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Where verbs come to die

By Pantelis Boukalas

Election campaigns are usually devoid of political debate that is based on concrete and substantial arguments. In fact, borrowing from late Greek surrealist poet and writer Andreas Embirikos, we could say that election campaigns are exactly the space where verbs are done away with for the sake of adjectives, those foster children of compliance and adorned lies.

To be sure, adjectives are used in their superlative form whether they are used to launch an attack, to make lavish promises, or to pledge an “absolute commitment” (a phrase straight from the PASOK vocabulary which, like PASOK as-a-state-of-mind, has spread in all political directions to affirm the rule that governments may fall, parties may fall but ideas are here to stay).

Some had hoped that the upcoming triple election (to pick mayors, regional governors and European Parliament deputies) would encourage a more mature political debate. Apart from influencing the date of the next national election, a great deal is at stake at the May polls: The first is who will represent us in Europe and what ideals they will uphold. After all, Europe, in its current shape, is neither united, nor democratically managed nor a partnership of equals. Europe, or at least its Mediterranean partners, is suffering from the brutal austerity programs that have sent unemployment numbers through the roof. And finally, there is the rise of far-right extremism.

A second, but no less important issue, is the quality of local administration: mayors, regional governors and advisers. Will they represent the interest of all citizens as they like to promise or will they just represent the interests of their parties and clients as they have so often done in the past? Will they resist the diktats of governments or operate as their disciplined arm?

Meanwhile, we seem to have opened a number of national issues (the Macedonia name dispute, the issue of the Muslim minority in Thrace and it will be hard to avoid the Cyprus problem). Instead of discussing Europe and local administration, we are trading barbs and accusations about traitors and betrayals.

There is nothing new in turning the European and local vote into a gauge for national elections. Nor is doing so a priori unacceptable, as some like to claim, as long as it does not fully hijack their character. And as long as it does not violate the terms – the politically acceptable terms that have nothing to do with the superficial rhetoric of decorated and decorative lies.

ekathimerini.com , Monday April 28, 2014 (22:19)  
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