The debate between SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy president Vangelis Meimarakis was as predictable as heat in July and ended in a draw because both parties had very little of substance to say.
At least, the two opponents appeared civilized and the arguments never got out of hand, not adding any more toxicity to the lives of the already polarized, crisis-stricken, suffering Greeks. The jabs at each other were mild, for Greek politics standards.
However, all they could promise was that they will implement the bed of nails the new loan agreement is. This probably explains the lack of spark and enthusiasm in their talk.
The two party chiefs aimed at winning the vote of the many who are still undecided. Opinion polls show that the undecided are between 10 and 12 percent, significant figures that are enough to give one of the two fighting parties first place in the election.
Yet, they didn’t actually try to win the vote. They tried to persuade the undecided not to vote for the opponent. Neither one said how good a candidate he is, but how bad the opponent is. Neither had an idea — much less a plan — of how to generate jobs or kickstart the economy. And when they made vague promises of growth and new jobs, they were both as truthful and convincing as a used car salesman.
The two men opted to talk a lot about the past and throw as many accusations as possible. Tsipras talked a lot about the forty years of New Democracy and PASOK rule that eventually brought Greece to the humongous debt. Meimarakis talked about the recent past, the past seven months of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition that shut banks, imposed capital controls and added to the sad numbers of unemployed Greeks and closed businesses. Tsipras accused New Democracy of corruption and clientelism, while Meimarakis replied that SYRIZA managed to be equally corrupt and show clientelism in only seven months.
Probably they both believe in the Bertrand Russell motto, that democracy is the process by which people choose the man who’ll get the blame.
They both cleverly avoided to talk about the future because neither has a plan to face recession. They were both reluctant to clearly admit that they are forced to implement the austerity reforms required by the new bailout program.
They also avoided to speak about the elephant in the room: the hundreds of thousands — and possibly millions — of refugees that will end up being parked in Greece for an indefinite period of time. Now that northern European countries closed their borders to refugees, it is very likely that the next waves arriving will remain at the points of entry, namely Greece and Italy. Instead of saying what they will do, they both commented generally and vaguely about what their opponent did not do about the migration issue when in power.
Tsipras and Meimarakis repeated their election campaign slogans that are devoid of substance and seriousness. The “we’re getting rid of the old” of SYRIZA and the “we take Greece forward” of New Democracy are nothing more than babble disguising the lack of ideas and lack of spirit.
If in this debate Tsipras and Meimarakis wanted to persuade the undecided to vote for them, they didn’t fare well. They failed to give them a good excuse to skip the beach and go vote on Sunday.
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