Discovering Greece/Briefing the international media

Posted by Antonis D. Papagiannidis 01/07/2019 0 Comment(s) Economia Blog,

This time around, the interest of international media over things Greek – to be more precise: over Greek politics and the consequent perspectives for the Greek economy, the situation of Greece in the EU and so on – has surfaced almost at the last moment. That is, some days before the July 7 national elections.


A steady stream of (mainly European, meaning German, but also AngloAmerican) pundits has been sharpening their pencils and refreshing their Greek contacts from afar; reporters form Central-Northern Europe with their notepads, also some stringers of American media based in neighbouring capitals are coming over. You see, less and less foreign media possess a base in Athens: such correspondents as remain have now to find their footing, after the less-than-expected win of Nea Dimokratia/Mitsotakis at the European elections. Also, there is no promise of striking images coming out of Greece, no human-interest footage as was the case in 2011-2012 with riots and fire in the streets; or again in mid-2015 when a banking holiday succeeded by capital controls gave reporters good opportunities to interview baffled citizens facing ATMs; or when – in a more somber tone – the refugee/migrant wave washed over the Aegean island or crashed on the (European-erected) barbed-wire fences of the Balkan route.


Three areas of interest appear when foreign journalists try to get a fast-track understanding of the current Greek situation – that is, further to assessing the credibility of polls as to the voting pattern at the Greek urns of July 7. The first has to do with the electoral system, a system that combines proportional representation with a bonus system that makes local situations remind one of a first-past-the-post situation. Not an easy task, to explain that the day-after political situation will depend more on how  much of the vote will get no representation in Parliament (because of the 3% barrier in force) than on the difference between the first and second party.


The second point difficult to digest is the range of threats that if no clear majority  is achieved, then repeat elections are to be held in the middle of a (potentially heat-wave) Greek August; to be held, that is, under a totally different proportional representation system that is decried as leading to a non-governable situation.


The third area of interest has to do with the personal story of Kyriakos Mitsotakis (along with the clan background of the Mitsotakis family), as well as of the peculiar Greek habit of picking leaders from family lines. If faced with an American journalist, one can always refer to the Kennedys, the Bushes or the Clintons experience – not to mention the Trump way of running things – but to explain the Mitsotakis, Papandreou and Karamanlis sagas (plus the Samaras/Penelope Delta experience) to a German or Nordic colleague is no easy business.


Much less interest over the fraught Greek-Turkish relations, or the North Macedonia story; even less over the post-Programme equilibrium of the Greek economy and/or the yields of Greek paper that have been crumbling day after day, giving mouth-watering returns to those investors that have been brave enough to get on the bandwagon.


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