By Anastasios Vourexakis
Originally published in April 2013
Two Parliamentary Elections in the space of two months – Five years of deep recession (Since 2008 GDP has fallen by 25%!) – Elected Democracy to Appointed Technocracy and back again! – The Rise of the Far-Right – The Dissolution of the Left into factions – Unemployment at soaring highs (27%) – And a Government plunging the hopes of a nation to the roll of a dice.
Perhaps Greece is a wreck of a state…! Perhaps we’re the state that the Eurozone regrets having on board… for now! Regardless, we do what we know best, we keep our heads high (as Greeks will always do – cue my inner patriot!) and hold some of the most democratic and fair elections known to the Western world! As my grandfather says, we do terrible politics, but we also do perfect elections to make up for it. Now whilst his optimism is something worth giggling at and patting him on the head for, I’d take the liberty here and now of making a point attributed to that. It seems the only trend in Greece that’s stuck since the double round of elections in 2012 is that after polling day(s), we let the government do their thing and we huff and puff about how bad it is a few months later. We aren’t so different to the rest of the world, I’m sure you can all relate to that can’t you?! You’ve all done that after an election!
Well, bar that one thing you and I have in common, everything else in my country has changed. Everything. And this is a story that needs telling, because there’s a lot of misconceptions about Greece. But cutting out the obvious rant about how poor we are now, and how bad the situation is, because you’ve all heard that a million times. I want to tell you about how the left in Greece has changed since May and June 2012. I want to tell you a tale of how the left can get 52% of the vote and somehow not end up governing!
Greece went into the 2012 elections with a 2 party culture. We voted with our lungs screaming for either New Democracy (Conservatives) or PASOK (Socialists). After all, it was their politics that ended a Civil War. They built the country up to what it is now, and their gross failings aside, they enabled us to host the most memorable Olympiad of the Century, and to modernise an ancient temple of culture into a modern twin worthy of the same respect. We did it and I for one thank them for it, but truth be told, it came at a cost. Spending became reckless! And so the destructive Papandreou Memorandum with the IMF/EU came to be. Since then, the 2 party system has eroded. At one point there were more than 9 different parties in Parliament due to defections. What of the man who caused it all you ask? Mr Karamanlis has a huge proportion of blame for the state the country is in… but on the streets, people ask: When is he going to come out from hiding and say sorry? When is he going to give an interview? This MP has done no such thing since 2008! Welcome to my country; a country that lives in the shadow of its past!
PASOK has suffered the biggest blow in the left. They gone from 3million voters in 2009 to just over 700,000 in 2012! As a member, I for one can tell you it was the most crushing feeling knowing it was an end of an era! To see the upset look on my grandfather’s face after we’d spent 17 hours each in our polling stations doing last minute campaigning is something that will stick with me forever. That same look is one that every party member had on their face. The party is now facing unrealistic reform and rebirth with a weak and hated leader at the helm. They just don’t get that it’s time for the youth to take the reins and lead. The party has gone from unstoppable powerhouse to an old wreck who’s depressed and in denial.
All of their lost votes have gone to the newly emergent SYRIZA (Radical Left, but not quite communist!) and their charismatic, young leader, Alexis Tsipras. Dubbed by many Greeks as the Messiah against the Merkel led austerity programmes he’s made a solid footing as the leader of the Opposition in Greek politics, but I’d argue he’s nothing more than a champagne Socialist, one of little policy and substance. Seen daily with his iPad to hand and his open top buttoned shirt and no tie, he attempts to connect to the younger voter. But all the party has done is switch roles with PASOK. And it struggles to fit into those 3 million vote worthy boots. To me it seems all the party does is put forward votes in Parliament for new committees to be formed (Yet more bureaucracy!) and spend thousands of euros on foreign visits to get policy ideas. It’s a moral party that’s well established but with a manifesto still under construction.
The small left wing party, with the least amount of seats in Parliament is The Democratic Left (More right wing than SYRIZA but less left wing than PASOK!) led by the old and wise Fotis Kouvelis, were the undisputed deal makers in the results of both elections for coalition security and stability. Reasonable Democrats, yes. Irrelevant to the political establishment, however… most definitely!
And then we have the not so Communist, Greek Communist Party… I’ll leave that bit to your imagination!
Don’t ever write the Greeks off! The economy is on the up; Current Account Surplus is now a reality seen month on month and the stock exchange is at its highest scores for years. The tourism industry is going through a complete turnaround! In the next 10 years, you’ll all see a reborn Greece. Until then, our politicians are tasked with ensuring that the country gets its next bailout instalment. Survival is everything, and the Greek culture will never die. That’s the one thing that keeps all 11 million of us going every day! I just pray the country has an epiphany at the next election!