarily against other loyal
a previously unthinkable action.
In Greece, all MPs defected from parties in government, none from the opposition
in the period under examination. There are two overlapping institutional explanations
for defections. First, in seeking re-election, MPs may aim to attract or retain the sup-
port of the median voters in their constituency, causing them to deviate from their
partys strategy.
In times of crisis and ideological polarization, this deviation might
be signicant. As MPs are guided by their desire to be re-elected, they will defect
if the cost of following the party line exceeds the gains of staying in the party. This
system cultivated for several decades, which kept them in power. Hence, as Pagoulatos
shows, once the program of forced adjustment reformswas adopted, political elites
had to nd alternative ways to buyvotes and sustain clientelistic networks even if
that meant deviation from party line, a clear illustration of the nexus between majori-
tarianism and clientelism.
Second, this is related to another Greek innovation: combining majoritarianism
with an open-list system in multi-seat districts. In contrast to Spain, which has
adopted closed lists, until June 2012, Greek voters picked a candidate from an open
list of candidates. This can be linked to the legacy of transition, more specically,
the desire to make a clean break with the past and strengthen democratic represen-
tation by allowing citizens to pick their representatives. Over time, however, Greek
MPs have developed a critical mass of supporters who vote for their local politi-
cians, not for party programs. When the crisis erupted, the increasing cost of sup-
porting unpopular government policies caused many MPs to defect, as they worried
about re-election.
Parties socialized in a majoritarian system are not accustomed to sharing power.
Therefore, they have difculty accommodating the demands of their MPs. In coali-
tions, more MPs struggle over fewer resources, creating tension among disappointed
MPs. Even when parties are able to accommodate the demands of their local MPs, this
can inhibit the governments overarching objectives, in this case, the implementation
of a bailout package. In fact, to ensure loyalty before critical votes (i.e. budget), some
parties have accepted amendments to accommodate MPs. For example, in 2012, some
Greek MPs inserted last-minute provisions and amendments into bills in an effort to
satisfy the demands of their local constituents.
The majority of such amendments
deviate from the austere orientation of the bills which were implemented as a result
of the bailout plan. The majoritarian logic of outbidding dominated even as Greece
teetered on the brink of default.
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
Crisis of Legitimacy
One of the central theses of majoritarianism is that the primary objective is to form
durable cabinets even if this is achieved at the expense of legitimacy. The majority
should have a clear and unrestrained term to govern, while the elections serve as the
period of accountability during which voters can reward or punish the incumbents.
But as we show below, legitimacy is of paramount importance in times of crisis. The
main advantage of majoritarian systemsan unrestrained term to governbecomes
a liability as government resilience plummets during crises.
The 2012 Greek elections highlight the pitfalls of majoritarianism in times of
uncertainty. Paradoxically, the primary objective for a considerable number of voters
was not to cast their ballot for the party that best represented their views, as one might
expect in times of crisis, but to prevent the threat of giving the plurality of votes to
the party perceived to be more dangerous for the future of the country. As noted, the
electoral law assigns a premium of fty seats to the party with the plurality of the
votes. Therefore, the electoral strategy of the mainstream parties was to invest in a
zero-sum logic, which accentuated polarization and lessened the prospects of consensus.
For example, in the rst election, in May 2012, the leader of the conservative
ND party stated that if his party failed to form a majority government, he would seek
a second round of electionsdespite the enormous economic costrather than coop-
erate, thereby forcing voters seeking to minimize instability to vote for the party with
the best chance of winning. This zero-sum voting rationale, dictated by the majori-
tarian design, inuenced the voting behavior of the citizens and distorted representa-
tion. A senior member of leftist SYRIZA admits that although it may sound absurd,
in the second election [June 2012], it was easier for SYRIZA to jump from 17 per-
cent [May 2012] to 27 percent. SYRIZA did absolutely nothing.In conclusion,
parties did not have to do anything to reap the fruit of institutional distortion.
Opinion polls conducted in the immediate aftermath of the election found that
10 percent of those who cast their ballot for the conservative ND party did so to pre-
vent the other major party, the leftist SYRIZA, from securing the plurality of
the votes; only 8 percent agreed with NDs program,
and only 10 percent of those
voting for SYRIZA did so because they believed in its program.
Clearly, majoritarian norms, especially in times of crisis, distort representation.
This is important: as Anderson and Guillory show, securing losersconsentaffects
the legitimacy and viability of democratic institutions.
In their seminal study, they
highlight that losers in majoritarian democracies are less satised than losers in
consensus democracies, and this is related to the nature of the countrysrepre-
When, shortly before the May 2012 election, PM Antonis Samaras said
he would opt for a second election rather than share power with another party,
he was essentially blackmailingthe voting public.
In the end, however, after
two rounds of elections, no party had secured a majority. The conservative ND
nally formed a coalition government with the center-left PASOK and Democratic
Left (DIMAR).
Comparative Politics October 2014
Alternative Options for Greece
A potential critique of our argument is that Greek majoritarianism has been unconven-
tional and, therefore, much of the blame needs to be placed on the details of the states
institutional design rather than on the broader dichotomy between majoritarian and
consensus democracies. Greece admittedly deviates from other majoritarian cases.
The countrys political system has certainly been more majoritarian than the Spanish
case (and possibly even the Anglo-Saxon model) as it has generally required a lower
plurality threshold in gaining the majority of seats in Parliament. As mentioned earlier,
the Greek electoral system aimed to maintain single-party governments within a
multiparty system comprising multi-seat districts. By way of contrast, typicalAnglo-
Saxon majoritarian democracies combine single districts with rst-past-the-post (FPTP)
electoral devices. But, even if we accept the critique that Greek majoritarianism is sub-
stantially different from the Anglo-Saxon model, this critique still reinforces the view
that majoritarian systems are problematic when it comes to adapting to new political
environments. Not all majoritarian models are created equal, but, for the most part,
we could conclude that majoritarianism is not easily adaptable to the needs of societies
elsewhere, particularly those lacking a culture of scal responsibility or suffering from
entrenched clientelistic networks.
Yet, as mentioned before, reform of the current political system might not be
easily implementable due to opposition from current stakeholders. This applies to
most proposed changes in electoral law and across the political spectrum. As a promi-
nent member of the opposition party SYRIZA argues, Over the past twenty-ve
years the political system made political elites with excessive political and economic
power this is a system that nobody would abandon easily.
Equally, according to
the Greek constitution (Article 54), changes in the electoral law require a broader
consensus and a majority of two thirds of the parliament.
If proposed electoral
changes receive only a simple majority vote, they could be applicable in future elec-
tions but not in those immediately following the change. This innovation of the
Greek electoral system aimed to discourage frequent changes in the electoral system,
but it backred during the crisis, making the transition to proportional representation
more difcult. More importantly, as mentioned in many interviews, such constitutionally-
entrenched constraints were driven by the belief than majoritarian systems are superior
in serving the interests of the country.
Despite these constraints, institutional reform might still be possible if the aim is
not to eliminate stakeholders from the political system but to transform them into
moderate and coalitionable political partners. The priorities of the two previously
dominant parties, which lost considerable electoral inuence within this majoritarian
design, have changed as neither will be able to form single-party governments in the
foreseeable future. The effects of the attempted crackdown on the neo-Nazi Golden
Dawn (GD) party in the fall of 2013 are still unclear in the polls as the percentage
of undecided voters in Greece has increased even further.
If an extreme party wins
the bonus of fty seats, such an outcome will be catastrophic for Greece. Luckily,
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
a traditional demand of the left has been the PR, and SYRIZA has rhetorically com-
mitted itself to a more inclusive proportional system. PASOK and DIMAR as the
potential kingmakers will also benet from a transition to proportional representation.
If the current majoritarian bonus remains, PASOK will prefer that an amendment
is made that the fty-seat bonus is distributed across coalition partners and not just
the rst partyan arrangement that will require changes in the Greek electoral law
in line with the Italian one. Moreover, if coalitions are encouraged in advance of elec-
tions, the smaller moderate parties will be seen as future coalition partners and cease
to be a constant target of electoral outbidding while coalitions will receive an early
democratic mandate.
Thus it might be feasible for Greek political elites to re-negotiate a political system
that balances proportional and moderate majoritarian elements. Moreover, an alter-
native for Greece is to follow the Irish model as suggested by proponents of single-
transferable vote/proportional representation (PR-STV). Ranking the candidates in
multiple-seat districts will restore public condence and provide voters and parties
with a much fairer and representative political system.
At the same, a directly elected
president (in runoff elections) could play the role of an arbitrator (formally or infor-
mally as in Portugal) when proportional representation fails to enable the formation of
a governing coalition.
In times of economic crisis, societies tend to look to the past in their attempts to
understand how political institutions have failed to prevent the meltdown. Thus, crises
act as catalysts for the revision of fundamental policies pursued in the past and spark
changes in the tactics of political elites. Elites do not learn uniformly, however, and
broader consent is often necessary to introduce necessary change. Both majoritarian
and consensus models of democracy insist that they build a more stable (albeit dif-
ferent types of) societal consent. The literature argues that in majoritarian models,
voters bolster consensus and reinforce stability by choosing between two centrist
parties with minimal differences. Alternatively, consent can be secured by bringing
as many partners into the coalition government as possible, creating a consensus
model of democracy.
As we have shown, majoritarian institutions shaped Greeces path before and
after the crisis, explaining its vulnerability in the Eurozone debt crisis. Majoritarian
institutions not only failed to prevent the economic crisis but also transformed it
into a crisis of representation marked by polarization, instability, and low trust in
state institutions.
As the Greek case illustrates, the prevalence of majoritarian norms in society
and politics prohibits the prospect of effective management or institutional reform.
At critical historical junctures, even majority governments nd it difcult to enforce
the party discipline deemed necessary for continuity in executive decision-making.
Comparative Politics October 2014
As Lijphart argues, while quick decision-making is certainly required, continuity and
devotion to a policy are more signicant.
Yet, majoritarian systems are marked by
recurrent shifts in policy, followed by revision or annulment of past policies, leading
to reduced effectiveness and dwindling international credibility. In Greece, majori-
tarian institutions inhibit the effectiveness of coalition governments: as majoritarianism
does not reward sharing power (or resources), politicians have a greater incentive
to defect, creating instability among the government partners. Admittedly, consensus
democracies might face similar challenges during nancial crises, but the latter might
at least provide more social cohesion and inclusivity when addressing these challenges.
For Greece, sacricing this inclusivity and proportionality was not worthwhile as
majoritarianism did not contribute to effective governance.
More importantly, of Spain, Portugal, and Greece, the latter country has invested
most heavily in majoritarian norms but faces the grimmest prospects in Southern
Europe. The Greek tragedy highlights the paradox of majoritarianism in times of
crisis: the more urgent the calls are for fundamental institutional reform, the more
polarized and fragmented party systems and society become, diminishing the credi-
bility of political elites and making every suggested reform more costly and less likely
to be accepted by the public. This sets in motion a cycle of distrust, whereby the
credibility of every reform undertaken by the majority government is undermined
by the vocal opposition of political parties and the society at large; in turn, this
undermines the efciency of the original reform, making necessary a new wave of
unpopular reforms that are less and less effective. In short, majoritarian solutions do
not secure societal consent and lack the credibility necessary to reverse expectations
and bolster scal responsibility, growth, and development.
We are grateful to Katia Andronikidou, Nancy Bermeo, Michael Burgess, Paolo Dardaneli, Edward Morgan-
Jones, Stathis Kalyvas, Ersun Kurtulus, Matthew Loveless, Sean Lynn-Jones, Ziya Önış, Christos Papazoglou,
Takis Pappas, Ben Seyd, Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos, Andrew Wroe, and Nikolaos Zahariadis for their insightful
comments. The two authors have contributed equally to the article.
1. Arend Lijphart, Thomas Bruneau, Nikiforos Diamandouros, and Richard Gunther, A Mediterranean
Model of Democracy? The Southern European Democracies in Comparative Perspective,West E urop ea n
Politics, 11 (January 1988), 78.
2. Ibid., 1920.
3. Arend Lijphart, Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Government in Twenty-One
Countries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). See also Jürg Steiner, The Principles of Majority
and Proportionality,British Journal of Political Science, 1 (1971), 6370; Robert A. Dahl, APrefaceto
Democratic Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006); G. Bingham Powell, Elections as
Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions (New Haven: Yale University Press,
2000); Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, eds., Electoral Systems and Democracy (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 2006).
4. Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries,
2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 2.
5. Powell, 6.
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
6. Lijphart, 1984 and 2012.
7. Diamond and Plattner, x.
8. Powell, 11.
9. Guy Lardeyret, The Problem with PR,Journal of Democracy, 2 (Summer 1991), 31.
10. Antonis A. Ellinas, The Media and the Far Right in Western Europe: Playing the Nationalist Card
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
11. Vick i Bir cheld and Markus Crepaz, The Impact of Constitutional Structures and Collective and
Competitive Veto Points on Income Inequality in Industrialized Democracies,European Journal of
Political Research, 34 (October 1998), 175200; Torben Iversen and David Soskice, Electoral Institutions
and the Politics of Coalitions: Why Some Democracies Redistribute More than Others,American Political
Science Review, 100 (May 2006), 165.
12. Lijphart, 2012, 63.
13. Ronald Rogowski and Mark Andreas Kayser, Majoritarian Electoral Systems and Consumer Power:
Price-Level Evidence from the OECD Countries,American Journal of Political Science, 46 (July 2002),
14. Harry Eckstein, Case Study and Theory in Political Science,in Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W.
Polsby, eds., Handbook of Political Science (Menlo Park: Addison-Wesley, 1975), 79138; John Gerring,
Is There a (Viable) Crucial-Case Method?Comparative Political Studies, 40 (March 2007), 23153.
15. Yiannis Stournaras, Angelos Tsakanikas, Michalis Vasiliades, and Nikos Ventouris, A Year after the
Bailout: The role of Industry in Sustainable Development (Athens: Foundation for Economic and Industrial
Research, 2011).
16. Mark Mazower, Democracys Cradle, Rocking the World,New York Times, June 29, 2011, also
available at:
17. For detailed analysis of cycles of protest in Greece see Antonis A. Ellinas and Iasonas Lamprianou,
Political Trust in Extremis,Comparative Politics,46(January2014),23150; Wolfgang Rüdig and
Georgios Karyotis, Who Protests in Greece? Mass Opposition to Austerity,British Journal of Political
Science, 44 (July 2014), 487513 and Aikaterini Andronikidou and Iosif Kovras, Cultures of Rioting and
Anti-Systemic Politics in Southern Europe,West European Politics, 35 (July 2012), 70725.
18. Lijphart, 1984 and 2012; Timothy Frey and Edward Manseld, Fragmenting Protection: The
Political Economy of Trade Policy in the Post-Communist World,British Journal of Political Science,
33 (October 2003), 63557; Pippa Norris, Electoral Engineering: Voting Rules and Political Behavior
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
19. Jack Snyder and Leslie Vinjamuri, Trials and Errors. Principle and Pragmatism in Strategies of
International Justice,International Security, 28 (Winter 2003/2004), 544.
20. Nancy Bermeo, Democracy and the Lessons of Dictatorship,Comparative Politics,24(April
1992), 27391; Peter Hall, The Movement from Keynesianism to Monetarism: Institutional Analysis
and British Economic Policy in the 1970s,in Sven Steinmo, Kathleen Thelen, and Frank Longstreth,
eds., Structuring Politics. Historical Institutionalism and Comparative Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992), 90113.
21. Stathis N. Kalyvas, A Greek Perestroika,[translated from Greek], Kathimerini, Dec. 17, 2010.
22. For an excellent overview of the Greek reform experience, see Stathis Kalyvas, George Pagoulatios,
and Haridimos Tsoukas, eds., From Stagnation to Forced Adjustment Reforms in Greece 19742010
(London: Hurst and Company, 2012).
23. Jerome Stein, The Diversity of Debt Crises in Europe,Cato Journal, 31 (Summer 2011), 199215.
24. Ibid.
25. Lijphart et al.
26. Lijphart, 2012, 260.
27. Ibid, 14.
28. In our interviews with Greek policymakers and academic specialists, we generally found that there is
little awareness of the extreme majoritarianfeatures of Greek democracy. This is partly due to terms such
as reinforced PRas well as the multi-party elements of the Greek political system, which cause confusion
even among specialists. Tsebelis, for instance, argues that Lijphart would consider Greece a consensus
democracy: George Tsebelis, Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2002), 5. In our view, this contradicts an assessment by Lijphart et al. because they had previously
pointed to the eccentric majoritariancharacter of Greek democracy.
29. Lardeyret, 34.
30. Tsebelis, xv.
Comparative Politics October 2014
31. Nikos Marantzides, The Solution is Simple....Proportional Representation,[translated from Greek],
Kathimerini, Nov. 18, 2012.
32. Stathis N. Kalyvas, Polarization in Greek Politics: PASOKs First Four Years, 19811985,Journal
of Hellenic Diaspora, 23 (Winter 1997), 83104; George Th. Mavrogordatos, Rise of the Green Sun: The
Greek Election of 1981 (London: Kings College, 1983); George Th. Mavrogordatos, From Traditional
Clientelism to Machine Politics: the Impact of PASOK Populism in Greece,South European Society
and Politics, 2 (October 1997), 126.
33. Dimitri A Sotiropoulos, Bureaucrats and Politicians: A Case study of the Determinants and
Perceptions of Conict and Patronage in the Greek Bureaucracy under PASOK Rule, 19811989,
British Journal of Sociology, 45 (September 1994), 34965; Takis S. Pappas, Patrons against Partisans:
The Politics of Patronage in Mass Ideological Parties,Party Politics, 15 (May 2009), 31534.
34. Yet, the central government employed three quarters of the total workforce of the public sector (OECD).
35. Greece: Review of the Central Administration,OECD, 2011, 71, available at http://www.oecd-ilibrary.
36. Stournaras et al.
37. These include (a) permanent civil servants hired under public law, tenured and integrated in the career
system; (b) civil servants on an indenite-term contract under private law, often assimilated to the preceding
category during their oce; (c) servants hired under private law for a xed period. Greece at a Glance:
Policies for a Sustainable Recovery,OECD, 2010, 73, available at
38. Stournaras et al.
39. Decca Aitkenhead, Christine Lagarde: can the head of the IMF save the euro?Guardian, May 25,
2012, also available at
40. Spyros Skouras and Nicos Christodoulakis, Electoral Misgovernance Cycles: Evidence from
Wildres and Tax Evasion in Greece and Elsewhere,Hellenic Studies Working Paper Series, Issue 47,
London School of Economics and Political Science, 2010.
41. ibid.
42. Vito Tanzi, Taxation in an Integrating World (Brookings Institution Press, 1995), 45.
43. Several other eorts proved equally unsustainable in Greece, including the creation and maintenance
of a pension system (OECD, 2010).
44. Kosif Kovras, The Parliamentary Election in Greece, October 2009,Electoral Studies, 29 (October
2010), 27696.
45. George Papandreou: an all too nal stand,Guardian, Nov. 1, 2011.
46. Sotiropoulos, 1994; Kevin Featherstone and Papadimitriou Dimitris, The Limits of Europeanization:
Reform Capacity and Policy Conict in Greece (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
47. Kenneth Roberts, Market Reform, Programmatic (De) alignment, and Party System Stability in Latin
America,Comparative Political Studies, 46 (November 2013), 142252.
48. Christopher Anderson and Christine A. Guillory, Political Institutions and Satisfaction with
Democracy: A Cross-National Analysis of Consensus and Majoritarian Systems,American Political
Science Review, 91 (March 1997), 6681.
49. George Tsebelis, Decision Making in Political Systems: Veto Players in Presidentialism, Parliamentalism,
Multicameralism and Multipartyism,British Journal of Political Science, 25 (July 1995), 289325; Dimitri A.
Sotiropoulos, The Paradox of Non-Reform in a Reform-ripe Environment: Lessons from Post-Authoritarian
Greece,in Kalyvas Stathis, George Pagoulatos, and Haridimos Tsoukas, eds., 930.
50. Personal Interview, Athens, May 21, 2010.
51. Ibid.
52. Nikolas Zahariadis, Complexity, coupling and policy eectiveness: the European response to the
Greek sovereign debt crisis,Journal of Public Policy, 32 (August 2012), 99116. For a similar point, see:
Klaus Armingeon and Lucio Baccaro, The Sorrows of Young Euro: The Sovereign Debt Crises of Ireland
and Southern Europe,in Nancy Bermeo and Jonas Pontunsson, eds., Coping with Crisis. Government
Reactions to the Great Recession (New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2012), 16298. In fact, the IMF
admitted notable failuresin the design of the Greek bailout: see IMF Admits Major Mistakes on
Greek Bailout,Spiegel, June 6, 2013, also available at
53. Stathis Kalyvas, Presentation at TEDxAcademy, 2011, available at
v5FuE83Tbl2Gs, accessed on February 1, 2012.
54. Bailout and Debt: A Year After,Public Issue, Flash Barometer, May 2011, 15758 (title translate
from Greek], also available at
Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides
55. Spain the golden amendment,Economist, Sept. 3, 2011.
56. Christopher Hood, The Blame Game: Spin, Bureaucracy, and Self-Preservation in Government
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).
57. Hood, 90.
58. Yiannis Loulis, PASOK and the Ripe FruitStrategy,[translated from Greek], Imerisia, Jan. 30, 2005.
59. Margit Tavits, Making the Mavericks: Local Loyalties and Party Defection,Comparative Political
Studies, 42 (June 2009), 793.
60. In the Greek political culture, defecting from the party line has such a negative connotation that it
has been called apostasy,a reference to the turbulent period preceding the 1967 dictatorship.
61. MPs are prohibited from being incorporated in a dierent parliamentary group from the one they were
elected with initially. See Manual Sánchez de Dios, Parliamentary Party Discipline in Spain,in Shaun
Bowler, David M. Farrell, and Richard S. Katz, eds., Party Discipline and Parliamentary Government
(Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999), 14162.
62. Camilo Valdecantos, Congress Punishes Defectors in its New Regulation,[translated from Spanish],
El Pais, Mar., 5, 1998.
63. Christopher Kam, Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2009), 9.
64. Kam.
65. George Pagoulatos, The Political Economy of Forced Reform and the 2010 Greek Economic
Adjustment Programme,in Stathis Kalyvas, George Pagoulatos, and Haridimos Tsoukas, eds., 24774.
66. Panagis Galiatsatos, A Storm of Parliamentary Amendments,[translated from Greek], Kathimerini,
Apr. 4, 2012.
67. Powell.
68. Personal Interview, Athens, July 7, 2012.
69. The criteria of the vote of June 2012,[translated from Greek], Public Issue, June 19, 2012, also
available at
70. Ibid.
71. Anderson and Guillory, 15.
72. Ibid, 75.
73. Aris Ravanos, Samaras says single-party government, premiership and renegotiation of the memoran-
dum,[translated from Greek], To Vima, Apr. 10, 2012.
74. For a complementary analysis that emphasizes the role of leadership, see Nikolaos Zahariadis.
National Fiscal Proigacy and European Institutional Adolescence: The Greek Trigger to Europes Sover-
eign Debt Crisis,Government and Opposition, 48 (January 2013), 3354.
75. Personal Interview, Athens, July 7, 2012.
77. Giannis Kampourakis, MARC: Poll for Alpha,[translated from Greek], Eleftherotypia, Oct. 11, 2013.
78. For a similar proposal but for an Alternative Vote (AV) system in single-seat districts that will most
likely weaken smaller parties see George Tsebelis, Let us have more trust in Greek voters,[translated
from Greek], Kathimerini, Dec. 16, 2012.
79. Lijphart, 2012, 123.
Comparative Politics October 2014
... En el 11, en los imperios capitalistas (1450 a 1971), con una vuelta a la hegemonía de la moneda en sus distintas formas. Termina el libro con las incógnitas que abre el abandono del patrón oro como referencia del dólar estadounidense, lo que supone un resurgir de los sistemas de crédito pero que adquiere un carácter jurídico-político muy distinto a la luz de cómo los procesos de endeudamiento e intervenciones para asegurar el refinanciamiento y pago de intereses han marcado la historia reciente de los Estados de economías menos desarrolladas (Federici, 2004;Fresnillo, 2007Fresnillo, y 2018 y desde la crisis financiera de 2008 también en el Sur de Europa (Kovras y Loizides, 2014; Antentas y Vivas, 2014). de que determinados asuntos no son cuantificables ni mucho menos convertibles en dinero, empiezan a ampliarse los márgenes de conmensurabilidad de asuntos antes inaccesibles al cálculo, en particular los relativos a la vida humana. ...
Full-text available
Este artículo considera la relevancia de la obra de David Graeber, en particular de Debt, para la filosofía del derecho. Analiza su perspectiva del fenómeno jurídico y las implicaciones de sus nociones de deuda y sujeto de interés, con especial atención al efecto que han tenido sobre ellas los enfoques de austeridad. En segundo lugar, atiende a los conflictos axiológicos que se dan en el interior de nuestros ordenamientos sobre la primacía de la obligación de pagar las deudas y la distribución de responsabilidad y culpa entre los sujetos implicados. Para ello, tiene en cuenta también el tratamiento de la cuestión por parte del Tribunal Constitucional español. Por último, introduce algunas líneas de investigación posibles para la transformación del Derecho.
... 4 The excessive focus on retributive policies to address the past torpedoed any efforts to act in concert across the political spectrum and curtailed the legitimacy of even the most basic decisions. Although polarisation, instability and the fragmentation of the Greek political system should also be attributed to other entrenched institutional problems (including the institutionalised single-party 'eccentric majoritarianism'), calls for accountability precluded any form of cross-party consensus (Kovras and Loizides 2014). In times of economic stress, effective governance often necessitates consensus with the opposition who may have skeletons in its closet. ...
Full-text available
This article interrogates a tension at the heart of the principle of accountability: accountability as a principle of non-impunity of public officials versus accountability as a form of bureaucratic organisation and control. Although these dimensions are distinguishable in the abstract, their ambiguity has led to an expectations gap among both citizens and elites. The historical legacies of previous policies can exacerbate this expectations gap, leading to a variety of value trade-offs, with the potential to undermine other political values, such as political learning, consensus-building, and citizens' rights. We present examples of the trade-offs resulting from this expectations gap, focusing on moments of crisis in which such trade-offs can be seen most acutely, and highlight its role as a vehicle of global populism.
... Mobilising concerns over identity to bring about the consent of the affected about the yet to be disclosed benefits is the bread-and-butter of de-democratisers and populists alike. As can be vividly observed in Greece, the UK, France or Finland (Nordensvard and Ketola 2014; Kovras and Loizides 2014;Lees 2018;Pirro and Van Kessel 2017;Usherwood 2019), questioning institutional checks and balances on the majoritarian decision-making in the name of the "people" is not limited to the postcommunist region. ...
The article argues that across the East European region ongoing uncertainty about the nature of the state-society compact is central to continuous relevance of “national” in politics. This compact defines who owns the state and who is to benefits from its current form. Since postcommunist nation-state-building was as much about the exclusion of some residents from the political community as it was about limiting states' reliance on thick political ideologies, “national identity” remains at the heart of postcommunist politics. This foundational exclusion also offers considerable insights for comparison of the causes, effects and challenges of identity politics in wider Europe.
Full-text available
Τhis chapter links the Greek debt crisis and the failure to establish an efficient state in Greece to critical distinguishing features of PASOK’s (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) ideology and policies. It focuses on the first two governmental periods (1981–1989 and 1993–2004) of the Greek Socialists and examines PASOK’s fiscal policies as well as its policy regarding the state and the institution-building reforms it carried out. PASOK’s contribution to Greece’s fiscal collapse was decisive because it did not promote a coherent social democratic economic and state model, whether left-wing, in the Andreas Papandreou period (1981–1996), or “social-liberal”, in the more ideologically coherent period of the modernizer Costas Simitis (1996–2004). The chapter’s central thesis is that PASOK, which lacked a social democratic history and culture, was a superficial, fundamentally inconsistent social democratic party. In the history of post-WWII European social democracy it would be difficult to find a party whose own political choices and practices have undermined each other to such a high degree. PASOK was simultaneously the spearhead of social democratisation and modernisation of Greek society and the principal obstacle to them.
Abstract Τhis chapter links the Greek debt crisis and the failure to establish an efficient state in Greece to critical distinguishing features of PASOK’s (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) ideology and policies. It focuses on the first two governmental periods (1981–1989 and 1993–2004) of the Greek Socialists and examines PASOK’s fiscal policies as well as its policy regarding the state and the institution-building reforms it carried out. PASOK’s contribution to Greece’s fiscal collapse was decisive because it did not promote a coherent social democratic economic and state model, whether left-wing, in the Andreas Papandreou period (1981–1996), or “social-liberal”, in the more ideologically coherent period of the modernizer Costas Simitis (1996–2004). The chapter’s central thesis is that PASOK, which lacked a social democratic history and culture, was a superficial, fundamentally inconsistent social democratic party. In the history of post-WWII European social democracy it would be difficult to find a party whose own political choices and practices have undermined each other to such a high degree. PASOK was simultaneously the spearhead of social democratisation and modernisation of Greek society and the principal obstacle to them.
The literature on blame avoidance suggests that politicians seek to avoid the risk of electoral punishment by means of blame‐shifting. Based on a quantitative content analysis of public responsibility attributions, this article explores public blame‐shifting among Greek and Spanish parties in austerity governments during the eurozone crisis. Arguing that blame avoidance behavior in times of austerity is conditioned by party ideology, the findings suggest that incumbent left‐wing parties are more inclined to shift the blame whereas conservative parties also claim credit. The article then explores how the European character of the crisis influenced the patterns of blame‐shifting. The results show firstly, that external blame‐shifting rose significantly in times of incumbency, when foreign actors appeared to be ideal scapegoats; secondly, external blame‐shifting in the crisis was slightly more common among left‐wing parties. The article contributes to assessing the role of party ideology for blame‐shifting and it helps to understand blame‐shifting in European policy fields.
The European Debt Crisis has apparently brought about profound setbacks of representative democracy in Southern Europe. Specific aspects of the political crises in each country are defined by domestic political structures and external pressures. High level of external adaptation common to the Iberian countries has led to demise of policy alternatives to neoliberal adjustment and therefore deficits of representativeness. In Portugal, however, this trend is counterbalanced by the braking mechanism embedded in the constitutional order, although with serious de-politicization in progress, whereas, in Spain, intensive accumulation of power to the central government is observed in spite of contestations from below and some consensual features of politics seem to be lost. In Greece, the structural adjustment enforced from outside have eroded partycracy and ended up with the accelerated drive to party system polarization. In this context, the excessive majorianism which characterizes Greek politics doesn’t contribute to anything but the fracture of horizontal integration within the governmental organization which accompanies some political chaos in the country.
The chapter discusses the consolidation of a reactive state in post-authoritarian Greece. Kutlay argues that weakening capacity of the Greek state was informed through path-dependent interactions between agents and institutional structures along domestic-international nexus. The chapter also examines the reform performance of Kostas Simitis, who tried to launch a new policy path for Greece in mid-1990s. Kutlay argues that Simitis could achieve limited success due to the fact that the EU factor failed to play a genuine trigger role in instigating a virtuous cycle of reform activism and the political parties, trade unions, and business associations did not support the narrative Simitis adopted to initiate new set of economic reforms. The chapter also analyzes the accumulation of economic problems during Karamanlis governments with reference to the structure of the monetary union and financialization of Greek economy.
The present study attempts to combine Raskin’s (1985) and Davies’ (2011) methodological approaches to political jokes to investigate Greek political jokes targeting politicians and circulated during the first 4 years of the Greek crisis. The proposed analysis identifies, on the one hand, what Greek people perceive as politicians’ main incongruities, namely their flaws that prevent them from fulfilling their roles ‘appropriately’. On the other hand, the particularities of the sociopolitical context in Greece and, most importantly, the pervasive lack of political trust among Greeks allow for an interpretation of the jokes under scrutiny as expressions of disillusionment and disappointment with politicians and the political system in general, and as manifestations of mild, playful aggression towards them. The findings of the study reveal that the accusations raised in the jokes against politicians capture and reproduce quite accurately most of the aspects and causes of political mistrust in Greece.
This comparative study explores the impact of populist majoritarianism on Greek and Turkish democratic transition. Using the case studies of Greece and Turkey, the author argues that while majoritarianism is often celebrated as a manifestation of popular sovereignty, it can undermine institutional performance. In cases of transition states where social capital is scarce and polarization is high, it can even upset the process of democratic consolidation, contributing to a confrontational and inefficient democratic regime. A “mild democracy” would require a calibrated system of checks and balances, trust- and consensus-building mechanisms. This book will be of use to students and scholars interested in the fields of Greek and Turkish politics, law and democratization.
Full-text available
The widespread opposition to unprecedented austerity measures in Greece provides a unique opportunity to study the causes of mass protest. This article reports the results of a survey of the adult population in which two-thirds of the respondents supported protest and 29 per cent reported actual involvement in strikes and/or demonstrations during 2010. Relative deprivation is a significant predictor of potential protest, but does not play any role in terms of who takes part in strikes or demonstrations. Previous protest participation emerges as a key predictor of actual protest. This study seeks to place these results within a comparative context, contrasting Greece with other countries facing similar challenges, and discusses the implications for the future of austerity politics.
Full-text available
Although democratic regimes in Latin America since the early 1980s have been surprisingly durable, party systems in much of the region continue to experience very high levels of electoral instability. A critical juncture approach to institutional change suggests that variation in party system stability is related to the impact of market liberalization in the 1980s and 90s on the programmatic alignment -or (de)alignment- of partisan competition. Market reforms that were adopted by conservative leaders and opposed by a major leftist rival aligned party systems programmatically, allowing societal opposition to be channeled into institutionalized forms of competition that were highly stable in the post-adjustment era. By contrast, «bait-and-switch» reforms adopted by populist or leftist leaders were programmatically de-aligning for party systems, leaving them vulnerable to highly destabilizing reactive sequences in the aftermath to the reform process-including mass social protests, the demise of historic conservative parties, and the outflanking of traditional populist or leftist parties by more radical, anti-neoliberal outsiders. The political dynamics of market-based economic adjustment thus heavily conditioned the ways in which party systems would process the post-adjustment revival of populist and leftist alternatives in the region.
Case study researchers use diverse methods to select their cases, a matter that has elicited considerable comment and no little consternation. Of all these methods, perhaps the most controversial is the crucial-case method, first proposed by Harry Eckstein several decades ago. Since Eckstein’s influential essay, the crucial-case approach has been used in a multitude of studies across several social science disciplines and has come to be recognized as a staple of the case study method. Yet the idea of any single case playing a crucial (or critical) role is not widely accepted. In this article, the method of the crucial case is explored, and a limited defense (somewhat less expansive than that envisioned by Eckstein) of that method is undertaken. A second method of case-selection, closely associated with the logic of the crucial case, is introduced: the pathway case.
This article investigates the cultural and behavioral legacies of dictatorship. It argues that the experience of dictatorship can lead to a process of political learning in which social actors reevaluate their past perspectives on the relative merits of democracy. It begins by explaining what political learning is, using examples from Europe and Latin America, moves on to explain why political learning is key to the reconstruction of democracy and what it adds to our understanding of empirical democratic theory, and closes with a discussion of how it takes place and why it emerges in some dictatorships and not in others. Political learning comes from two principal sources, comparisons with previous regimes and foreign reference states and interactions in exile communities, jails, opposition groups, and the arenas of civil society left relatively unrestrained by the dictatorship. The sources of political learning are affected by level of economic development but also have important historical and cultural components.
The question of whether organizational or sociopolitical determinants have an effect on the perceptions of officials in bureaucracies is addressed through an empirical study of perceptions of Greek state managers. The modern Greek bureaucracy is put in historical perspective and is presented as a case of politicized bureaucracy, ridden by party patronage. Multivariate logistic regression analysis is performed on a sample of 152 Greek top civil servants and political appointees of the PASOK party, governing in Greece in 1981 - 1989. Organizational role and political party affiliation are found to have an impact on perceptions of conflict and patronage in the bureaucracy. Organizational role is the main predictor of perceptions of consensus or conflict in intra-bureaucratic relations and political party affiliation is the main predictor of perceptions of patronage in the bureaucracy.