Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Number That Still Gives Me Hope About Greece

It is hard to find good news about Greece these days. And yet there is one number that I keep looking at, and it’s a number that gives me hope about the country and its future: it’s the share of the electorate whose current vote intention is to abstain.

According to Public Issue, this number has averaged about 34% over the past year, and it has ranged from 27% to 38%. More than any other number, it captures the prevailing mood in Greece, and it reinforces the near two-thirds abstention rate in the second round of the local elections in November 2010. That number says that a big share of the public feels disenfranchised and thinks that it has no good political alternatives from which to pick. It’s a number that says people don’t have faith in any of the political parties, their promises, their agendas and their people (or, even, their promise of patronage). There is a huge void developing in the center of the Greek political system waiting to be filled.

Of course, as I have written in the past, this void can be filled in a destructive way. But what is encouraging is that even in the midst of an ever worsening crisis and heated rhetoric, the demand for something different, for something fresh, for real solutions – the demand for those things hasn’t gone down. This number says there is a still silent plurality that is up for grabs. The supply of good politicians has not increased – but neither has our demand for them decreased. And that is an incredibly hopeful sign in the midst of such difficulty and tragedy.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Nikos,

    but why is it good that there is a huge demand for better politics, but no offer? There are elections soon, and people will have to vote an established party or not vote at all, don't they? How does that improve the situation?

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    1. Strong demand and no supply certainly beats no demand and no supply, right? What I am getting at is that one of big bets in this crisis whether the Greek people are willing to and want change. The level of protest and some of the silly things said and written are enough to make one wonder. The reason that this number encourages me is that it tells me, yes, there is demand for change - just no supply. In that case, all you need is a political force that can tap into that potential to create a possibly virtuous cycle of reform and growth. One of my beefs with G. Papandreou for example was that while he recognized that his policies risked destroying PASOK (which they might as well do), he failed to understand, articulate and mobilize the latent potential for change. That latent potential is still around - which means that if and when it finds political representation, its impact can be much more dramatic versus a case where no demand for such politics existed.

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  2. As a foreigner living in Greece, I don't have a vote, but even if I did I don't see anyone worthy of it. My wife, who is Greek, intends to abstain.

    The worry going forward is that the political class has been so utterly discredited and is so widely despised that surely no one with the slightest pure motive would dream of entering it.

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    1. Chris, that's indeed a big concern and perhaps the reason we end up with the people we do. But I am also seeing this crisis awaken something in people, decent people and well intentioned people. Perhaps that desire for change will be manifest itself through civil society rather than mainstream politics. There is desire, it's just missing a decent outlet for expression.

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  3. As all global markets watch with horror an out-of-depth Merkel engage in nonsense inspired PSIs (thus destroying trust within the financial system itself) global markets have an acute sense of a slow moving train wreck.

    And to make things worse, not only we are dealing with an amateurish Germany but also with a chancellor that is at odds with every player of any consequence. Punctuated differences with the ECB, inability to adequately capitalize the ESM and open discourse with the IMF. And to top it all off an on-going saga of German incrementalism, minimalism and obstructionism.

    Just looking at the evidence, the verdict is inescapable. Merkel and Germany are big time destroyers of trust the world over.

    Dean Plassaras.

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    1. six six six, antichrist! antichrist!

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    2. How did you know those were Merkel's numbers?

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    3. How could I not? You keep telling me so..

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    4. Bravo gataki! Kalo gataki!

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    5. Thank you! It's always an honor to be acknowledged by someone like you, with credentials like yours :)

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    6. Nai glyko mou gataki.

      Just remember:

      PSI might as well stand for Possibly Stupidest Idea ever by Frau Dracula.

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    7. Not just might..it definitely does! Given the passionate and persistent way that you support your ideas with solid arguments, nomatter the irrelevance to the topics, you leave me no space to believe otherwise..

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    8. I have no other choice because no one else wants to step to the plate. I would be gratefully relieved if I could.

      BTW, a minor point: It's reason not passion that ought to impress you.

      and a major point: today both Moody's and ISDA declared a Greek default. So, as far as the watch on this blog it's over. We are now knee deep in it.

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    9. Oh, there's always another choice.. Reason I have not yet seen from your behalf. If you think this blog should exist no more, why do you keep visiting it? And if you think there should be a blog called "greekdefaultkneedeepinit" instead, why don't you make one yourself? Wouldn't that be gratefully relieving for you?
      BTW, a "minor" point: what do all these (PSI, Moody's and ISDA and the CACs) have to do with Niko's post?
      Come on, you can do better than that..

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    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    11. It's even simpler.

      1. This or any other blog not belonging to you is not your back yard. You do not self - regulate. You are regulated by the author. You are able to comment and discuss only because the author allows you to..
      2. This or any other blog can be an instrument of any kind of propaganda whether you like it or not. That comes with the very nature of blogs. This doesn't mean that the particular blog is an instrument of German propaganda just because you say so. Each reader can have his own opinion on that. You'll have to learn to live with that.
      3. Insulting the author or the readers that comment on the posts of any blog just because you disagree with what they say doesn't make you better than what you claim they are. It probably makes you look even worse.
      4. If you think you are an expert on a particular field, try showing that by sharing your knowledge with arguments. If you don't want to share with people you consider unqualified then just don't. At all.
      5. Try to stay on topic.

      Capito?
      Good luck with that.

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    12. o.k. gataki, whatever makes you feel better.

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  4. Dear Nikos,
    Let us hope that your cautious optimism is justified. If so many people plan to abstain, it is an indication what they do no longer want; we don't know (yet) what they want instead.Besides, abstaining means to forgo the possibility to chose the lesser evil, and it could help radical parties on both sides of the spectrum; their voters will normally not abstain.

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