Greece’s grey election campaign turns voters to comedy

October 1, 2009

Greek elections have traditionally been raucous, ebullient affairs, a true celebration of democracy in the country that gave birth to the concept. This year, the mood is noticeably more sombre ahead of Sunday’s vote. Colourful elections kiosks at main squares stand nearly empty, attracting few voters. The chat at cafes and on the Internet usually centres on voters’ disappointment with politics as a whole for failing to fight corruption and put the economy on a steady growth path.

“Our expectations were dashed,” said financial analyst George Kaisarios on the NewsTime blog. “The three pylons of our development strategy in the last decade, euro zone entry, Olympic Games and credit expansion, have been wasted. And unfortunately for all of us, there is nothing on the horizon to replace them.”

One mood damper for Greek voters is that Oct 4 election is another big battle between the political dynasties trapped in an endlessly revolving door of political rule, with few fresh faces to excite the crowds.

The heirs to Greece’s two most prominent political families are facing off for the third time. Socialist opposition leader George Papandreou seems set to wrestle power back from conservative New Democracy Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis after 5 years, according to the last published opinion polls.

A government ban on publishing polls for the two weeks leading to the ballot, to protect Greek voters from being manipulated, has angered polling agencies and the press. With no fresh numbers out, Greeks find less amusement in what was once a favourite Greek pastime – political debate at the dinner table.

Gone also are the “paper wars”, when rival party youths raced to cover each other’s campaign posters at night. The only face looking down from huge election campaign posters in Greece these days is that of Karamanlis. Papandreou has opted for the
environmentally-friendly option of fighting his campaign through electronic media ads.

The one constant has been the traditional Greek mix between comedy and politics. Greece’s favourite TV satirist, Lakis Lazopoulos, opened his first TV show of the season by mocking both Karamanlis — for reacting slowly — and Papandreou — for his linguistic faux pas. The show’s rating hit 60 percent.

The satire has also moved into the blogosphere. A pro-New Democracy blog missed no opportunity to poke fun at Papandreou’s efforts to appear Obama-like.

And togreki blog showed Karamanlis and his ministers dealing with the economy by “breaking the bank”.

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