Greek journalists, too, in the battle for a seat in Brussels

Greek journalists, too, in the battle for a seat in Brussels

A high number of Greek journalists decided to enter politics in the recent local and European Parliament elections. They all had different reasons. Several had lost their jobs due to the severe economic crisis, which has also hit the Greek media sector, and created scores of unemployed or low paid media workers. The sudden closure of Greece’s national TV and radio broadcaster ERT, last June, left almost 3,000 staff out of work. Very few have been re-employed in its restructured smaller version, NERIT, but the drastic cuts applied by the government in the number of state employees does not give much hope for permanent employment in the new public broadcaster.

Of course, nobody can say for sure how many of these media professionals have gone into politics as an alternative to regular employment and how many did so out of genuine political conviction. Still, the truth is that several responded enthusiastically to political parties who asked them to stand as candidates for the local and European Parliament elections.  It is also true that most of them chose to fight for a safe and comfortable seat in Brussels.

At the time when this article was being written we did not know the election results for the mayors and regional governors of most major cities and regions. We also did not know which candidates had won the 21 seats allocated to Greece in the European Parliament.  What we did know, however, was that Greece was the EU country with the most competing political parties (42!) and with most candidates in proportion to its electorate: 1,299 candidates for just 21 of the total 751 seats. This compares, for example, to the 1,053 candidates from Germany, which has the most seats (96) in the European Parliament among all member states.

The majority of the former Greek media members fighting for a European seat for the next five years were well-known TV personalities, instantly recognizable by the public. For example, the conservative New Democracy party put up six journalists, mostly known from their long and successful television careers. The “Olive” – a newly founded umbrella of centrist and leftist groups including the socialist PASOK, which remains a government coalition partner - selected three journalists. One of these was the controversial former minister who was in charge of the transition from the closure of ERT to the setting up of the new public broadcaster. The main opposition party SYRIZA chose four known journalists among his EP candidates. Two were formerly employed by ERT and had lost their jobs. The “River,” a center-leftist party founded recently by a popular TV journalist, put up as a candidate another TV journalist who had also lost his job in ERT. Other journalists were seen on the lists of several non-parliamentary parties who also contested the European Parliament race. The names of four well-known journalists appeared on the list of the Euro-skeptic non-parliamentary leftist party ANTARSYA, while several others competed for the same seats but from right-wing to extreme right-wing parties or groups.

Of course, by the time you read this article you must already know how many of these journalists managed to convince the Greek electorate to vote for them using their professional skills of persuasion.

I am sure that for the ones who manage to get a seat in Brussels it will be an opportunity to place Greek politics within the complicated process that is now evolving at the heart of European politics between among Euro-loyalists, Euro-skeptics and Euro-critics.