Monday, 5 October 2009

Cry, the beloved country

I did not vote yesterday.
I live in London, innit?

Plus the election results seemed almost predestined.
Plus, I cannot legitimately bring myself to choose between the choices available and as casting a blank 'protest' ballot would simply boost the top party along its way in this curious twist of proportional representation whereby blank and spoiled ballots are added to the votes knowingly cast for the winner, I didn't vote.

But this is not a critique of Greece's electoral system.
It's not a critique of Greece's political system.
It's just a realisation, that crept up on me slowly last night as I was watching the results come in over the internet and talked on the phone with family and friends out in Greece. And the realisation is this: we, the Greek public, are like one of those girls, neglected, abused and unloved by their boyfriends but so convinced we can do no better, that we have learned to draw pleasure from the days when he isn't so bad and we are simply over the moon on the days he can muster some basic decency. And so deep is this conviction that we can do no better that, when we finally leave the brute, we end up in the arms of someone just like him because 'that's what men are like'.

How many times on the run-up to this election did you say: 'well, at least the new one cannot possibly be as bad as the last one, he may try but it is impossible to be just as bad'?
How many times did you hear: 'well now the only way is up, surely we have hit rock bottom'?
How many times did the voting public vocally and actively affirm that they considered the choices presented to them inadequate and the act of voting a mechanical discharge in the hope that further evil would be averted by removing from power the guy who so clearly failed to resolve all the pressing problems that presented themselves on his watch?

And replace him with what?
A guy the voting public had pointedly rejected twice before.
A guy who did not have the decency to resign when he should have because he knew that if he stuck around it was a matter of time before we needed somewhere to run, away from the neglect and abuse of our Nea Dimokratia boyfriend. And despite our previous rejections, when things got depserate and we had nowhere else to run, we did run straight into the arms of suitor number 2, George Papandreou: twice rejected but never actually gotten rid of.
He stuck around shamelessly and here he is now, in power.

So don't talk to me about George Papandreou's 'triumph'. Mr Karamanlis simply lost the election. He lost it with a bang, he lost it by a mile but he lost it by himself. Mr Papandreou didn't need to actively win it. He just needed to wait for power to land on his lap. As it did.

Semantics, I hear you say?
Negative voting of the 'I really don't want this guy, I'll vote for the other one' variety makes the lives of politicians really really easy. They do not need to campaign on the issues, they do not need to stick to the issues, they hardly need to do anything about the issues once they are in power. All they need to do is be perceived as a better choice than the other guy. So on this occasion Karamanlis had sunk so low in people's estimations that Papandreou could have turned up on the day without campaigning and he still would have won by a landslide.

'Ultimate personal vindication' for Papandreou, says the front page of Eleftherotypia today.
Give me a break.
They feed us this crap and we sit here and take it. As if the election results prove that Papandreou was right not to resign after his last defeat – and the one before – as if this proves we were always coming back to him. As if the poor choice and the chronic damage it is doing both to our political culture and to the country as such is not even worth mentioning. Because when it comes to prime ministers and boyfriends, they are all much of a muchness and prince charming has been dead for decades.

At least Karamanlis resigned, so that is that there and on we go with a new face and old ideas when the time for their leadership election comes. Even more mediocre suitors to choose from. But maybe the baseline will be higher. Maybe Nea Demokratia's next leader will realise that if you have been in power two years, during which all you have achieved is beaching the economy and watching idly on while riots raged throughout your country, well if those conditions are met then you don't call an election unless losing it is what you are after.
And maybe that is what you were after, Mr Karamanlis, you were tired after all and the glamour wore off pretty soon this second time round, didn't it?

So what have we got?
A populace that is dispirited, tired and completely disillusioned. A populace that puts up with the neglectful, abusive boyfriends because it is convinced that mediocrity is 'as good as it gets' and the goal is to swap one inadequate man with another to avoid the worst of it and keep afloat.

This makes the job of running for elections that bit easier. The less your voters care, the less you have to do to convince them. The less your girlfriend expects, the more you get away with.

Meanwhile, the parties of the left are losing support – not fast, but noticeably – and LAOS, the racist, ultira-nationalistic, uber-rightist party that seemed like a bad joke when it first hit our TV screens is gathering votes – fast and noticeably.

Does that matter?
Damn right it does.
Because some people vote for mr Karatzaferis despite his politics, for his affability – and that is simultaneously stupid and irresponsible. But many are voting for him for his politics and his affability: at least he cares, they say, and maybe he could have handled the riots better (as the extreme right are want to do) and maybe he would have handled the economic crisis better, by clamping down on the illegal immigrants because, didn't you know, they brought down the international banking system and are to blame for Greece's ailing economy.

So maiden Greece assessed her available suitors and, convinced she can do no better, is salvaging what she can. Taking the power mantle away from the guy who failed her most recently and giving it to the guy whom she has repeatedly rejected but who won't take the hint because he knows, he just knows her expectations are low and if he waits long enough, if he just waits long enough.

And he did. Wait long enough. And here we are in his arms. In fact, so eager were we to get rid of Karamanlis, that we rushed to the polls and gave the new guy a majority that means he doesn't need to consult with anyone, within or outside parliament, setting him up to be our new abusive and neglectful boyfriend, convinced that we can do no better.