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Ηow do Greeks vote?

, by Dimitra Sarvani

Choosing political parties and candidates in today’s gloomy Greek reality and in the actual economic and social circumstances is undoubtedly one of the most responsible and at the same time difficult decisions a Greek voter is expected to make.

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This choice becomes even harder, having in mind that the forthcoming double elections for the local authorities and the European Parliament are admittedly thought to be extremely crucial for the future of Greece (as were all the previous ones since the first memorandum signing in May 2010). These elections are defined by the divisive dilemma: voting in favour of the memorandum political powers and in a way mandate new austerity measures with all the disastrous consequences this certain policy has caused to the greater part of the Greek population or making these elections ‘a shout’ against new measures and therefore give the consent for the adoption of other, more popular policies.

The whole issue becomes even more complicated considering the way the majority of the Greek electorate has been choosing candidates up to now. Τhe support of such and such political party practically took the form of a full commitment to one’s family tradition as if it were -this supreme political choice- another way οf paying some sort of a tribute to their family and beliefs. Thus, the practice of the right to vote was no longer the expression of every citizen’s personal will but inevitably led the way for the constant rotation of the same people in the political establishment. Phenomena such as favouritism as well as the maintaining of the political status quo have been part of the political culture of the voter. Greek people seem to either tolerate or not be bothered or even not willing to react to the image of a Parliament whose succession from one MP to one or more of his descendants finally became one of the main parameters of its malaise.

On the other hand, electing politicians exclusively based on one’s personal interest and not taking into consideration the interest of the Greek society as a whole, perpetuated tolerance for corruption as well as acts of nepotism and patronage in and out of Parliament and that led to the absolute discredit for the political personnel.

All this, in addition to the prevailing of a lifestyle attitude in the Greek politics, made the choice of a candidate a much less serious matter than before. Brand new, glamorous, good looking people coming from show business and sports, less strict than their predecessors would show up οn electoral lists and ask Greek people to vote for them. These new candidates brought in a way a new breeze to the political scene but they also established different -and undoubtedly much more superficial- criteria for the political choices of Greek people.

Αnd then the crisis came along.

It came in almost each and every Greek citizen’s life like a bolt from the blue. It changed his standards, his perspectives and priorities and postponed or delayed his short or long term plans and dreams. And at that moment, apart from dealing with this problem and seeking the reasons for which the country has been in mire, a debate started to take place, sometimes public and sometimes private, about the fact that electing candidates can be such a serious and delicate matter after all. So, in this sense, it became clear that supporting candidates and political parties that would represent and make decisions for the community is not - or cannot be - an action to be taken lightly or spontaneously but calls for both consideration and concern. That means that when one chooses people as their political representatives, one does not have to rely just on the fact that they are good looking, well-educated or qualified or any other criteria that the voter sets for that matter. Rather, one ought to examine if they have the know-how, the good intentions and mostly, the will to change things. That also means that when a voter chooses political candidates, the personal interest should be set aside and he or she should vote for people that provide realistic solutions to the problems of a society that is in decadence, specific proposals for the management of the actual crisis and above all else - hope that will make Greek people more optimistic about their future.

Moreover, these past years the surprisingly high percentage of voters express their anger and resentment towards the political situation in Greece by supporting neo-Nazi and fascist political parties such as the Golden Dawn (whose uprising popularity has sometimes the power to even set the political agenda). These statistics, along with the equally high percentage of swing voters are indicative of the turmoil and contradiction the country is facing. On the other hand and hopefully enough, there are Greeks that expect that new and healthy political powers will emerge either from the wrecks of the old ones or - even better- through a constant dialogue with the Greek society.

It is common sense that the mentality of Greek voters could not change over a night. The positive thing is that some stereotypes are changing and some false practices - residues of the past- become probably for good a thing of the past.

Maybe the crisis will fulfil the meaning it literally has (“judgement” in Greek) and make voters think differently about politics. Even better, make them see voting not as a plain, mechanical process but as what it really is - the eminent moment of the life of an active and responsible citizen and of democracy after all.

Undoubtedly, with old habits and tactics no magic solution could be pulled out of the hat for the problems that have been torturing the Greek society for quite some time now. This probably has to do with the fact that these habits and tactics created the problems in the first place.

Let’s just hope that this public debate about the need of a total political renaissance in Greece will not once more be just some wishful thinking but that it will find its way to the ballot box.

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