With campaign posters pasted on nearly every corner of Athens and conversations about the Sunday’s general election taking place in most Greek households, the pre-election buzz is unmistakable.
Meanwhile, Greece’s tourism season is in full swing, begging an intriguing question: How does tourists’ knowledge of the upcoming election measure up to the Greek electorate? Kathimerini English Edition took to the streets of the capital to find out.
For non-European Union citizens like 22-year-old Australian Ruby Stitt, Greece’s election is nothing more than a passing thought. “We’re not in the EU, so that doesn’t really affect us,” Stitt said, noting she had been unaware an election was even taking place.
In contrast, Miguel Angel, a 45-year-old visitor from Spain, believes anything that occurs in Europe affects his home country, no matter how small the impact. “We are all Europe,” he said, likening Greece’s election to “a pain in the finger of Spain.”
The election of SYRIZA in 2015 after Alexis Tsipras campaigned on a promise to renegotiate the nation’s mammoth debt, raising the possibility of a major conflict with eurozone partners, made waves across Europe. Now, much of the continent is turning to the right, a trend some tourists, like Angel, mentioned.
When asked about the major issues facing Greece, the answer from all respondents was a resounding “Debt.” Malaysian tourist Yik Wei added unemployment to the mix of prevailing national concerns, while Angel pointed to immigration.
While both issues are high on many candidates’ platforms, debt has been Greece’s defining characteristic for much of the world since 2008, with the issue entering international discourses not only through news coverage but also through higher education.
This was evinced by a group of American students who seemed to have the strongest knowledge of the political system and were aware that the election is occurring this Sunday.
American lawyer Michael Dubin also shared solid knowledge of SYRIZA’s downfall, explaining that the leftist party has not delivered on many of its promises – information he learned from conversations with a Greek taxi driver. Ben Riley, a visitor from the UK, made similar remarks, as he described what he said was a shift from populism to conservatism.
In 2019, more than 31 million tourists are expected to visit Greece, according to the World Trade & Tourism Council. Though the national election may not affect many of them personally, the significance of this week is not lost on Greece’s international visitors.
As questions abound for the Greek electorate – Will SYRIZA pick itself up after its staggering loss in the EU elections? Will New Democracy win an outright majority? – many tourists are simply excited to be visiting the country in the midst of a potential political transformation.