OPINION

Three types of voters

Broadly speaking, there are three types of voter – at least that is what I understand from what I hear around me. The first is the traditional, and sometimes fanatical, party supporter. This person will say things like «My father was a royalist» or «We have always belonged to the progressive party.» They are quite prepared to board a bus or airplane to go and hear the party leader speak. Their vote is more or less guaranteed. You may remember, in an old American comedy series, an electronic board that would display directions such as «applaud» or «laugh» to the studio audience. In a similar way, traditional voters rally together and voice their support when called upon to do so. They are part of the country’s political «decor» and spring into life in extraordinary situations, such as snap elections, and can generally be relied upon by the parties to which they are affiliated. The second type is the «breadwinner» – those citizens whose chief aim is to boost their pension and secure a job for their child in the public sector (to ensure that his offspring has a «job for life» plus the benefits that often accompany civil service posts). Generally, this type is looking to get the best possible deal for themselves from the government of the day. He does not care whether regulations are adhered to in competitions for public sector posts, whether the European Union will force Greece’s ailing state carrier Olympic Airlines to shut down, or what globalization means in practice. For such people, a vote is a four-year contract with the state within the framework of which they aspire to solve all their day-to-day problems and improve their standard of living without any consideration for the broader implications with respect to the government that comes to power. However mundane and selfish their criteria may be, you cannot help but feel a certain respect for this group of voters as you appreciate their concerns and know how difficult it is to refrain from viewing the state as a savior. The third type of voter is the most crucial: the undecided one. This type of citizen has either managed to resolve his day-to-day problems, and so does not look to the government to help improve his living standards, or does not believe in political labels and is more interested in contemplating which party can help the country go forward. Most Greek citizens voted for Costas Simitis in 2000 and for Costas Karamanlis in 2004. I now hear these people discussing the prospect of voting in forthcoming general elections with a heavy heart. They believe that Karamanlis’s government has achieved much, particularly in the economy, but there are two basic things that bother them: a handful of preposterous ministers who are dragging the country back to the provincial political values of the 1980s, and the fact that the state is entirely incapable of emulating the obvious dynamism of the private sector. The powers that be are evidently unaware of just how many votes they would win by simplifying the labyrinthine procedures of the Social Security Foundation (IKA) or the Labor Inspectorate and other such organizations that plague the everyday lives of citizens who just want to get things done with the minimum of hassle. On the other hand, no matter how disappointed voters belonging to this third category may be with the current situation, they are not convinced that main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou has it in him to govern the country. The 180-degree turn he executed on the crucial issue of education reforms has made his «reformist» argument less than credible. The inconsistencies within his party and the empty rhetoric to which Papandreou has resorted have disappointed those who had been looking for a new, improved version of Simitis. This is more or less the state of affairs ahead of elections due on September 16. The fanatics are dusting off their little plastic flags, the breadwinners are trying to figure out which party can guarantee a safer future for their offspring and the crucial undecided group of voters is eyeing the ballot box with a heavy heart and threatening to cast a blank vote while flirting with Karamanlis.