In 2008, the worst financial crisis in the last 80 years struck the western world. But as
But the financial rescue came at a price. The unemployment rate reached a peak of 27,8% of the population. It means that there was no job for 3 out of 10 people, while for the younger generation the number almost doubled. More than 400.000 men and women emigrated. Besides, the government led by radical-left leader Alexis Tsipras cut public expenses heavily to heal the country’s accounts.
On the verge of a crucial electoral year for Greece, with the European and local elections taking place in May and the vote for the Parliament renewal coming in autumn, we tried to find out how the crisis affected the way Greeks look at politics, and their mood right before going to vote. We were in Volos, an industrial city in which most of the factories closed or moved abroad.
The Scars of the Crisis
It takes just a walk on the main roads to notice the scars of the crisis in the empty shops’ windows, that sadly await an owner. Not to mention the forest of flashing signs showing where you can exchange your jewelry for cash. A central square with a cafe looked like the perfect place to ask the locals, as it was surrounded both by the City Hall and the Syriza’s local offices. Old men refused to answer our questions, probably because they didn’t feel like to expose themselves to foreigners’ judgment. Others, though, shared their thoughts and beliefs.
We discovered that younger people just can’t see a bright future. They remember the drop in salaries, that made the wages half of what they were before 2008. That means having enough to cover your expenses and not much more. So people began to avoid unnecessary services. It resulted in tough moments for Maria, a young lawyer whose job started to be no longer required. On the other hand, most of the younger generations are struggling to find a job, jumping from one short contract to another. If you are so lucky to find one. That’s why many did like Iagos, looking for a job in another European country (such as Germany or the Netherlands) where they reward your work three times more than in Greece.
The new Democracy
The outcome of this situation is the way younger people
That’s why today’s polls look so different than the ones from 2014 elections. A lot of parties disappeared, while others changed name and members. If the conservatives of Nea Democratia (New Democracy) have jumped from 22 to 35%, the most impressive results have been gained by the far-right party Krysi Avgi (Golden Dawn). The last years have undermined their consent, and most of the public opinion hates their xenophobic views, but they still have
Those who paid the heaviest price in terms of votes were Syriza. As professor Nikolaos Tzifakis states, the ratification of
Is everyone the same?
Syriza’s offices in Volos are a good example of this situation. The main entrance, as well as the balcony, is covered in graffiti and red paint that someone threw at them. On the other hand, even the inside looks too quiet. It is empty and dusty, stuck in the past: its pieces of furniture are coming straight from the seventies. While Alexandra – the office’s secretary – makes us
Alexandra is pretty aware of the situation. “People are a little bit hostile to Syriza because they thought that Tsipras could make heaven on earth. Of course, everyone wants to go back the prosperity of the 80s and 90s. But actually, changes take time. Not everyone understands it.” That’s why so many people, in her opinion, turn to the xenophobic views of Golden Dawn. Not only the illiterate but also middle class and educated people.
In the Greek language, “crisis” has a double meaning. It could correspond both to a period of distress and to a moment in which things are judged. No matter their outcome, these elections will be crucial to show how much people appreciated the guidance of their leaders in such a terrible moment.
The article is the result of a group activity held during last EVS on-arrival training in Volos. I wish to thank Marco Castelli, Liedewey R. Branderhorst and Marie Chauffour for the interview and the pictures.
Thanks also to all the Greek people that made us understand their country and their situation after ten years of crisis better .