Election Season–Time for a Change in Greece?

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Syriza party banner: “Hope is Coming; Greece is Moving Forward; Europe is Changing”

Here in the bottom right hand corner of Europe, the Holiday Season has rapidly morphed into Election Season and the talk of the town has shifted from Christmas parties to political parties. With snap elections recently declared, the current governing party is busy explaining just how much better life is in Greece these days than it was a few years ago, despite much evidence to the contrary (Less bureaucracy! Lower taxes! More opportunities!) and warning the citizenry that electing the left-wing Syriza party would result in the imminent collapse of western civilization. Syriza, meanwhile, promises an end to the brutal Troika-imposed austerity regime, more employment, restoration of previous pension levels, and free health care and income support for all, but offers little insight as to how this is all going to be paid for out of the bankrupt treasury, other than some perhaps wishful thinking about getting the rich to actually pay their fair share of taxes. They also promise that they will most definitely stick with the Euro to ensure the stability of the economy—or possibly return to the Drachma to restore national sovereignty and get out from under the thumb of the dominant economic powers of the continent—and absolutely will honor all of Greece’s debt obligations—or possibly not, depending on how things play out. In any case, it is likely that Syriza will be elected because the Greeks are fed up with years of austerity and promises and no signs of real economic progress under the current government.

I asked a friend yesterday about the elections and who he favored and his response was quite revealing. He answered without a moment’s hesitation that he favored Syriza, but quickly added “But I don’t want them to win too high a percentage of the vote.” Why? “Because they need to work with other parties in order to be successful.” An unmoderated Syriza government, he feared, would be a disaster. Yet he was going to cast his vote for them.  He, like many Greeks, will vote for a party that he has some serious doubts about because he desperately wants to see a change in the country, but he doesn’t entirely trust Syriza. So, he hopes for a mixed election result. Very different from the American electoral system.

Others I have spoken to recently have expressed similar views–they have their doubts about whether Syriza’s promises are realistic, but they cannot stomach sticking with the status quo. “New Democracy (the governing party) has given me absolutely no reason to vote for them,” another friend commented. “They have done nothing for me. Will Syriza be better? I don’t really know, but I don’t see any alternative.”

Others comment that they like Potami because their leadership is made up of well-respected intellectuals and personalities who are not part of the political establishment and basically just want to create a better Greece. But they can’t win, they think, so a vote for them may be wasted. The governing New Democracy party hardly seems to command much respect or enthusiasm these days. Those who plan to vote for them seem to be doing so primarily because they see Syriza as a worse danger. The devil you know…

Only a week to go ’til election day.

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