Basking in another’s glory

Among the ranks of those who would rather chop off one of their hands than vote for either of the two main parties, we are seeing the emergence of a new group, the second-round group. These are citizens hailing mainly from the left – that part of the political spectrum that becomes more fragmented the more it talks about unity – who, in the second round of local elections, decided to cast their votes in favor of independents supported by the ruling PASOK party. Whatever the decisions and orders of the political parties with which these groups maintain some ties, they adamantly refused to express their discontent with the two major parties by either submitting a blank ballot or abstaining from the elections altogether, because they believe that democracy is defined by turnout. So they cast their ballots with a heavy heart and a furrowed brow in support of independent candidates such as Giorgos Kaminis in Athens or Yiannis Boutaris in Thessaloniki, who may just help them to revive some of their enthusiasm for the electoral process. They need to think that they are still enamored with the process because they know by experience that once the ballot boxes are sealed and the votes counted, their vote will turn the green of PASOK and the representatives of the party will soon be talking about scoring a victory, even though they made little if any contribution to the success of the independent candidates. This time around, the party members held out a week between the two rounds and tried very hard to appear humble and remorseful, only to return to their usual arrogant manner. Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos’s treatment of the independent leftist candidates after their victories and Prime Minister George Papandreou’s triumphant appearance at Kaminis’s campaign headquarters surely must have made some of those who cast a ballot for those candidates wonder why they hadn’t chopped off their voting hand. Either way, neither Kaminis’s nor Boutaris’s wins can be explained simply in terms of anti-conservative sentiment. Thessaloniki deserved a mayor who is not a bishop posing as an ethnarch, and Athenians had a duty to react to the kind of flaky culture and political manipulation by the extreme right that former Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis allowed. They both got what they deserved but the PASOK leadership had little to do with this. Thankfully.