Polls show Greeks question political system
Yesterday’s 46th anniversary of the military coup in Greece found the society pondering the definition of democracy. The message issued by the political parties for the occasion reflected this question but did not give a clear answer.
“This black anniversary reminds us all of the highest duty toward the country: the shielding of our democracy,” stated the ruling New Democracy party of the current tri-partite government, while the smaller partner, the Democratic Left, underlined that the anniversary “unfortunately coincides with the rise of the phenomenon of fascism in our country” but hoped that “our memory and the struggle for democracy constitute our ideological arsenal.”
A stronger message came from the party worst damaged by the recent economic crisis, the socialist PASOK. Still in the government as a minor partner with its electoral power in single digits, it was loud to declare through its eloquent leader, that the anniversary “constitutes a reminder of our historic duty to shield democracy against the danger of being unnerved and undermined by those using its generosity and tolerance in order to turn against it.”
What is actually happening is voiced by the messages coming from the opposition parties: “We are facing an all-out attack against the rights of working people, the youth and democracy itself,” cries the official opposition party of the Radical Left, adding that “today’s message of resistance is against the policy of the government [of bailout agreements], authoritarianism, suppression of the struggle and the limitation of people’s sovereignty.”
Soon to celebrate another anniversary, the date of the first bailout loan agreement with the EU and IMF in May 2010, Greece is now top of the list for the highest unemployment in the eurozone, with the government in constant, tough deliberations with the representatives of its creditors on the tough program. For many Greeks, their country has lost its sovereignty, as it can no longer act alone, at least until the agreed economic targets have been realized.
However, three years into the reform package and with a major new reform plan around the corner to drastically shrink the public sector, one would have expected to see the opposition rising steeply in popularity. Not so.
Several opinion polls published last week show that the Greeks do not know which way to turn. It is not a matter of lack of awareness. Far from it. By now everybody knows what went wrong with their country, especially with the mismanagement, political corruption and nepotism. They are aware of the shrinking economic power of the EU and the increasing gap between the north and the south. They know that when they entered the EU, Europe had 25 percent of the world production and by 2020 is expected to have only 7 percent. They belong to a Europe of 27 million unemployed. They blame Germany for hegemony and the eurozone officials for weakness. And after the Cyprus trauma, they believe that their money – if there is any – is not safe in Greek banks.
But the disillusionment against the political system is deep. “People place a very big question mark for the effectiveness of the political system as a whole,” said the head researcher of one of the opinion polls.
With 10 months in power and in spite of an intense effort to put “the house in order,” the center-right party of New Democracy cannot increase its support among the public. The same stagnation is observed among the official opposition, which focused its rhetoric almost exclusively on fighting the “bailout.” With Greece in its fourth year of deep recession, there is no major resistance movement in sight to provide a dynamic counter argument for the solution to the country’s problems. The undercurrent feelings in recent polls are disillusionment toward the political system and lack of expectation.
It is only natural that disillusionment toward the political system would challenge the very concept of democracy. The fascist party of Golden Dawn has now stabilized as the third party with around 7-8 percent. But the most striking result in opinion polls, as published yesterday, shows that one in three respondents believes that things where better during the time of the military coup!
As the Greeks who actually had first-hand experience of the military junta must be over 50 years old, this disproportionate percentage for a non-democratic nostalgia can only confirm the current impasse of Greek politics.