Letter from Thessaloniki

Peace, prosperity, glitz and kitsch are usually good things for the Eurovision song contests, as well as for parties in power when election time rolls around with a boom-bang-a-bang, to keep with one of the former Eurovision hits. This may also be the case when speculation is whispered of holding early elections before March next year, and possibly next September or October. That’s what «they» say. Add to the winning recipe a popular party president – preferably EU-burnished – a dash of weak opposition and no great embarrassments, and the outlook for New Democracy seems bright – at least for now. Things are not so simple. The struggle is not between New Democracy and PASOK, but between ND and apathy. But that is a completely different story. As for the big final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night, it teaches us that if the laws of electoral  behavior apply also to politics, elections can be determined by those who don’t vote. Another sad story this one. For another time too.  Predictably, the voting in Finland – a country eager to establish its credentials as a mainstream European state – was full of idiosyncrasies and regional biases. (As Cyprus did not make it to the final, there was not the usual practice of Greece and Cyprus giving each other 12 points). The Scandinavians voted for one another and the ex-Socialist countries did the same. There was the usual round of tactical voting as in previous years. All in all, 25 countries took part in the last pan-European song contest of camp, kitsch and incontestable cheesiness. More than 100 million people are rumored to have tuned in. We patriotic Greeks watched to see if our hopeful, Sarbel, a London-born Cypriot of half Lebanese origin, could bring home the musical booty some Greek tabloids held for sure. But this year, alas, it was not to go our way. Nevertheless, there were a great many surprises in store. Unquestionably, the greatest was that Serbia’s «Molitva» (meaning «prayer» in English) has been answered. The first ballad after many years was an outsider. Marija Serifovic – certainly no dumb blonde this time – thrilled the European audience with her superb voice, not unlike Mariza Koch who some 20 years ago participated in this contest with a distinctly Greek ballad (and lost). This time one cannot lament a lack of local distinctiveness. Serifovic sang in Serbian (or is it still called Serbo-Croatian?). History is comforting. All those terrible things happened in the past, yet here we still are, watching television and wondering about our summer vacations. Consider the trend and what seems to be a general phenomenon: Countries seem to be abandoning their ethnic origins and everything is becoming very American. Anyway, with Serbia trapped actually in diplomatic limbo on Kosovo and with Montenegro already gone, whose homeland are we talking about? Grown-ups and children both enjoy the security of familiar stories of history, and become annoyed when stories are changed. Didn’t we have a similar patriotic case recently about some history textbook? Too many songs on Saturday night sounded really 80s and 90s. Every year you think it can’t get any worse, but you’re wrong. In a contest that looks desperately tired and in dire need of either a pension or even being laid to rest permanently, our song was not that bad after all. You must remember the words of «Yassou Maria.» It went like this: «First off, she’s a lady, And this is a ladies’ world.» Now, is it really? Once again yesterday there were new rumors in the Turkish media regarding Ms Nimet Cubukcu – presently the state minister responsible for women’s and family issues – as the «unexpected (presidential) candidate which will surprise everyone,» according to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An interesting article in yesterday’s Turkish daily Zaman remarked: «Women aspiring to top candidate lists.» Turkey is one of the countries in which the number of women deputies in parliament is very low, just 4.4 percent. Now in Helsinki, Turkey (163 points) surpassed Greece (139 points) with Kenan Dogulu singing «Shake it up Sekerim!» Could our good neighbor surprise us once more with a first lady president? After all this is a lady’s world, isn’t it?