Anything goes

The shocking performance by the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) in the European parliamentary elections revealed the true political persona of the party’s leader, but also the style of discourse that he represents. That 7 percent share of the vote spurred more talk, public statements, one-line jokes and plans for governance. In some ways, however, Giorgos Karatzaferis’s prattling also sheds light on the current political stage, on the structure behind the plasterboard and decor, and what it reveals is a ramshackle hut. The king of that hut right now is this winning entertainer, this one-dimensional actor of old black-and-white Greek comedies – wheedling, comedic, enduring, sly and foul-mouthed. Karatzaferis has resuscitated the genre, has brought to life the comic style of the 1950s and 60s, the spirit of Karagiozis – the savvy ruffian who goes to great lengths to pull the wool over the eyes of the powers that be. And in creating this resurrection, he also delivers a re-enactment of the current state of this democracy. He plays for the masses, for the layman. His performance is palatable, catchy, entertaining, populist. It is also kind of sad. The head of LAOS is the salt of the earth, a self-styled impresario who holds nothing back. He describes the political system as an apartment building with many different tenants; he calls on the prime minister to go for a swim to clear his head; he teases the government spokesman by calling him Forrest Gump; he gives money back to his country. This style of discourse, the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, resonates with the people. Already I can hear some applauding him: «You tell ’em, Giorgo!» And Giorgos gets even more fired up: «I worry about the rise of the far right in Europe… I am a socialist when it comes to society…» The crowd roars. It will give him its vote. «He’s not ultra-conservative!» «He is a man of the people; he respects tradition.» He champions chest-thumping and tough talk. The actor simply tells it like it is. It seems anything goes.