Thessaloniki candidate mayor Nikos Tachiaos votes in the first round of local elections last Sunday. Whoever is elected mayor tomorrow could find his hands tied due to the new system of simple proportional representation.
There is no question that either Nikos Tachiaos or Constantinos Zervas will be elected mayor of Thessaloniki on Sunday. What is at issue is whether either will be able to run the municipal authority. The system of simple proportional representation introduced under the Kleisthenis plan for restructuring local government threatens to paralyze the Municipality of Thessaloniki, much to the city’s detriment.
To begin with, it will be the first time in its history that Thessaloniki will have a weak mayor with a minority vote on the council. Incumbent Yiannis Boutaris has 29 of his people on the 49-member council; Tachiaos so far has 11 and Zervas just seven, according to the outcome of the first round last Sunday. With such a small team, neither the mayor nor the party will be able to make any decisions without serious opposition. Starting with the president of the municipal council, the second most powerful official after the mayor, every single policy and decision will be the subject of bargaining. Who is the mayor supposed to placate first? The math doesn’t add up. For every decision, he would need to go down the ladder – and in this case, it’s a really big ladder, with a record-breaking 16 political parties represented on the Thessaloniki municipal council. Most, if not all, will ask for something in exchange for supporting any decision, while the president of the council will face constant uncertainty.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that the mayor sorts out the problem of the president and is able to choose his eight deputies. The officials elected on Zervas’ ticket, if he wins after all, are not enough to cover all eight seats. If Tachiaos, meanwhile, gives up eight of his people as deputies and one more as president of the board, he will not have enough elected representatives to serve in other areas. And that means more quid pro quo so that the mayor can find candidates from among the other parties. And once the mayor manages to build a hierarchy, he will then have to implement the program he was elected for.
Does anyone honestly believe that either of these officials will be able to make any decisions – sometimes crucial ones – promptly and implement them, when every single session will be about juggling the different pieces of the political puzzle and people with their own interests at heart? Just having all 16 party representatives state their position within their allotted time will mean that every session will run over schedule.