Greek opinion polls show SYRIZA win: yet people prefer Samaras as Prime Minister!

 

Opinion polls in Greece depict, most accurately, the citizens ‘confusion and despair much more than anything else!

Let me share with you the latest one I found on TVXS (a site run by journalist Stelios Kouloglou, who was one of SYRIZA’s candidates for the European Parliament elections). It was conducted nationwide  by RASS from 29 to 31 October on behalf of iefimerida.gr.

opinionpollsnov2014

As you can see at the graph above, 26.4% of the electorate have chosen SYRIZA, New Democracy has scored 21.1% while the River, the newest addition to the Greek political scene led by Stavros Theodorakis, another journalist, comes third with 5.8%. The Communist Party of Greece reaches 5. 4% ,just 0.3% more than the extreme right wing Golden Dawn. The social democratic PASOK and the right wing Independent Greeks barely make it into Parliament while Democratic Left of Mr. Fotis Kouvelis stays out with 1%!.

On the other hand, the electorate appears divided on the question of early elections. 47.3 consider early elections a catastrophe for the economy while 46.1% hold the opposite view. Mr. Samaras is considered a better bet for Prime Minister by 35.2% while Alexis Tsipras follows with 27.9% thus choosing the leader of New Democracy ahead of the leader of SYRIZA, the party they are going to vote for!

One explanation for this division of public opinion is the role played by the mainstream mass media. According to most of them Greek economy is recovering and a change of government would destroy any chance of ending austerity! The result of this one-sided information has led to mistrust of the media and an increase of internet news sites which people seem to trust more.

The Greek people keep hearing that the Greek economy is recovering but fail to see this recovery mirrored in their living standards. Over taxation, repeated mistakes in its calculation coupled with increasing inefficiency of infrastructure in health care, transportation and education turn citizens into cynical, mistrusting people.

 

Greece: Good news for a change

On Sunday, 2 November, 18 small Athenian Museums will be open to the public free of charge. The museums are situated in central Athens and will be open from 11 to 16.00.

The initiative is called Open Walk Athens 4 and is organized by the Atenistas group (you can find them at …http://atenistas.org/2014/10/27/owa4/)

tzisdarakis-mosque

The Popular art Museum

I have to admit that I was unaware of at least half of these museums and have visited only one!!  They cover a wide variety of subjects but are within easy reach of each other making visiting more than one easy and comfortable. A map of all the participating museums can be collected either in the Athens Jewish Museum (Nikis 39, Syntagma Square area) or the Popular art Museum in the Monastiraki area.

In addition to the two mentioned above you can visit a Museum that houses a collection of the characters of the Greek shadow theater as used by Haridimos, one of the most famous players, painter Vassiliou’s studio under the Acropolis,  the History of the Athens University Museum, a Museum dedicated to  children and my favourite: the folk music instruments Museum. This last one is situated in the Plaka region, the old Athens, and has a minute garden, often used for performances during summer.

Culture cannot cure everything but it opens a window to hope…

Rain, disasters and politics

 

Yesterday winter paid its first visit to Greece and found it, once again, totally unprepared.

Flooded streets, cars carried by the waters for hundred of meters, damaged houses and destroyed businesses have become a common occurrence on Greek tv at every rainfall heavier than usual.

cars washed away by the flood

cars washed away by the flood

Anti – flood infrastructure, projects that have been announced and never materialized are the cause of the biblical catastrophe most acutely felt in Western Athens, the poorest area of the Greek capital and Nikea, a Piraeus suburb. Angry and desperate citizens who feel totally deserted by the central government explained that this is a repeat performance for the last 30 years or so.

The Prime Minister called an extraordinary meeting of the Civil protection Agency to coordinate the government’s actions on ways to face this natural disaster.

Unfortunately, once again, Mr. Samaras exhibited an affinity for petty politics. He excluded from the meeting  Ms. Rena Dourou, the newly-elected governor of the Attica region, the region most hit by the floods. Ms. Dourou represents SYRIZA, Mr. Samaras’ bogeyman.

Ms. Dourou was with the citizens of the region and thanked the fire department for their unstinted help. After being left out of the extraordinary meeting she stated that this is not the time for petty criticism; the communities suffering once again know that such petty political behavior is the root cause of the lack of flood protection infrastructure.

Interior Minister Argyris Dinopoulos, who visited some areas struck by the storms was booed by locals and blamed for the situation.

People left homeless by the floods are being housed by their respective municipalities.

Fasolada: the “secret” Greek national dish

The horticulturists among you already know that fasiolus is the scientific name for the bean family. Fasolada is a soup made of white, dry, medium-sized beans, vegetables and herbs.

fasolada

While it is the Greeks’ favourite winter soup it is rarely found in the menu of a Greek restaurant abroad or of stylish restaurants at home. After puzzling over it for some time I have reached the conclusion that we are, silently, ashamed of fasolada: it reminds us of the time we were much poorer, when fasolia (beans) were the crop that kept us healthy and away from malnutrition. Beans grow easily on our mountainous areas, the mild Greek climate favours their growth and, after dried, they can be stored for months.

We find fasolada mentioned a lot by Karaghiozi, the miserable, hunchbacked hero of the Greek shadow theater. During the German occupation beans and other legumes saved a lot of people from starvation. Fasolada is also the subject of quite a few jokes: Being cheap and nutritious it is very often served to our soldiers during their military service. Now, during the financial crisis, fasolada is taking its revenge. It is one of the main dishes in all collective kitchens. Restaurants are slower at adapting even though they serve all sorts of legumes fasolada is still taboo. Maybe due to its reputation of producing unpleasant effects during digestion..

Fasolada’s assets:

  1. Easy to make

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Count about half a coffee mug per person.

Dice 2 large carrots, chop 2 red onions and cut four sticks of celery into strips.

Mix all ingredients in a large pot, add chopped ripe tomatoes or if not available a can of skinned and seeded tomatoes.

Add pepper now and salt half an hour later. Before serving add a spoonful of virgin olive oil per person.

Boil until the beans soften and the soup is thick.

Serve with olives and a lot of fresh bread.

Fasolada’s qualities

  1. Versatile

The original fasolada is a vegetarian meal but you can adapt it to non-vegan friends by adding some sort of sausage or by using chicken or beef stock instead of water.   There is also the “white” variation in which you do not use tomatoes but add oregano and lemon before serving. For colder climates add some chili peppers.

  1. Nutritional value

Fasolada is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It improves stamina and energy.

 

Finally, in support of fasolada, I want torefer you to Umberto Eco’s article “It was the Bean that set the Pulses racing”, edited and translated by William Weaver from the Italian New York Times Syndicate.

Greek autumn panorama

The song that best fits this year’s autumn is “it’s raining taxes”!!

While the weather is being most charitable, few showers and enough chill to make the sunshine very welcome, our government is playing hide and seek with our nerves. It’s pouring taxes on the Greek public. This is something we are used to in recent years… The most annoying thing this time is the inconsistency: taxes are imposed to be retracted because the calculation is wrong, deadlines are announced to be cancelled within a week, the number of installments are changed weekly and so on… This at a time when citizens’ trust to politicians has reached below zero temperature and with good reason.. 

 

Polls show a steep rise for SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left), the major opposition party, and the government’s react ion was to ask for a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The government got the go ahead by the Parliament with 155 votes. The opposition is asking for early elections while P.M. A. Samaras assures us of recovery.

A most confusing time as you understand.

If you add the international situation in our area it is a good thing that life carries on as usual. Visitors to Greece often wonder by the amount of people having coffee and even the sheer amount of coffee shops. I believe that this continuous contact with other people, relatives, friends, acquaintances and the solidarity among us, the plain people, is what keeps us sane and smiling.

A day in downtown Athens – August 31 2014

 

Today I have to go into Athens to renew my bus card (a card that allows me unlimited travel on all buses and the tram and costs 20 Euros), something I cannot do in my neighbourhood for reasons only the Greek state comprehends. I chose to go by bus and return by tram to do other chores too. After a 15 minutes wait the bus arrives. It is not the one I would choose since I have to walk another 10 minutes to reach my destination but it is better than waiting for the right one since no one knows when it will come. The official explanation is that summer time is the time drivers have to go on leave too and the services are erratic. I doubt it since when I asked for a bus timetable I was told that they run a bus service and not an airport!!ws-athenstraffic2

The bus ride is very educational. People are complaining to whoever is closest about the pension cuts and the announcement that bus fares will be increased before the end of the year. Paulina, a 65 year old retired high school teacher explains that since the beginning of 2012 her income has shrunk by approximately 200 Euros. She has no car and therefore depends on mass transport for her moves. Her only consolation is that after September, when she will be 65+ and officially a senior citizen she will be entitled to a half price bus ticket provided the reduction is still in operation. Another passenger explains that the bus service is bad today because of the rally organized by the “uniformed” forces. Who are they? The “uniformed” are the police and army employees who are threatened with major cutbacks and are protesting in Syntagma Square which is where our bus terminal is located. A young woman comments bitterly: “Civil servants protest and get their own way, like the employees of the State electricity company. It is left to us, the people in the private sector, to pay for everyone. If we strike we are sent home”.

Thank God the bus service booth is open and I renew my card. Now for the way back. This time I am going by tram: a means of transport that started operating during the 2004 Olympics and is criticized for being extremely slow. Its critics are proved correct today since it took 20 minutes to arrive! It is packed to capacity and there is no inclination to talk this time.

It is full moon tonight – time to make wishes and dream. People speak on their mobiles and arrange where and how they will spend the evening. Lots of free events have been announced and the mood is lighter.

In conclusion, courage and the ability to adapt and find ways to be well together with a sense of humour are the ingredients that help the Greeks carry on. Let us hope that the supply is endless…

Writer’s correction of herself: I have, since writing this note, found out that I could have renewed my card at any tram station – and that happens to be 10 minutes walk from home… Well, next month… unless I want to visit downtown Athens and need an excuse.

Midsummer night concert

Haris Alexiou sings in solidarity to the cleaners’ struggle

Yesterday night Syntagma Square was once more flooded with protesters but with a difference: last night was a singing protest! Haris Alexiou, one of the most popular and respected singers in Greece gave an open air concert in support of the cleaners’ struggle*. Wearing cleaning gloves she waved her hands in return to the audience clapping and singing along.  The Concert was organised and supported by the radio station “Sto kokkino” – it means “on red” , a left-wing radio. Haris sang old and new ballads and managed to refresh our souls despite the heat!

Haris Alexiou's solidarity concert

Haris Alexiou’s solidarity concert

*The cleaners’struggle has received great publicity and attracted much sympathy worldwide because in their case the injustice is blatant. They were found “redundant” and fired. They took the government to court and were justified but the government has appealed the court decision and they are still out of a job.  They belonged to the Economics Ministry employees – all 600 of them. The Ministry has had to replace them with private cleaning agencies which cost them as much as the full time cleaners.

The cleaning ladies  have been camping outside the Finances Ministry for the last two months. They have become a focal point for many other public sector employees who have been summarily fired in order to satisfy the Troika demand for a smaller public sector.

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired - The cleaners'banner

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired – The cleaners’banner