Searching for election messages

f someone who has no real insight into the nation’s public and political life was to have followed the public debate that began last Monday, they would have concluded that the previous day’s first-round local authority elections had been organized so that political parties could draw some much-needed conclusions. It is true that municipal and prefectural showdowns are usually presented by the political parties’ central committees as some kind of nationwide referendum. Everyone seeks the message of elections in political interrelations, while local governance – which had been praised by all sides during the countdown to the elections – is promptly forgotten after the ballot boxes are emptied and the votes are counted. It seems that certain people need to be reminded of the purpose of local elections: the opportunity for citizens to choose the officials who will be entrusted with handling a large part of the processes of their daily lives over the next four years. The countdown to these polls may include some political messages but these are just by-products of the electoral process. What really matters is whether Athenians will have a viable city, whether the citizens of Thessaloniki can look forward to living in a clean environment, and whether the newly elected local administrations will promote initiatives to solve the chronic problems that cripple many of our cities and countless villages across the country. On the Sunday of the first round of elections, everyone agreed that this was a celebration of local government. But on the Monday after the polls, it was clear that local government had been defeated. No one asked the newly elected mayor of Athens, former health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, to outline what he intends to do once he has moved into his office at City Hall. Similarly re-elected Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis was not questioned about the fate of the landfill at Tagarades which virtually suffocated the citizens of the northern city when temperatures soared last summer. Instead, everyone’s questions revolved around the elusive political message of these polls. But actually it was the citizens who ended up sending quite a few messages, albeit paradoxical ones, according to the thinking of parties’ central committees. These are not messages that can necessarily be categorized into parties’ particular entrenchments but they relate very closely to these citizens’ everyday lives. In the end the citizens did speak out. But with all the party political din that was being made, did anyone hear them?