OPINION

To Athens’s benefit, naturally

Greece’s citizens who live within the borders of the Athens municipality are all too aware of the city’s numerous and frequently acute problems. They know that what the city needs is creative work by a mayor and a town council that will strive to solve existing problems and prevent the emergence of new ones by employing a wide-ranging set of policies aimed at providing some relief for the people of Athens, who find it so hard to get around and even breathe in the capital. For the major parties, however, the stakes involved in the local elections are completely different. Their overriding priority is to secure an electoral victory which can be advertised as proof of political power, which in turn can be exploited in full during the next parliamentary elections. This desire often leads them to look for mayoral candidates from either the field of well-known politicians or the reservoir of popular social figures, regardless of their quality or political persuasion. For their part, the candidates know that the mayoralty can be used as a springboard to attain higher political positions in the future, since passage from the municipality always comes with some new political contacts. Needless to say, this is not how things are in any official sense. The big parties claim to be deeply interested in tackling the problems that plague the capital, and their candidates supposedly have nothing else on their minds but to do their utmost to improve the life of the citizens; in no way, we are told, do they intend to use their municipal careers to fulfill other personal ambitions. (If the big political party that supported them in the municipal elections later asks them to offer their services from another, higher office, it would, of course, be difficult for them to turn down such a request.) The consequences of all these matters are reflected in Athens’s condition – which, of course, can be relieved by neither the occasional renovation in the city center nor by the communication-heavy attributes of its local administrators.