Citizens hold the center

Greece’s future depends on its revival beginning before its people’s patience runs out, on the economy stabilizing before the next period of political unrest undoing all that has been done. At this risky time, citizens have shown greater maturity than most politicians – they hope and they endure, they struggle in the midst of great difficulty. The question now is whether the policy that is being implemented will stop our fall, and whether our political forces can ignore for a while the sirens of conflict.

Last year’s dual elections showed in the clearest way how divided the people are, but also how much they want to see things change. Even though the centrist New Democracy and PASOK parties that had dominated politics since 1974 were cut down to a fraction of their former strength, they still garnered enough votes to form a coalition (with the Democratic Left) with a mandate to govern in an entirely different manner than before. At the same time, fringe parties and new formations gained dramatically, representing the new insofar as they became forces to be reckoned with, and the old, in that they preached a return to the old policies that lead to bankruptcy.

And so voters were divided between those who acknowledged the difficulties of our new reality under foreign monitors and those who desired a return to familiar ways; between those who grudgingly voted for the ones whom they blamed for the crisis, and those who voted enthusiastically for anti-establishment forces. This division is very clear in Parliament and in the news media but it has not affected everyday reality. Support for the governing parties remains stable inside Parliament and outside. Leftist SYRIZA is at the top of the polls, or second, even though people did not heed its calls to take to the streets en masse at Thessaloniki’s Trade Fair last September, at the Ohi Day anniversary on October 28, and so on. We can deduce that even as many want to support the opposition party, not so many want to see the government fall in violent demonstrations. The sudden resignation of the Bulgarian government this week showed how fluid things can be in the face of protests.

Despite all the sacrifices, the deprivation and the insecurity, the people endure. Maybe other societies, in despair, would already have resorted to looting and violence. Here, people are relying on their savings, on the high percentage of homeownership, on each other. The Church, municipalities and other agencies have been covering the needs of the poorest. The efforts by organizations and volunteers are remarkable and the people’s endurance heroic. That’s how we got this far. As long as citizens keep trying to maintain everyday normality there will be a stable center in our politics. All those who plan and implement policy must realize this and respect it.

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