(Photo courtesy of Mehran Khalili)
Last Sunday Greek people, nearly 65% of all eligible voters went to polls to decide what they want to do with the old lady we call Greece. Squeezed between economical hardship, austerity measures, self-pity and fear they were arguably not in their best for the good part of last three years. Many lost their livelihood, homes even families to the economic crisis that turned very quickly into a humanitarian crisis. I have no intention of diving into the reasons of the crisis for which everybody has an idea and no group has a consensus. Whatever the reasons might be, the result is devastating in all but European standards. Today a young father with her son on his lap and a paper cup in his hand begging for extra change appeared during a news shot on TV for a few seconds. That is how Greeks live if they don’t have extended family support, extra savings or are wealthy by heritage.
Some argued the abstinence rate was high in the elections. Greek law necessitates that people vote in their home county. Most Greeks work in bigger cities far away from place of birth. Also many have migrated already to other European countries and some even as far as Australia. With all that is going on Greece right now a 65% show-up rate at polls is rather high. People wanted to vote. People wanted to have a say in their future.
Mainstream parties that people held responsible for the crisis and for the deterioration in their life standards lost their leading position in Greek policies after decades of ruling the country. The leftist union, Syriza increased their votes to become the second party after Nea Demokratia(ND) by getting 16,78% and 18.85% of the votes respectively. The president has already gave the mandate to form a government to Samaras, leader of ND who unsuccessfully returned it within hours on Monday. As I write these words the mandate is in the hands of Syriza leader Chipras who is ins search of a National Unity government which supposedly include his party’s ideological opponents. No viable coalition is able to reach the magical figure of 151 seats in the Parliament necessary for a vote of confidence. If Chipras is to fail, President Papoulias may or may not try PASOK, the third party with a mandate.
Greeks are political people. In modern history of Greece who you are determined by your affiliations. Having one of Europe’s better higher education systems Greek population, albeit few, is one of the highly trained people in Europe, a fact European Union hardly ever realized. Managing one of the most active tourism and shipping industries in the world Greek people work hard to provide a better future for their families. As anywhere else. Europeans should realize before starting to criticize Greek with nationalist slurs that these people were forced to immigrate from their motherland just because they worked very hard and were too rich for the Turkish taste! Nonetheless they are the first scapegoats of the fiscal failure of European Union, because of which other people will follow for sure. But yet, they voted.
They voted to say no to austerity. They wanted to have the control of their fate back in their hands. So they voted overwhelmingly for anti-austerity parties. They have decided. They have decided that if they would suffer, they will suffer in their own making, not by some yoke imposed by a bunch of technocrats sitting at a throne in some other corporate land. If Europe has any respect left for her own ideals it should respect that and follow Greek people’s orders. That is of course if the banks have not taken over the whole political system there.
Greek history is also one of migration. Extreme hardships in the 20th century forced them to migrate and migrate over again. Today almost as much Greeks live outside Greece. And today they are on the move again. Several look for jobs in Europe. But due to increasing xenophobia and economical hardships in Europe, many inquire about opportunities in Australia, Canada, even Turkey or elsewhere. “Mother Hellas” is becoming deserted again.
If the negotiations fail, Greece will get another chance at the polls next month. But the state coffers need a new influx of credits every other month to survive. The politicians have an important choice to make. Will they follow their people and stop trying to continue the lie by just fixing the leaks and reshuffle the cards and see where Greece can go by herself? Or will they keep their parts written by lier comrades and be a pawn to keep the bigger lie called European Union to keep floating?
That shall be seen.
But in the elections Greek people chose not to take part in that game.