The lone ranger of Attica

Until recently, it seemed improbable that the largest electoral district could fall into the hands of a lone ranger. The crisis, however, has made the improbable a reality. Despite the electoral challenge from Alexis Mitropoulos, who has similar political views to those of his competitor, opinion polls show that independent MP Yiannis Dimaras will likely make it to the second round. If that happens, he is sure to be elected, no matter who opposes him. Dimaras has not distinguished himself for his political discourse or for his administrative ability. Moreover, he has never held government office. Dimaras’s profile is one of populism, sentiment and ethics. He is the essence of the center-left, but he has never been a party poodle. In fact, Dimaras has always been an amateur politician. It was his comfortable win in the vast second Athens electoral district that ensured him the aura, with which he got 11.5 percent of the vote when he ran as an independent for mayor of Athens in 2002. Dimaras’s refusal to vote for the EU-IMF memorandum triggered a series of events that have made him pretty much the favorite. Had he not been expelled from PASOK, he would never have been a contender. Initially, Maximos Mansion banked on him not finding anyone else to complete his ballot. Now they are frantically trying to prevent his election. By his stance in Parliament, Dimaras confirmed the public’s image of him, which makes his election a vote not so much against the memorandum as against the entire political system that has taken Greece to the edge of the abyss. In fact, Dimaras’s candidacy is an outlet for the expression of the acute crisis in political representation that has been sharpened by the economic problems. If he is elected, he will not change the means of rule or government policy. The fact that an independent won such an election would bring about a significant change in relations between society and the ruling political elites. The so-called two-party system will suffer a blow. Until recently, it was not possible for such a large electoral district as Attica to elect a candidate who had not been anointed by PASOK or New Democracy. If that stereotype is smashed, it will create a precedent, inevitably others will emulate Dimaras. What is at stake is much more far-reaching than who will be elected district chief. This poll will determine whether the two-party political system itself is to be put to the test.

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