“All I want is that they sod off! I feel betrayed as a Greek!” a friend Alex told me the other day about when we chat about the upcoming elections on Sunday. “For the first time in my life I will vote of new Democracy,” say my friend who always voted for PASOK and for the reformists of Costas Simitis. Now they went over to right-wing ND and so did my friend. “All they said, all Tsipras said was a lie!” he adds in a tune full of anger and disappointment. How can he feels betrayed if he never voted for SYRIZA anyway, I want to ask him, however, I’m too shocked.
I’m too shocked to hear him repeat the ND key words leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been reiterating since he was elected party leader in February 2016: Tsipras is a liar, the government is incapable, they must go.
I want to ask my friend a thousand questions but the situation is not fur a heavy dispute and confrontation with a close friend. We sit on a bench in the yard of a big hospital in Athens on a hot Wednesday night. Who would want to argue with a friend in such an environment? Not me.
Funny it was though that earlier on the same day, I heard exactly the same argumentation on an elevator. “He is all lies, Tsipras must go!” a middle age man was ‘preaching’ two younger guys who did not dare to say a tone other an embarrassing smile. “He bloodshed Greece!” he stressed and honestly I did not what the anonymous Mr ND campaigner had in mind. The man was speaking with a loud voice, his lungs blown with the self-righteousness and false arrogance as hat he did was just to re-chew the chewing gum Mitsotakis had spitted out. Nothing knew in his argumentation, not a single thought of his own. He spoke non-stop up to the sixth floor and he even held the elevator door open to conclude the election campaign of ND. Did he win two new voters? No idea.
And then on Friday morning, I heard another friend using the same slogans. “All Tsipras did was lying,” another friend said. However, surprisingly, she is undecided about whom to vote for on Sunday. Tsipras certainly not. A former PASOK voter, she voted for SYRIZA in January 2015, but not in September of the same year, after he had signed for the 3. bailout agreement. She had every right on her side to be disappointed. But she hasn’t decided yet. She is considering to go to more left and vote some small leftist party that has no chance to enter the Parliament. A protest voter.
What is striking in my view, though, is that all the three used – and adopted – the ND slogan: “Tsipras is a Liar.” Is he? Did he promise A and did B? Yes, he did. But which Greek politician did not do so in the last 10 years? PASOK’s Giorgos Papandreou had promised “there is money!” in September 2009, to find out the country was bankrupt a month later. Antonis Samaras from ND was heralding to “tear the bailout agreements apart” in May 2012 but when he became PM he and the mainstream media, they all forgot about that promise.
But Greeks voters have probably gold fish memory or they just love to switch from the false promises of one false prophet to the next one. I don’t know, they maybe love just their own pocket, they are greedy and will cast their vote to whom is promising to give them more.
When Tsipras gave them a “13th pension” short before the European elections in May 2019, ND attacked the Prime Minister as “liar” because not all of pensioners got a full pension. It was low-pensioners who received the extra bonus of 100%, and those above 700 euros just a percentage. So the PM lied to them and they should vote for ND for opening their eyes, yet revealing “another lie of Tsipras.”
Throughout the European and now general election campaign, the ND communications strategy was simple, summarized in two phrases, two key words, fraught with meaning: “Tsipras is a liar,” and “the government incapable.”
Nothing more and nothing less. Simple.
A copy-paste of Trump’s simplified election campaign for everyone to understand. Simple.
“It’s the opinion that counts, not the facts,” a taxi driver taught me the other day, when he immediately started to preach about New Democracy right after we exchanged “good morning” greetings and I told him the destination. What is odd about the sympathetic but very opportunistic professional class of Athens taxi drivers is that they were in favor of SYRIZA before the European elections. Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis had met their demands for restrictions for Uber and Taxi Beat. The moment the taxi drivers and their leader Thymios Lymberopoulos, a former, current and future ND supporter, got wind that the main opposition party will win the elections, the order to cab drivers has been clear: promote ND, use the mantra.
It’s the opinion that counts not the facts. We are Southerners and we vote with our soul, our pocket and our belly, not our mind and rational thinking. We have not time for this, especially during hot July days. All we want now is swimming in the sea, frappe in the hand, ouzo, beer and mezedes at the balcony in the evening. Elections? Argh!
And if all public opinion polls feature New Democracy and Mitsotakis as the winners of next Sunday, then, “Yes, we are for them. Hurray!”. The winner takes it all. Or it’s just the Greek way to say “To hell with politicians, especially in the summer time!” It’s the belly and the opinion that counts, not the facts!
Tsipras has been trying with facts to deconstruct the ND elections campaign strategy in the last few weeks. In vain. He is “a liar’ and opportunist people do not pay attention to a liar and populist. The want to try the next one liar,, a Harvard-graduate from a powerful and state-funded family that breeds only politicians, a Greek-Liberal who will support the middle-class – annual income 30K-70K euros, according to ND-, a pro-business and pro-privatization of the health sector, who will lower taxes, proceed with reforms, talk with lenders about lower primary surpluses and the “Macedonia agreement with Skopje.” National-populism sounds always pleasant in the ears of the conservative Greeks.
Mitsotakis avoided the face-to-face debate with Tsipras and/or with other political leaders. So, we never had the chance to know exactly what is about his governance program. He made some revelations on the last day of the elections campaign, that is today, Friday. Too late.
Fact is that Mitsotakis wants the absolute majority to do whatever he wants without control. For four years. And Greeks’ opinion is that he should get it. The Greek soul tells the voters they should try something new, a single-party government without suspicious coalitions. But can you expect new things to come from old material?
Fact is also that SYRIZA has been making the same strategic mistake and being using facts instead of opinion. In this sense, Mitsotakis is maybe right, they are “incapable” because all about elections campaign is a simple strategy that even the dummies can understand: “Opinion” not “Facts.”, “Populism” over “Reasoning.”
Like in the good Greek coffee houses where pensioners still sit in the morning and exchange opinions about politics, football and prescription medicines.
One time people vote leftist or socialists, next time right-wing. This has been going on for decades. Why should be different this time? In times of crisis, in times of hot summer days, voters vote with their bellies, not with rational thinking.
PS New Democracy has 90% of mainstream media newspapers and TV channels on its side.