New trends among the Greek public

New trends among the Greek public

Let’s admit it. We are more interested in individuals and personalities rather than people and societies. And we interpret the whole through the one, or as the Latins used to say “totum pro parte,” “the whole for a part.” In other words, it means something is named after something of which it is only a part. A convenient method of everyday thinking, which makes us jump quickly to conclusions and generalizations.

But there is the scientific version of this method which has been the basis of all types of social research since it gives us a picture of what society thinks at a particular moment.

In an interesting historical coincidence, both Greek and Turkish people have found themselves going simultaneously through a period where they will have to vote for their next government. Their respective leaders (Erdoğan, Mitsotakis) insist that the elections will take place at their “due time,” which means July 2023 for Greece and June 2023 for Türkiye. However, after a non-ending pandemic and a prolonged war in our neighborhood, the social and economic state of both countries became so fluid that any prediction would be impossible. One thing is for sure, that the societies have gone under deep changes which may not be reflected any longer in the ideologies of their political leaders

The reason why I decided to make that distinction between the people and their individual leaders, was an interesting study that was published in Greece by the think-tank ENA (Institute of Alternative Policies) and the opinion poll company Pro Rata.

It was not the classic type of opinion study asking the participants which politician they would like as their leader. It was a search for the political and ideological trends among the Greek public during a pre-election period. In that respect, it is a study about the recent changes that have shaped up the society and the environment in which the different ideological conflicts will take place in the coming elections.

Here are some of the most interesting conclusions of the study: “The entrenched mistrust of the citizens towards the functioning of the Greek political system leads to evaluations of the political process as intertwined mainly with the phenomenon of corruption.” Of course, this is a truism and we can apply it to almost all contemporary societies.
But what is different is that Greek citizens still “have high expectations of politics and can imagine themselves as participants in the political process. They perceive politics as an opportunity to mobilize change, but at the same time they see that for now that the Greek political system is thwarting their expectations.”

Another finding worth noting is that Greek people maintain trust in institutions with a “long historical presence,” such as the army, the university and the National Health System, while they show low trust in institutions that are linked to political relations, such as media or the Church.

Looking toward the coming general elections in Greece, the main competitors appear to be the current governing liberal-conservative party of New Democracy and the leftist populist Syriza. These are two ideologically opposing parties. New Democracy proposes a classic neo-liberal type of government, while Syriza who ruled Greece once, between 2015-2019, although it took back many of its original anti-establishment popular leftist rhetoric, it bases its line on attacking the Mitsotakis government on all fronts.

What the study shows is that the ideological distinction between the right and the left is not as clear any longer, although it is still a determinant when it comes to voting. So the political strategists of both parties have come up with new dilemmas, such as “progress against conservatism” and “populism against responsibility,” hoping that they would be more persuasive to the Greek voters. But in such a fluid environment, trends are not static and can change. One important point that comes out from the survey is that it is not enough for a party to be “against” its opponent, and it is not wise to invest all its political force in cultivating a strong “anti” narrative. It needs a carefully framed alternative program to mobilize the voters. And this seems to be the biggest weakness of Syriza.

The experience of the pandemic and the consequent economic crisis created a new progressive trend in Greek public opinion where the role of the state is being again appreciated as a provider, among others, of a free health system. But at the same time, people want less taxes, but higher taxes for the rich, and more public spending for state goods and infrastructure.

These ideological contradictions will probably produce new political narratives in the future.

I left Türkiye for the end. The analysis of the survey shows that when it comes to Türkiye, Greek citizens feel “angry,” “threatened,” “insecure,” and “disappointed.” They see it as the least friendly country towards Greece. Maybe these elections will offer people new alternatives for both Türkiye and Greece.

Ariana Ferentinou, TURKEY,