Last words before the final settlement
Usually the day of voting has a lot of symbolism. In an age of visual communication, appearances do matter. Especially when everybody, inside and outside of Greece is well aware that the result of Sunday’s, Jan. 25, early general elections may determine the balances inside the Eurozone, let alone the politics inside Greece.
Until the announcement of the results late yesterday evening, one thing was certain: that the radical leftist party of Syriza was first in all the opinion polls against the socialist-right coalition government of Antonis Samaras. One of the last minute (unofficial) polls gave Syriza even a 41 percent lead against a 26 percent of Samaras’ New Democracy party. All sides knew that the size of Syriza’s victory would depend, first on how many parties manage to cross the electoral threshold of 3 percent (the more they would, the worse would be for Syriza) and how approximately 10 percent undecided voters would vote on election day.
But as I said, appearances count and one can draw interesting conclusions about the elections in Greece, even before the results are announced.
I watched Tsipras cast his vote yesterday around noon. He was not accompanied by any of his party colleagues or officials, just his bodyguards. He continues to live in an area of Athens where flocks of poor third world immigrants and the Greek middle class hit heavily by the crisis are living. It is also an area where the fascist Golden Dawn enjoyed wide popularity, fueling nationalism and hate against immigrants.
Tsipras was welcomed by a big crowd of supporters of all ages and an unprecedented number of Greek and foreign media representatives. He had to wait several minutes before the cheering crowd and a melee of journalists and camera people would let him cross the doorstep. “I have great patience,” he said “We have waited five years for this. Five more minutes do not matter.” It was 10 minutes before he could cast his vote. Speaking to the crowd, he said “Today, the Greek people are called to complete a step for the return of hope, the end of fear, the return of democracy and dignity to our country. Now the responsibility belongs to everyone who comes to the ballot box.”
The leader of the conservative New Democracy and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras cast his vote in Pylos, Messinia in South Western Peloponnese, his place of origin. He arrived in a blue suit and red tie early in the morning accompanied by several party officials, dressed in official suits. He voted in their presence and they clapped for him after he finished. He forgot his identity card inside the booth and had to return to collect it. One citizen gave him a small piece of paper, presumably a request. He listened to him without saying anything, looked at the paper and left. In his statement to the media he underlined that “these elections are decisive for our future and the future of our children. Today we decide whether we go ahead with strength, safety, security or we enter into adventures. Nobody should risk the European future of our country.”
Most Greek commentators were pointing out that if Syriza finally wins these elections, a big credit should be given to their election campaign. Against the campaign of “fear for the consequences” if Greece fails in its commitments to its creditors, Syriza counter attacked with a campaign of optimism and hope, even if this might be too optimistic given the tough days expected ahead in their dealings with the Troika. Reading correctly that the Greek people in their present state of collective depression and destitution need an emotional boost more than anything else, or as Tsipras put it yesterday, talking to the foreign press “a life with dignity, and social cohesion.”