the calm before…

It’s midnight in Greece, 24 hours before Election Day.  Finally, no more politicians, political speeches, political ads on TV.  For 24 hours before Election Day, it’s illegal in Greece for politicians to campaign, and that includes ads.

Polls have been illegal for the past 2 weeks.

It’s also illegal to sell alcohol the day before Election Day.

The point of all this is to create a day of National Quiet Thought, a day where everyone can sit down by himself, think things over, sleep on it, and then vote.

This is being called the most important Greek election since the reestablishment of democracy.  Everyone will be glued to their televisions on Sunday night to see the first exit polls and estimates.

I’m glad to see the other side of this group of political ads.  Although Greek campaign ads are never mudslinging and never attack other candidates, they can still be depressing or infuriating.  PASOK, the party in power, ran an ad up until the last minute tonight with a kindergarten teacher who has children, talking about how her salary has been reduced repeatedly and she can’t make ends meet; and with an engineer (I think) who has been out of work for two years but his mother doesn’t want him to emigrate – and these two stories are being used to support the party in power.  It’s hard to believe but it’s true.  The other parties aren’t much better:  the major opposition party, New Democracy, casts its leader in a Christlike role.

Good luck to all of us!

let’s party – Greek style

It’s party time – 32 parties, to be exact.  As most of you probably have heard by now, Greeks vote on Sunday for a new government.  They’ll be voting for 300 Parliament seats; the new Parliament will choose a Prime Minister, President, etc., so this is the big election.  It’s the equivalent of Americans electing the President and the entire Senate and House of Representatives all on the same day.

Thirty six parties applied to run in the election; thirty two were approved by the Greek Supreme Court.  Not all 32 are on the ballot in every prefecture (a prefecture is like a state – there are 51 prefectures).  In S’s prefecture, there are about 20 parties on the ballot.  Some of the parties are just so small that they weren’t able to get onto every ballot.

Even when you only have 20 parties to choose from, it’s still a bit overwhelming.  So, to help Greeks figure out which party is most aligned with their own beliefs, there is a website called Help Me Vote – you fill out a questionnaire and it lists the parties in order according to how close they come to your answers; and they show you where you, and the parties, sit on the political spectrum.

It’s a useful website but it’s only available in Greek.  When S and I did the questionnaire, it occurred to me that the questions themselves are very telling about the current political and social reality in Greece.  Though you may not be interested in the differences between the parties, the questions that the parties are discussing are enlightening.

And since it’s quite likely that the new Parliament will include some parties that most people outside Greece have never heard of, I’ll also indicate what each of 13 major parties has to say about each question.

The parties covered by this questionnaire are:
PASOK: Socialist Party (elected to power in 2009)
ND: New Democracy Liberal Party (in power until 2009)
KKE: Communist Party of Greece, currently in Parliament
Syriza: Leftist group of parties, currently in Parliament
LAOS: Religious right party, currently in Parliament
Greens: Ecologist-Greens, environmentalist party, not in Parliament
Antarsya: Revolutionary Communist party, not in Parliament
DemAr: Democratic Left, centrist party, not in Parliament
Indep: Independent Hellenes, rightist party, not in Parliament
GD: Golden Dawn, neonazi/nationalist party, not in Parliament
DemSym: Democratic Alliance, rightist party, not in Parliament
Action: Drasi (Action), rightist party, not in Parliament
SA: Social Agreement, centrist party, not in Parliament

1.  Prison sentences should be reduced for prisoners to reduce overcrowding of prisons.
..Strongly Agree: PASOK, Syriza, Antarsya
..Agree: Greens, DemAr, DemSym, Action
..Disagree: ND
..Strongly Disagree: LAOS, Indep, GD
..Didn’t answer: KKE, SA

2.  The police need to use harsher measures to protect the personal property of citizens.
..Strongly Agree: LAOS, Indep, GD
..Agree: PASOK, ND, DemSym, Action
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: SA

3.  Citizens need to accept measures such as video monitoring to protect against terrorism and crime.
..Strongly Agree: ND, LAOS, Indep, GD
..Agree: PASOK, DemSym, Action
..Disagree: Greens, SA
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya, DemAr

4.  We have every right to renege on the debt and don’t have to answer to anyone.
..Strongly Agree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya, Indep, GD
..Disagree: ND, LAOS, SA
..Strongly Disagree: PASOK, DemSym, Action
..Didn’t answer: Greens, DemAr

5.  The unemployment problem requires more flexible forms of labor.
..Strongly Agree: ND, DemSym, Action
..Agree: PASOK, LAOS, Indep
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya, SA
..Didn’t answer: GD

6.  Further legal measures are necessary to limit protests and demonstrations.
..Strongly Agree: ND, LAOS, GD
..Agree: PASOK, Indep, DemSym, Action
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr, SA
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya

7.  Defense spending should not be reduced, to protect the country.
..Strongly Agree: LAOS, Indep, GD
..Agree: ND
..Disagree: PASOK, KKE, Syriza, Greens, DemAr, Action
..Strongly Disagree: Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: DemSym, SA

8.  Reduction in business taxes will help drive development.
..Strongly Agree: ND, DemSym
..Agree: PASOK, LAOS, DemAr, Indep, Action, SA
..Disagree: Greens, GD
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya

9.  Environmental protection laws need to be relaxed to attract investment.
..Agree: PASOK, ND, LAOS, Indep, DemSym
..Disagree: KKE, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: Syriza, Greens, Antarsya, DemAr
..Didn’t answer: GD

10.  I approve of people’s disobedience movements, such as the “I won’t pay” movement.
..Strongly Agree: Syriza, Antarsya
..Agree: KKE, Greens, Indep, GD
..Disagree: PASOK, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: ND, DemSym
..Didn’t answer: LAOS, DemAr

11.  The children of immigrants cannot be completely absorbed into the Greek community.
..Strongly Agree: LAOS, Indep, GD
..Agree: ND
..Disagree: PASOK, Greens, DemAr, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: KKE, DemSym

12.  Greeks who were born from Greek fathers and mothers should have more rights than others.
..Strongly Agree: LAOS, Indep, GD
..Agree: ND
..Disagree: PASOK, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: Syriza, Greens, Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: KKE, DemAr, DemSym

13.  The rules covering political asylum and naturalization need to be made more strict.
..Strongly Agree: ND, LAOS, Indep, GD
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: Syriza, Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: PASOK, KKE, DemSym

14.  Multiculturalism is a positive phenomenon in Greece.
..Strongly Agree: Syriza, Greens, Antarsya, DemAr
..Agree: PASOK, KKE, DemSym, Action, SA
..Disagree: Indep
..Strongly Disagree: LAOS, GD
..Didn’t answer: ND

15.  Private institutions of higher learning should be legal in Greece.
..Strongly Agree: ND, LAOS, DemSym, Action
..Agree: PASOK, Indep, SA
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: GD

16.  The public health system should be partly privatized.
..Strongly Agree: ND, DemSym
..Agree: PASOK, LAOS, Indep, Action
..Disagree: DemAr
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Greens, Antarsya, SA
..Didn’t answer: GD

17.  The budgets of welfare services (help for invalids, daycare) should be increased, by the increase in local taxes.
..Strongly Agree: PASOK
..Agree: KKE, Syriza, Greens, Antarsya, DemAr
..Disagree: DemSym, Action, SA
..Didn’t answer: ND, LAOS, Indep, GD

18.  Increased property taxes are necessary to cover the national deficit.
..Strongly Agree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya
..Agree: PASOK, Greens, DemAr
..Disagree: LAOS, DemSym
..Strongly Disagree: Action
..Didn’t answer: ND, Indep, GD, SA

19.  The Orthodox Christian Church should be completely separated from the Government.
..Strongly Agree: KKE, Syriza, Greens, Antarsya, DemAr, Action
..Agree: PASOK, SA
..Disagree: DemSym
..Strongly Disagree: ND, LAOS, Indep, GD

20.  It is better for Greece to be in the European Union rather than out.
..Strongly Agree: PASOK, ND, Greens, DemSym, Action, SA
..Agree: Syriza, LAOS, DemAr
..Disagree: Indep
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Antarsya, GD

21.  The Greek economy would benefit from having its own currency, rather than the Euro.
..Strongly Agree: KKE, Antarsya, GD
..Agree: Syriza, Indep
..Disagree: ND, LAOS, SA
..Strongly Disagree: PASOK, Greens, DemAr, DemSym, Action

22.  The European Parliament needs to have additional power over all domestic and foreign policy.
..Strongly Agree: Greens
..Agree: PASOK, DemAr, DemSym, Action, SA
..Disagree: LAOS
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Antarsya, Indep, GD
..Didn’t answer: ND, Syriza

23.  I share in the anger and indignation shown during demonstrations on national holidays.
..Strongly Agree: Syriza, Antarsya
..Agree: KKE, Greens
..Disagree: ND, LAOS, DemAr, Indep, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: PASOK, DemSym
..Didn’t answer: GD

24.  The two major parties (PASOK and New Democracy) between which power has shifted back and forth since the reestablishment of democracy have completed their life cycle and should be relegated to the margins.
..Strongly Agree: KKE, Syriza, LAOS, Greens, Antarsya, Indep, GD
..Agree: DemAr, DemSym, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: PASOK, ND

25.  The renewal of the political system can only come from new political parties.
..Strongly Agree: Antarsya, Indep, GD
..Agree: Greens, DemSym, Action, SA
..Disagree: Syriza
..Strongly Disagree: PASOK, ND, KKE
..Didn’t answer: LAOS, DemAr

26.  Technocrats in positions of political power are necessary for the righting of the economic and political problems.
..Agree: PASOK, LAOS, DemSym
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr, Indep, GD, Action, SA
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya
..Didn’t answer: ND

27.  The Memorandum with the Troika (IMF/EU) can be renegotiated.
..Strongly Agree: Syriza, Antarsya, Indep, SA
..Agree: KKE, LAOS, Greens, DemAr, GD, Action
..Disagree: PASOK
..Didn’t answer: ND, DemSym

28.  The Troika’s Memorandum was essential to prevent default.
..Strongly Agree: PASOK, DemSym
..Agree: Action
..Disagree: Greens, DemAr, GD, SA
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya, Indep
..Didn’t answer: LAOS

29.  Much of what the Memorandum requires are things that should have been done anyway long since.
..Strongly Agree: DemSym, Action
..Agree: PASOK, ND, LAOS, Greens, DemAr, SA
..Disagree: Syriza, Indep, GD
..Strongly Disagree: KKE, Antarsya

30.  The Memoranda are simply accumulating debt with no visible benefit.
..Strongly Agree: KKE, Syriza, Antarsya, Indep, GD
..Agree: LAOS, Greens, DemAr, SA
..Disagree: PASOK, ND, DemSym, Action

When I filled out the questionnaire, I identified 77% with one party, all the way down to -53% with another, with all the others falling somewhere in between.  I’m glad to see that my #1 party happens to be the party that S was planning to vote for anyway ;).

For those interested, the other parties are the following:  Centrist Union; Greek Ecologists; NO – Democratic Renaissance/Unified People’s Front; I Won’t Pay Movement; National Resistance Party; Marxist-Leninist Communist Party/Communist Party (Marxist/Leninist); Biethnic Greek Communist Organization; Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers’ Party; Organization for the Reworking of KKE; National Unity Party; Capodistrian Continuity Society; Pirates; Creation Again; Panathenaic Movement; Dignity; Independent Renewal Left-Renewal Right-Renewal PASOK-Renewal ND-No to War-Land/Debt/Life Gift Party-Farmers’ and Workers’ Movement of Greece; Town Development Party; Tyrannicides.

With a Pirate party and a Tyrannicide party, I guess we should expect an exciting race!

how to hold an election

PASOK is the party in power in Greece – the ones with the most members of Parliament, the ones with the Prime Minister and the President.  We are probably going to have national elections (the equivalent to this in the US would be presidential and congressional elections at the same time) in late April or early May (probably because it’s not the official election date, but the politicians have said that they will hold early elections).

George Papandreou, who was the Prime Minister of Greece (he runs PASOK party; they were the party with the most votes; therefore he became Prime Minister) fell out of favor in Europe late last year after he suggested that the people of Greece vote on whether to default or not.  He didn’t have the authority to call for an actual referendum, because prime ministers can’t do that, but suggesting it was enough to get him removed from office and for an unelected banking expert named Loukas Papademos to take over as Prime Minister.

After George left the position of prime minister, he was still the president of the party PASOK.  However, in the run-up to possible national elections in a few weeks, it is time for a new leader of PASOK to emerge, one who can run for prime minister against the other parties.

And that brings us to today:  the PASOK Primaries.  Just like in the US, where a Republican can vote in the Republican Primary, here in Greece PASOK voters can vote in the PASOK primary.

These are the terms:

– you have to pay to vote

– there is only one person on the ballot

Zito i dimokratia!  (Long live democracy!)