Change on the political stage

By Alexis Papachelas

I don?t think I?ve ever experienced a pre-election period with so many angry and desperate voters.

In the past, the angry and disillusioned were somewhere around the center and they acted as a barometer. They voted for Costas Simitis, then for Costas Karamanlis and then for George Papandreou, and they would make up the so-called ?middle ground.? Now the number of angry and undecided voters has swelled and it includes citizens who were until recently genetically programmed in terms of their political affiliations, citizens who were diehards, one way or the other.

The crisis though has turned everything in their lives upside down and it has quelled their enthusiasm or fanaticism (depending on which way you look at it) for their once-chosen political parties.

The people of the middle ground understand how important it is to achieve a pro-European majority at the polls, meaning above 50 percent of the vote for New Democracy, PASOK, Democratic Alliance, Drasi and, maybe, the Democratic Left. Without such a majority it will become extremely difficult for the country to be governed during the exacting times that lie ahead.

So, on the one hand, Greece needs stability and legitimacy and it needs the extreme elements of politics to be isolated. At least that is the rational mind-set. On the other hand, otherwise rational voters will ask: ?How can I vote for the bunch that brought us to this point? Do you see them putting any new faces on their ballots or changing their tune in any way?? This line of questioning is also applied to the smaller liberal parties, while there is nothing new, nothing bright and shiny anywhere on the horizon that could express the people?s desire for change and creativity.

So now what? It is difficult to predict which way the elections will go. Right now the prevailing sentiments are anger and a desire to punish. The closer we get to the polls, the clearer the dilemmas we face and the stakes will become. Right now, the pro-European camp does not appear to be even sniffing at a victory. In contrast, it is the forces of protest, even irrational protest, that seem to be gaining momentum. Some predict that their momentum will ebb as we approach the polls. Others are afraid that the main parties will just put on the same show they always have, with the same actors and the same props, in front of an audience that is not only skeptical, but can hardly look at their faces. They have very little time to change the actors, the scenery and the script. But if they don?t, the only audience they?ll be left with is those who fell asleep at the last show or the one before than and just won?t budge.