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No one could predict Greece’s political life developments

12 November 2010 / 17:11:39  GRReporter
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Voters rejected the current political system as ineffective and loosing, only changing it would return people's interest in politics, said the manager Constantinos Panagopoulos of one of the largest Greek poll agencies Alco. He expects still less Greeks to exercise their right to vote on Sunday, the outcome of the battle for Athens, Piraeus and the Peloponnese is still unclear. Interview by Anastasia Balezdrova.

Mr. Panagopoulos, almost a week now political parties can not understand on the political message that voters sent them last Sunday. What is it in your opinion?

I would like to say that the last Sunday vote sent three main messages. First, it confirmed the voters’ neglect to today's party system through its very low activity and the impressively high percentage of white and invalid ballots. Secondly, voters expressed their dissatisfaction with government policy, especially the economic one. This was expressed very clearly by the low percentage the ruling party’s candidates gained in the 13 areas. Third, the dynamics of the votes speaks of different politics. It was clear from the high percentages the left parties gained, especially the communist party. If I could assess the outcome of the first round of the local elections in general I'd say it was a wise result. Voters have expressed their dissatisfaction with government policy very clearly, much more clearly than this has happened during other local elections, without causing any major changes that could disrupt stability.  

Who won and who lost the first election round?

As we are talking about local elections I will respond relatively and considering only the outcome of the electoral battles in the 13 areas. I would say with no doubt that the Communist Party of Greece should be pleased with the outcome. It gained high percentage rate not only at candidate level but also as total number of votes.

The big loser of the first electoral round is the entire party system in Greece, as we know it in recent years. And that is because many voters expressed they consider it ineffective and corrupt and therefore decided not to give it a chance to continue in the same way and chose either not to vote, or to put white or spoiled ballot in the urn. Only ballots of 55% of the voters were valid.  

PASOK lost 1.1 million votes compared to last year's parliamentary elections. Some of its members decided to run as independent candidates and the electoral outcome shows people dissatisfaction. But the party should be satisfied with the fact that the political scene was not changed. New Democracy also lost 550,000 votes compared to the general election, but it should be content because some of its key positions were well accepted by voters. Also, its difference with PASOK, though it is relative in local elections, is much reduced. Coalition of the Radical Left should be pleased by the fact that it kept its rate given the conditions under which local elections are held. I think all parties have reason to think and be satisfied with election results. I could only note that the local administration to a large extent became a victim of the negative image of the party system in our country. Much of the voters have taken it alike and decided either not vote or to vote with invalid ballot. I believe we will face this trend increasingly in subsequent years unless some change occurs. Let me say also that parties’ concerns should be focused on this, not on the search of winners and losers in the election race.

What could the good election result of the candidates of the Communist Party mean?

Let me first say that the candidates of the Communist Party traditionally focus a high percentage of the local election votes. The vote in the 13 districts is political, of course. Obviously, many more voters supported the different position of the Communist Party this time. It would be wrong, however, to consider any such votes guaranteed in any other election race.

What will be the voting criteria of the people in the second electoral round? Will their vote be political again?

I have no easy answer to this question. I would say that there are two approaches that are clearly expressed by both major parties. New Democracy stands firmly behind its message to vote against the Memorandum of economic support, while PASOK has seen the election in their nature. This is the right strategic approach for both parties. They choose the stadium which will be more comfortable to play.

I think that even fewer voters than in the first electoral round will go to the polls on Sunday. I also think that people's choices will be based on mixed criteria. But I can not decide which one will prevail. We will know on the election night.

Tensions between the two candidates for the Athens mayor's chair rose sharply in recent days. How do you think the electoral battle will run there?  

You know that the law prohibits us, sociologists, to say anything. The first round results showed that despite the lead of the candidate of the opposition party Nikitas Kaklamanis, the nature of the problems of Athens does not allow anyone to be calm concerning the final result.

What is your assessment of the battle for Attica? For the candidate of which party would the voters, who preferred the independent candidate Yannis Dimaras in the first round, vote?  

Again, I will answer based on the last Sunday results. 50 of every 100 voters who voted for Yannis Dimaras  are voters of PASOK, 25 are of New Democracy and the remaining 25 belong to all other parties. We are talking about 16 percent of the votes. I think what will determine largely the end result is how many of these voters will go to vote on Sunday.

How do you think things will develop in the Peloponnese region?

The first round differences of the candidates in the Peloponnese region and in the region of Eastern Macedonia - Thrace were insignificant. Therefore, no assessment could be made. As I already mentioned, the important thing for the second round is the participation in the elections. Whether those who voted in the first round will vote in the second round again, and whether those who didn’t vote last Sunday will do it this Sunday. This could significantly change the election result.

In recent days, the independent candidate for mayor of Piraeus and former member of New Democracy Petros Mandouvalos supported the party chosen candidacy of Vassilis Mihalolyakos although their relations were very bad until recently. How could this affect the election results there?

Undoubtedly, this choice of Petros Manduvalos will play an important role. Not because the electorate is so much influenced by the choice of the leaders of electoral lists. I think this phenomenon has long disappeared. But in this case, the majority of Pireas citizens who voted for Petros Manduvalos in the first round are politically affiliated with New Democracy, whose candidate is Vassilis Mihalolyakos. Therefore, the position of the leader supports the movement of voters in this direction.   

But I want to emphasize again that the time has passed when the position of the electoral list leader was likely to shift the electorate to another candidate. Such statements play their role but they can not predetermine the outcome.

How do you see the next day after the election?
 
Elections are important because regional governors to be elected will have to put into practice a new institution in a difficult moment for the country. This is important in itself because the local government program Kalikratis, within which were formed new areas and regional governors are elected directly by the people, is indeed a reform. Regional governors will play an important role in resource allocation and regional development, so it matters who will be elected and how they will handle tasks in their respective fields.

But the overall picture remains the most important issue. Greece is experiencing a very difficult period. We all feel it every day. The period is full of uncertainty, unstableness and little stability. Therefore, it is very important to find a way that could bring us a little more optimism or at least less pessimism and more hope that we will overcome today's difficult situation and that we will not be faced with what frightens us all. There is the big bet. It concerns the residents of the country as well as the participants in the political life. It concerns, however, the government we chose to solve the problems of the country the most.

I do not take anything for certain and do not rule anything out. I do not think anyone could foresee the developments in the political life in general, not only for the coming months, but years. Consequently, whatever is the development and our choice, we should try to do it calmly and wisely, not to cross the line. Because its loss would be the biggest mistake in an era of huge problems anyway.

Tags: Constantinos PanagopoulosAlcoLocal electionsPollsPolitics
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