Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

To vote or not to vote? That is the Greek election

images.jpegA mere two weeks after wildfires devastated this country and caught the world’s attention, will Greek citizens remember who is responsible and vote accordingly? Or is voting simply an exercise in futility?

Although King Constantine II and his dictatorship were abolished long ago, the Hellenic Republic is essentially still a monarchy with someone named Papandreou or Karamanlis wearing the crown. Without term limits or real dissent, the Greek government continues its pattern of dysfunctional impotence, handing off the same tired problems and pointing fingers instead of effecting long-term progress.

Other members of the royal court — Communist (KKE), Left Coalition (Synaspismos), Democratic Socialist Movement (DHKKI) or anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Turk party (LAOS) that often aligns itself with a violent neo-Nazi group (Golden Dawn) — however amusing in debate and appealing in theory, would at best add diversity since none offer a viable candidate with solid credentials fit to lead this “EU country” forward.

Back in 2004, Greek citizens believed they were voting for change by choosing Costas Karamanlis — a new face with an old name promising reform like his uncle before him. However, his three years have shown only small steps forward invalidated by huge steps back, so re-election by a disappointed majority would be something of a miracle.

People are understandably frustrated and desperate for change. Why else would LAOS be destined for a seat in Parliament? Why else would 27 percent of voters classify themselves as ‘undecided?’ These are classic signs of a country in turmoil.

Is there anyone to vote for, other than the same old hacks? PASOK and New Democracy are rife with cronyism and corruption. MPs will never impeach or remove the prime minister, and a prime minister will never remove an MP even in the face of scandal (and there have been more than a few) for fear of his own governing power and judgment looking weak. Besides that, all active members of Parliament are protected by immunity from prosecution, which significantly limits judicial power.

Local government has no power or influence without federal funding, thus making it difficult to revolt without going bankrupt. The country is too small for separate legislative and executive branches. Opposition parties within Parliament would have difficulty removing a prime minister or challenging policies without forming a coalition. One could easily argue that a checks and balance system does not exist.

Even the EC has had little success in forcing Greece — a frequent violator and payer of penalties — to get its act together and has threatened to revoke part of the 2 billion in emergency funds earmarked for reconstruction if proper and expedient action isn’t taken.

Based on history, it’s safe to predict the next four years will be more of same. The signs are already there: The pre-election debate was called “same flavor,” top candidates are making many of the same promises, and the two major party slogans both start with the same word (“μαζι”).

The only catalyst for change would appear to be war or financial collapse to force Greece into the 21st century, and by then it will be too late to save itself from brain drain and a number of crises already gaining momentum.

It doesn’t really matter who wins this election or if another needs to be called in case the final count is close. The bottom line is voters are electing politicians who do not represent them or their interests. The reputed birthplace of democracy is not a democracy or a republic, but a government ruled by special interests, the wealthy and connected few. The ballot is purely symbolic, letting people believe they have a choice when they really don’t.

Greece deserves better.

Καλή ψήφο!

Post-election comment: I’m sitting here in shock that voters’ memories are so short. Did the world and this country not see the tragic devastation only 2 weeks ago?
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* Many thanks to LI, RK and VMH for their patience and invaluable input

Crown from LSU


  betabug wrote @ September 16th, 2007 at 14:40

Good analysis! Now cue the usual reactions “you know the road to the airport”, “look after your own mess”, “only Greeks are allowed to critizice” etc.

Sometimes it needs an outsider coming in to have a fresh look and after taking some time to see after the facts, such an outsider might even know the inside details too. In the end I think Greeks won’t read the facts any different, unless of course they are expecting some big “rousfeti” to come down their personal direction from the elections.

  graffic wrote @ September 16th, 2007 at 21:10

As I said in other blogs: all politicians are the same but painted in different colours. But also, as others answered me: people choose whatever they think it will improve (even a bit) their country.

I exchange ideas an views from Spain with Greek natives and the story repeats here (or Spain, it doesn’t mind). The same mistakes, the same problems, perhaps different words and different problems, but politics are: “other world”.

I’d like to see politicians doing the things that their people (the rest of the population) do to just live.

  Kat wrote @ September 16th, 2007 at 21:39

BB – After the wildfires and recommending that people vote, I started to do research and ask a lot of questions about whether voters really have viable options. I looked into the voting system, the history of the Greek government, backgrounds of all parties, etc. To me, it appeared perfectly logical that a high percentage were ‘undecided.’ I can really understand the frustration. We faced a similar conundrum in the USA when Bush went against Kerry — that’s a ‘none of the above’ situation in which I wrote in Al Gore.

There is a huge amount of cash from the EU, donations (church, fundraisers, banks), foreign and domestic aid and low interest loans. It’s more than enough to build roads and infrastructure, improve services, reforest, implement programs, offer incentives for educated professionals to come home, attract new business and get this country on track for a bright future. I wish Transparency International or someone would swoop in and demand an accounting, as I fear these funds will be misappropriated, pocketed and wasted. That would truly be a national tragedy.

Graffic – That’s true. Every country has its challenges, lesser of evils and difficult choices to make. I was hoping people’s memories wouldn’t be so short, but I guess the majority cannot remember what happened 2 weeks ago. Really, it baffles me.

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