Monday, January 05, 2015
The divisive electoral conflict of the 25th of January will resemble that one from June 2012
Amidst the holidays, adverse weather conditions, nautical tragedies, generalized pressure from our creditors and partners as well an intense polarization, the country is quickly headed towards one of the most critical electoral battles of the past decadences.
The Samaras-Tsipras binary has been long set, but the announcement of the date of the elections made it perfect clear that it will dominate and inform the short electoral campaign period.
The claws are out, tension is rising, the reports to hidden agendas and programs prevailed, just like the accusations for unilateral moves from one side and agreed measures included in the Hardouvelis email on the other. Based on the public televised clashes of New Democracy and SYRIZA officers there does not seem to be any limit.
Anyone investigating the public opinion intentions will surely have no doubt any more that these elections will be a race for two, they will resemble those from June 2012 rather than the ones that took place in May of the same year, when the government parties were fragmented and depreciated.
Without underestimating the other parties, new and old movements such as that of Mr. Papandreou, they predict that the intensity of the period and the critical nature of the choice will strengthen the two major parties, thus creating the circumstances for a new two-party system.
Similarities and differences
The truth of course is that the circumstances are not exactly the same as those in 2012.
Since then time has gone by, scores of measures have been taken, the economy and society adapted over time, tourism gradually built some base of hope, but the problem was not solved, the crisis remained active and threatening, the country’s commitments and obligations remained largely uncovered, suspicion from abroad was maintained; at some it increased and brought on these elections, where the people’s sacrifices are at risk of going to waste.
The bailout vs. anti-bailout clash was mitigated to an extent, however the anger for income loses, lost jobs and taxes that burdened everyone increased.
On the other hand, the threat of exiting the euro never ceased to exist, but rather remained active in the consciousness of conservative voters. The events in Cyprus where the bank accounts suffered a haircut demonstrated that the everyday life can change at the drop of a hat, if there the necessary provisions and cares are not taken.
The generation gap
Meanwhile though, one can observe that certain characteristics of the June 2012 elections are kept intact. The difference between the age groups is not that great. The middle aged voters are more than reserved, gravitating towards Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos, not wanting to risk losing their chopped up pensions, preferring security over a total inability to pay pensions. The fear that everything may be lost forever, despite being ridiculed and downplayed by certain sides, is not insignificant.
On the other hand, the younger generations that either have no job or are being underpaid have no qualms or reservations about Mr Tsipras.
A significant section of the youth does not care about the “constants” of the elder generations, they are prepared to accept everything, they will even debate leaving the euro, you hear them claim that they have their whole lives ahead of them, that they have time to make them as they want, that they cannot be bound by slave agreements and total dependencies. Mr Tsipras has a clear advantage amongst the youth, he is young himself and generate sympathy – or rather better, it is easier for him to earn their trust. In the 2012 elections SYRIZA’s advantage was clearly amongst the younger generations and it seems that this will also be the case in the upcoming elections on the 25th of January.
Similar distinctions are also taking place in different geographic zones. Urban centres are more tolerant towards Mr Tsipras’ beliefs, while rural areas appear to prefer Mr Samaras. As evident by the last regional elections, New Democracy has an advantage outside the major urban centres. The proliferation of a conservative choice in Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace is a given and if Mr Samara can increase his strength just a bit in Attica he may even be able to set the course of events. Voters in tourist areas, particularly the islands that saw a boom last season, are likely to be affected by those expectations.
The other parties
Beyond all that various political factors will emerge to determine the vote.
The recent developments a PASOK, its schism and the creation of new party by Giorgos Papandreou is not an insignificant matter.
Mr Venizelos will obviously be pressured, but it is likelier that SYRIZA will be under greater pressure, as most of the traditional Papandreou supporters have already migrated there. The River may also lose many disappointed voters who may feel that the difficult times are not suitable for spineless parties.
On the other hand, we cannot ignore the possibility of the Papandreou move pushing PASOK’s conservative voters towards Antonis Samaras. Just like it is not impossible for the near self-destruction of DIMAR – after being pillaged by SYRIZA in the presidential election and abandoned – to cause progressive voters to return to PASOK.
Similarly the potential marginalization of ANEL, after the Haikalis case, cannot be ignored, just like Golden Dawn’s impairment, which will find it difficult to run an election campaign when its leadership is in prison.
In any case though, the abilities of the smaller parties are limited as they seem unable to affect the character and nature of the elections.
It is highly likely that the battle will be polarizing, with strong dilemmas from both sides and endless propaganda.
There is no doubt that in this election campaign heads will roll, mud will be slug, Internet trolling will dominate, unfair methods will prevail and the truth that everyone invokes will in all certainty be butchered.
Thankfully there is only a few weeks left until the elections and there is not enough time for all of the goblins in January to emerge from the darkness…