Partisan criteria

Greece’s political parties are trying in vain to infuse political passion and fanaticism into Sunday’s local and regional elections. Voters, however, remain passive, indifferent, and quite determined on one matter: Most of them, especially in big cities and municipalities, will vote along partisan lines, as they usually do in elections for the local administration. This is not a party demand; it is the will of the «citizens.» The inverted commas indicate our vacuousness as citizens, a term as devoid of meaning as «local administration.» Despite past pledges to upgrade the local administration, the institution still lacks the basic administrative and economic autonomy needed to detach itself from the central government. Citizens are aware of this and scoff at announcements of grandiose municipal projects and radical reforms. Even the task of refuse collection is entangled between the joint responsibility of the municipality and the supervising ministry. In every strike by the refuse collectors, such as the current one in Thessaloniki, one can see a struggle between the two responsible bodies over which is responsible for creating and solving the problem. The issue is crystal-clear. The government wants a subjugated local administration. It seeks to elect its own municipal figures and eliminate its rivals; and it does so blatantly. In the 1994 elections, then-Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou offered a 45-billion-drachma (132-million-euro) bonus from the state budget to the socialist candidate for the mayor of Athens, Theodoros Pangalos. When Pangalos lost to the conservative Dimitris Avramopoulos, Papandreou said that this marked «a victory for the local administration.» However, the father-in-law withheld the 45 billion because the bridegroom was undesirable. Ordinary voters are not naive. On Sunday, they will once again cast their vote according to partisan criteria.