OPINION

Election debate lacking right focus

In recent years, particularly since 2004, local government agencies have been receiving heaps of funds from the state budget as well as the European Union, but the actual impact of these funds on taxpayers’ daily lives remains limited. Most mayors seem to be spending the money on projects that are simply for show and whose completion is planned to coincide with the runup to local elections. Barring few exceptions, municipalities have largely failed to showcase their regional comparative advantages which could help boost local economies and increase residents’ incomes. Finally, various local administrations are themselves becoming a hotbed of bureaucracy no less riddled with fraud and corruption. In light of this sickly condition, one would expect that the coming local and municipal elections would trigger a substantial debate on the role and competence of local administrations – meaning how elected officials could have a greater say in the drafting of local policy and how they could be held accountable to the central administration for the funds entrusted to them. Instead, news reports on the election campaigns of the mainstream parties, New Democracy and PASOK, have mostly revolved around backdoor politics. Accordingly, the main concern of conservative cadres is said to be who was responsible for nominating Argyris Dinopoulos as the party’s candidate for the Athens-Piraeus prefecture. For their part, the Socialists are pondering the reasons why Yvette Jarvis, a former US model, has defected from the camp of PASOK’s Athens mayoral candidate Costas Skandalidis. Similarly, the debate in Thessaloniki is whether Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos is getting an unfair amount of exposure in the local media…