Giorgos Kaminis and the others

By Alexis Papachelas

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis is an interesting example of a non-professional politician. He was elected even though he was hardly known by the public and made few promises, coming from the relatively obscure post of ombudsman.

Pundits had little faith in him and believed that he would crash and burn fast, probably because he wasn’t part of the core of the political system.

As soon as Kaminis took office he had to deal with a recalcitrant municipal council and was backed by a rather ineffectual political party. But he battled on and has managed to get the job done, without fanfare.

Of course, Athens did not suddenly turn into Stockholm, but there is a marked difference in the Greek capital from the cleanliness of the streets to the tidy finances of the municipality.

Running the City of Athens is no easy feat; it means going up against criminal gangs that run protection rackets and control the city’s nightlife, strong union bosses and petty vested interests, among many other challenges.

Lately I have been hearing the names of various politicians, mostly prominent on television, who want to run for mayor in local elections next spring.

It would be a tragedy after all that has happened if we were to see someone in the post who sees the mayorship as just another stepping stone to greater things. We are sick of popular politicians taking on the role and doing nothing of essence.

There are those who argue that if you have too many candidates in the running there will be a second round at the polls and we may end up with a mayor from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. For many this is a very likely conclusion given the party’s rising popularity, especially in run-down parts of the capital.

However, the rest of the parties could come to some agreement for the sake of protecting democracy by backing the same candidate in a possible second round, whatever his or her party affiliation.

Party officials will make their calculations and put their ears to the ground before nominating their candidates. The people of Athens have already made a difference by voting for an outsider as mayor. Now it is time for the parties to heed them before they make their decisions.

And, of course, Kaminis, who has shown that he has the gumption and determination but has failed miserably at making a connection with the public, will need to start talking more about what he has achieved, where he has failed and why.