Elections in Greece for European Parliament
A few days ago, my phone started ringing very early in the morning. I could not answer it immediately as I was talking at the same time to somebody else. But I could see the number on the screen. It was a close and old friend from Athens. A very close friend from the artistic world with whom I still remain in contact. I got worried as he/she (let me not reveal the gender) is a known late riser. But I could not interrupt my radio reporting - on the latest from Turkey - and hoped that my friend’s call was simply accidental. I calmed down about it when I saw that the number disappeared from the screen. But in a minute or so, my phone started ringing again. This time the caller waited for my answer for much longer. My reporting lasted long; there was a lot to talk about developments in Turkey — which has a little more than two weeks before the local elections. Greeks are interested about everything that is happening in Turkey. I got really worried about the insistence of my friend to talk to me so early, so I returned the call as soon as I finished.
“I need your advice,” my friend asked on the other end of the line. “I got an offer from Syriza to be included in their list of Members of the European Parliament. They told me they would place me high in the list! What do you think I should do?”
The advice that I gave to my friend is of no interest on this occasion. What is interesting is that on the last leg of the race toward the elections for the European Parliament, the political parties in Greece are using all available ammunition to increase their popularity. These elections which will take place on May 26 in Greece will elect 21 members from Greece to the European Parliament, and for a political party to be elected in the European Parliament it will have to have collected at least 3 percent of the votes. But this year is also the year of general elections for Greece, which have to take place any time until October. The refusal of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to set the date for the general elections has increased the tension among the parties, especially between the governing party of the leftist Syriza and the liberal-conservative party of the New Democracy (ND), which is getting increasingly inpatient in the place of official opposition, claiming that the time of the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras is already up but he is desperately clinging to power “for his last time.” The biggest boost for ND comes from the figures given by various opinion polls which so far show a clear difference between the two parties, with the opposition running ahead. But Syriza won the last two general elections in spite of the opinion polls which proved to be spectacularly wrong, as has been the case for several other electoral contests in other parts of the world.
There is no doubt that the race for victory will be tough and close. New Democracy already feels like the winner and invites investors from the U.S. to invest in Greece in a new investment friendly environment as ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised in his latest trip to the U.S.
On the other hand, Syriza, whose main asset is its charismatic leader Tsipras, has embarked on a last effort to bring back all disgruntled voters, ram the small socialist and centrist parties and construct a dilemma between “progressiveness” and “conservatism.” It is a very difficult task as many people do not want to define themselves along those lines. Even the fear of ultra-right parties, which are likely to increase their votes, is not concrete enough to send people to Syriza.
My friend is neither a leftist nor conservative. Their life spans a long life of artistic success, as the majority of the culture world in Greece has sided to the broadly social democratic camp. My friend voted for Syriza last time but was not sure for whom to vote this time — until the offer for a seat in the European Parliament was offered.
There is a hectic rush these days among the parties in Greece. Their special committees are preparing the lists of candidates for the EP. Everybody knows that the elections in May for the EP will be a dress rehearsal for the general elections. The parties are trying to reach larger segments of the society by selecting popular and respected non-political personalities.
“But everybody says that Syriza will lose,” my friend said at the end of our long conversation.
The first 16 names of Syriza’s list were announced this week. My friend’s name was not on the list.