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Letter from Athens: Knives Out: Greece’s Stalking Horse 2023 Campaign Race Begins

December 23, 2022

Aaaaaaannnnnnndddd…….. they’re off!

The 2023 Greek derby is underway although it’s still 2022 because this track could take six months or more to run and everyone’s trying to catch front-runner, Blue Blood, ridden by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as they jockey for position.

Blue Blood is having trouble making left turns but has a four-year lead as Slow Boat, ridden by Looney Left SYRIZA leader Alexis “Fidel” Tsipras, is trying to close but keeps putting both its feet in its mouth at the same time and throwing shoes.

Galloping up unexpectedly in third is Spywalker, ridden confidently by newcomer PASOK Anti-Socialist leader Nikos “Predator” Androulakis, but it keeps trying to stay in the center-left of the track.

Fourth in its usual position which hasn’t changed for decades is Proletariat, the KKE Communist Dead Horse that everyone keeps beating, ridden by Bolshevik.
Right behind is Rogaine, ridden by Hellenic No Solution leader Kyriakos “Snake Oil” Velopoulos, who has no chance but hopes the race will end without a winner, that a second race will be needed, and that Mitsotakis will need him to form a government. But wait! He’s trying to run over refugees on the track.

Bringing up the rear, with the worst view, is Egomaniac, ridden by MeRa25 leader Yanis “Die Easy” Veryfaroutakis who’s on a bigger nag than he is, which keeps talking back, thinking it’s Mr. Ed.

And that, horse racing and Greek election fans, is the field you have, and it’s 6, 2, and even that they’ll all finish last and claim they’re first, except for Egomaniac because the jockey keeps slowing to look at himself in the mirror and Proletariat keeps taking U-turns trying to get back to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Alas, if the 2023 elections weren’t so serious they would be funny, and the former ruling SYRIZA threw a monkey wrench into the works – deliberately – during the waning days of its lying four and a half year reign that ended in a crushing defeat to New Democracy in July 2019 snap elections.

That was removing a 50-seat bonus in the 300-member Parliament for whomever comes first in the elections which allowed New Democracy four years ago, with 39.85 percent of the vote to get 158 seats and an outright majority.

SYRIZA slipped to 31.53 percent and 86 irrelevant seats, leaving Tsipras to do nothing but sit and smirk and grouse.

The change created a simple proportional representation system – a democracy – but Greek parties want the bonus and they pick who’s going to be on the ballot, leaving voters little real choice.

But it means, given surveys, that neither New Democracy nor SYRIZA will win outright and that there will be the need for a second election with a lower bar that could see the Conservatives return without a coalition partner.

Or not. The wild scenarios being thrown around even include bringing in the jingoistic hair growth salesman, Velopoulos, who is even more anti-immigrant than the center-right.

Or SYRIZA working with MeRA25 leader Yanis Varoufakis – who was Tsipras’ finance minister until rebelling against austerity measures that Tsipras was imposing after saying he wouldn’t. This would be the Toddlers in the Room group.

PASOK wants a say, too, and Androulakis could be a kingmaker in a coalition – unless he works with Tsipras after saying he wouldn’t, but double talk is just that, and any of these parties would bring in Golden Dawn, if needed.

The issues are critical to the nation: Turkey’s provocations, state surveillance of citizens whose names haven’t been revealed, inflation and supermarket prices where chicken seems as expensive as gold.

There’s a lot at stake this time but the political infighting and selfishness has seen a brume rise over the Parliament just when clear skies and clear thinking are needed because Turkey has missiles that can hit Athens in 7.6 minutes.

Which way will it go? Polls show voters don’t care about spyware tracking journalists or even government ministers, nor the phones of 15,745 people being bugged for “national security.” There’s 15,745 terrorists in Greece?

“I do not think that the spyware case will actually have an important influence on the way the Greek people will vote in the elections. There are other issues that play a much more important role, the most important being the economy,” Antonis Klapsis, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of the Peloponnese, said.

“New Democracy will win the elections. All the polls indicate this,” he told The National Herald of surveys showing the Conservatives with a lead of 6.9 percent – down from 14, so there could be trouble.

But, Klapsis said that “I don’t believe that Mitsotakis will seek the cooperation with the Hellenic Solution. I am convinced that second elections will take place and that in these elections New Democracy might be able to secure absolute majority.”

He said voters, after a first election, will remember Tsipras breaking virtually all his promises and a 40-point platform and overlooking Mitsotakis’ flaws because the economy is coming back during the waning COVID-19 pandemic.

The election then could hinge on the 8.1 percent of those in a recent survey who remain undecided, the real target that should be wooed because their own are convinced and the center cannot hold.

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