We are very close to the municipal elections (May 2019), the European parliamentary elections (also May 2019) and the Greek parliamentary elections (October 2019). Greek citizens will be able to evaluate past politician performances and decide on the best candidates. In law-abiding countries, integrity, political ethics and a merit-based approach in the elections have long been established, and the election process is quick and simple. For those politicians who are presently in power and want to rerun in the next elections, the evaluation criteria should be based mainly on the work they produced during their term. For the new candidates, the evaluation criteria should include the candidate’s objectivity, transparency and sound judgement , his/her engagement in society at the local, national or European level, as well as his/her knowledge and skills in the management of complex projects.
Unfortunately, in our country, the evaluation criteria is often obscured by misleading and disorienting false information, such as the exaggeration of the work produced and the skillful concealment of everything negative or inappropriate that was done during the term of politicians who wish to be reelected. Even worse, during the pre-election period, the electorate is being inundated by pre-election promises – or “fireworks” – false information lacking substance and credibility. This is usually done by the politicians in power. We are also inundated by inflated curricula vitae of the new aspiring candidates, which exaggerate their engagement in society as well as the administrative and leadership skills they have acquired through their professional or academic careers. The electorate should learn not to be so easily influenced, but to see through all this false information and evaluate the real qualifications of these candidates in an objective manner, whether they are already in political positions of power or whether they aspire to be. An informed electorate, which will base their voting decision on critical thinking, can help shape the new political scene and elect politicians who will strive for the common good and positive social results.
To better illustrate the ideas presented above, we will refer to a 1989 characteristic pre-election promise – “firework” – which misled and caused a lot of chagrin to thousands of Greek citizens. In 1982 a new law in support of small businesses was passed, which promised to provide financial support (60% of the total estimated cost) to all new approved projects. This became a very strong incentive for many small businessmen, who rushed to submit all necessary documents and apply for subsidy at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. However, these businessmen did not know something very important: the annual subsibies would be extremely limited. For years, many such proposals for small investment projects were submitted, but all the businessmen ever received was an official document approving the project, but no actual subsidy! This “firework” was exposed after the elections, when 4/5 of the proposed projects did not get any subsidy , while the remaining 1/5 of the projects were financed with a much smaller amount that the one that had been promised! We believe that many of the present new pre-election approvals of big projects that we often hear about are also of the “firework” type: for the most part there are no real subsidies, but even if there is financing, there is not enough time left between now and the elections to even prepare the feasibility studies and tender out the contracts!
Of course, political maturity is not something that is being inherited; it is a complex process that is acquired through education and life experience. It should be added that political maturity can be learned mainly through the long-standing and smooth-functioning social institutions. When these institutions are characterised by integrity, they create the right political climate that educates the citizens. In our country, the prolonged economic crisis has proven the defective functioning of the fundamental social institutions, a fact that leads us to self-reflection about our own role in the crisis and also to a common conscientious undertaking in order to avoid new lending and making the same errors of the past. Unfortunately, the information overload, a result of the media omnipresence, is not an asset, particularly during pre-election periods. The information overload forces the average citizen to filter through all this data, and to use critical thinking, so that he/she can distinguish between the essence and the “firework” pre-election promises. The election of the right politicians during the municipal and parliamentary (both Greek and European) elections is the single most important factor for overcoming the economic crisis. Emerging from the present financial crisis does not happen through slogans and political statements, but through an honest, effective, collaborative and cohesive management of our public affairs by the politicians and the political parties that we ourselves will elect.