No, I'm not talking about the fiercely competitive midterm elections in America which are coming up in just a few short weeks, I am talking about the humdrum local government elections which are happening in Greece over the weekend.
I am actually glad the elections are almost here, because after it is over, the cities can go back to their normal, less than efficient operations. Things change in Greek municipalities right before election time - projects get started, beautification occurs, everything is coming up roses. Too bad it is all a facade - and Greeks know better.
I'll also be glad to be rid of all the creepy candidate signs all over the place, smug, smiling, benevolent politicians staring back at me on every street corner. The current Thessaloniki mayor is running for re-election and I find his signs particularly troubling. He looks kinda like Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) from Law and Order (may he rest in peace). I have the same problems with picture posters from U.S. elections - that fake, supercilious smile isn't what is going to get me to vote for you, so please, spare us.
There are a few differences in the way campaigns are run here than in the U.S. For one thing, voting is compulsory. Can you imagine if that were the case in the U.S.? I can hear the wingnuts bitching already. Campaign commercials are also not candidate-centric, they are party centric, and while they may lash out at the mistakes the opposition has made, they aren't nearly as harsh as campaign commercials can get in the U.S. Greeks have yet to learn the value of real snark.
Another difference is the plethora of political parties with candidates in the pool. You have your conservative party, your leftist party, your socialist party, your communist party, and a host of others. Sure, the balance of power seems to shift between the conservative and leftist parties, but other parties get elected into parliament, and have at least some voice, even if it is a squeak.
All in all, I'm glad I'm not yet responsible for voting here. Greek politics contain myriad problems, quagmires, and no one actually seems to know how to run a government. All this and voting is compulsory. Yeowch.
I'm not here just to rag on the Greek government. I think things are holding out ok considering it was a mere 30 years ago that there was a coup here. I have hope that things will get better, although holding on to that hope is difficult. But the people of Greece deserve a strong, functioning, healthy country. The politicians should work harder to make sure that happens. Creepy smiles and public works just aren't going to cut it.