Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

Smell of petty party politics in the air

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Society

It’s the time when a crescendo of state sector hirings, handout pledges and amendments are submitted for a vote in Parliament “by derogation.” In fact, recent amendments – which have very little, if anything, to do with the main body of the bill in question and which are mostly incomprehensible – are being pushed through with haste, which says a lot about the government’s political intentions.

Virtually every news report on the SYRIZA-led government’s measures and pledges smacks of election campaigning. The true message is that of inertia and regression.

Take the new system for public education appointments announced by the Education Ministry which has a highly clientelistic configuration, or the various scandals that have exposed a system of political and business entanglements.

Although advertising itself as having broken with the “old political system,” the government in fact represents an unbearably outdated product. Many of its representatives have for years served in the not-so-attractive aspects of post-1974 politics (many senior officials were leading unionists, or served from state-dependent party posts). Any attempt to style political figures as fresh is quickly tainted by a barrage of decisions designed to serve political cronies.

The impact of all this on the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks (ANEL) coalition will become clear on election day. The toll on society however is already evident. Polarization is not only reflected in the strengthening of the two mainstream parties and the decline of the middle ground, but also in voters’ anxiety and frustrations over the day after and the country’s future.

The latest Pulse poll for Skai TV found that 45 percent of respondents said they were rather or very afraid that 2019 would bring a fresh economic crisis or new problems. Meanwhile, 18 percent said they were relatively concerned that the future would bring very negative economic developments. Concerns about the economy reflect people’s wider pessimism about the country’s future course. Sixty-three percent said that things were certainly or probably moving in the wrong direction. That percentage was up by four points compared to November.

Greece’s voters will go to the ballot boxes next year feeling fear and mistrust, feeling polarized and dejected. Will they interpret the latest wave of handouts and promises as the harbinger of good news or as yet another ephemeral deception? The answer that they come up with will decide the result.

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