Vuvuzela politics

The noisy vuvuzela has been the subject of much controversy at the soccer stadiums in South Africa but it remains very popular among some people in Greece. Andreas Lykourentzos, New Democracy’s new general secretary, was elected by vuvuzela – ie by oral vote: that loud voice that drowns out every other noise, the reservations, objections, disagreements, the alternative proposals. «Why worry about something you do not have a stake in?» one might say. But there is still some interest in the story, given that the type of democracy that apparatchiks prefer for their own party is a sign of the type of democracy they would like to see if one day they make it into government. There is not much to indicate that Lykourentzos is that popular among conservative supporters as to make a proper election process redundant. Sticking to democratic principles – dry as these might be within the party – was not the main concern, it seems. Of greater importance, it appears, was protecting the image of party leader Antonis Samaras against the eventuality of his pet candidate failing to garner a Ceausescu-style majority. Things became easier after Costas Markopoulos withdrew his own candidacy – but there was still some danger. As a result, Samaras decided to go for the election-by-oral-vote formula, once popular among the Socialist party as well. Too bad conservative cadres did not have vuvuzelas to express their enthusiasm. The Senate in ancient Sparta was also selected by voice. An assembly was summoned and judges were placed in a windowless room nearby. As each candidate came forth, the judges would try to determine the amount of cheering they got. Whoever got the most was the winner. What is the difference? Back then, the selection was impersonal, as there was a large number of judges and candidates and the people were free to express their will. In the case of New Democracy, there is only one judge (the party president), there is only one candidate (appointed by the president) and the people (congress members) are obliged to toe the only acceptable line: that of the leader. New Democracy’s internal democracy leaves a lot to be desired.