The results of the repeat Greek elections are out. New Democracy won the elections with 29.6% of the total vote as calculated by the Greek electoral system, still not an overall majority. SYRIZA came second with a result that is unprecedented for a left wing party with what, at the time of writing, looks like 26.9%. These two parties increased their vote by about 58% on the May 6 elections. PASOK, in power for the best part of the last 30 years got about 12.5%, lower than ever. ‘New’ entries ‘Independent Greeks’, ‘Democratic Left’, ‘Golden Dawn’ got between between 6 and 7.5%. The Communist party KKE got 4.5%, again lower than ever and crucially half what they got 6 weeks earlier. This bit is clear. These parties will be asked to form a government. This bit is not, and now that I think about it there are many aspects that require much more reflection than the numbers above. New Democracy increased their share hugely in the last 6 weeks, so here comes obvious-question time: Are these people ND voters who strayed away in May because they didn’t trust the party to do the job anymore? Have they changed their minds? Are they voters of other parties who now see ND as the only party capable of forming a functioning coalition government? Are they people who were disappointed by the stance taken in the last few weeks by the parties they voted for in May? I don’t think that there was anyone who was further persuaded by what ND leader Samaras said in the build-up of the election. To the best of my understanding nothing of the sort happened to SYRIZA either. If there was a single voter who heard leader Tsipras say “On Monday there will be no memorandum” (Thursday, June 14th) and believed it, I assume it would be the same people who voted PASOK in 1981 when leader Andreas Papandreou promised to get Greece out of NATO and the EU. There is a structural similarity here. In 1981 PASOK was a young political party, to the left of the government of the day, sky-rocketing into power winning elections with 48%, merely 7 years after its inception. SYRIZA, a new (regardless of its origins) party to the left of the previous governments brought together self-defined left-wing movements at a time when most Greeks saw their living standards go down for the first time. The decline was and still is framed everywhere as the result of deregulated capitalism. Whether Greeks abused the money or financial institutions took advantage of Greece and the EU mechanics and political aspirations or not, here we are: The Greek private sector is dying a death, unemployment has taken off, minimum wages are crashing and burning. There was an additional complication. In the last 40 years the living standards went up disproportionally. I won’t go into the ways that it happened, borrowing, tax-evasion, deregulation, jobs that have schedules and workloads that allowed entrepreneurial endeavors on the side and so on. But it happened. Here lies an inherent problem: for those who enjoyed it, it did not seem to be an undeserved privilege, and still does not. It was (and is) normal, hence deserved. After all ‘everybody does it’. Some of the wealth accumulated ended up in banks and property abroad and a big part of is now bricks and mortar all around Greece. These are two matters I hope to find time to discuss at a later point. The point that I would like to discuss here though, is this: This wealth creation mechanism didn’t apply to all Greeks. Some used it, some did not. I am not suggesting it was a 50-50 split and the exact division is rather irrelevant. The point is that nobody saw this as the virtual reality that it was. There was never any growth in Greece. Not in the 80’s not in the 90’s and primarily, not in the early 00’s. Some peole took advantage, mainly illegally, and others did not. Regardless, everybody is in the eye of the memorandum storm now to a lesser or greater extent. Ok, what are the implications? There are many, social, political, economic and all sorts. The one implication that relates to party politics and I want to reflect on for now (there are many, many more) is this: The rhetoric of parties prostitutes everybody by talking about the ‘common good’ in its varied phrases. There is no common good. There is nothing in common between the single income family living on an island and an Athens based middle-manager in the public sector. The latter eats into the former’s living standards through the state structure, the former potentially retaliates tax-evading or maybe not. I spare you the example of the industrialist and the minimum wage worker or the unemployed, de nada. These two people should not vote for the same people. But mainly, no party should claim that they ‘will provide’ for both. All the existing evidence is that our governments are more likely to provide for some, favouring them with distributing borrowed money. The party political structure allows for little else. Same goes for the election legislation. My guess is that the country won’t get out of structural deficit until government and law/taxation enforcement fall into foreign hands, and even then I am not sure. Even private companies might have a better chance at it but quis custodiet ipsos custodes, obvious complications there. I wonder if it is worth a try, maybe with a narrow specifc focus to start with, for example private companies given an area to go after tax evasion or public sector bureaucracy in one county. Will it go worse than the present state of things?
Note to Greek voters: My guess is the present situation will continue until there is no more borrowed money coming in. Borrowed money will either go towards interest payments or will be devoured by financial structures, governments, mediators and generally people who are not ‘you’. It will never be you. Nobody (thinks that s/he) owes you and you have no power to reach the money. Having said that, neither do the parties that are fighting for the ‘common good’. Politicians are people who truly believe they deserve to be paid by tax (and borrowed) money to govern you, hence they are better than you and you do not deserve it to the extend that they do. The only way that more money will come your way is if you ‘create’ some business. Public provision is going down and there is no-one capable and willing to fight its corner. Not only that, it is up for sale mostly. This includes education, health, transport and so on – by the way, a lot of business is created in these sectors worldwide, don’t expect it to go the other direction. My point is that parties should have the honesty to say that they plan to favour a particular section of society and if they don’t specifically do so, voters should assume that they will not benefit from the particular party’s policies should it get elected. In this respect I need to point out that the Communist party in Greece is the most honest of the lot, making clear who they ‘are’ for and who they want to ‘do away with’; to a certain extent so is Golden Dawn (funny, isn’t it? No it isn’t). Still, do not take this to mean that their financial plan is equally clear, especially the funding of the transition between now and the ‘state’ (in both its meanings) that these parties propose. So, to conclude: Yes, it is a kind of a free country – vote what you like. By all means vote for smaller parties that don’t look like they will get in parliament if they sound right for you personally. You have nothing to lose. But please, next time do not vote for parties and politicians who do – and say that they will do – things in the name of the common good. You are not in it.