New mayors. Feeling good!

A brief update on the municipal elections I mentioned last week. All 4 major Greek towns changed hands in the run-off elections that took place this past Sunday. Athens, Thessaloniki and Patra in particular, were won by outsiders who did not belong to the political establishment and were not professional politicians. So, there is hope after all, for Greek towns, and finally Greeks have a reason to be... cautiously optimistic!

In the spirit of feeling good and doing good, here is a fascinating project featured in Kickstarter, related to travel: Just play the video and you should be immediately overtaken by the joy of African music. And do consider making a donation (or actually advance purchase) to help these 3 cinematographers accomplish their dream project! They only have 2 days left to gather the necessary funding!

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Athens City Hall Square, Tonight

This just in, from a happening that took place at the square in front of the Athens City Hall (aka Kotzia Square), tonight.
The candle-lighting event was organized by "Atenistas"; a group of Athenians aiming to bring life back to those city neighborhoods, streets and corners that have been left behind to decline. Unlike this one, most of the events they've organized are not symbolic but action-oriented. It's a kind of law-abiding, hands-on activism. Cleaning up an abandoned lot full of trash, painting public flower pots that looked filthy, putting up informative signage (in Greek and English) for historic buildings that have been abandoned, marking the obstacles that pedestrians face in a central Athens street, etc. But tonight was different, still with a feel-good feeling, full of hope.

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Municipal elections in Athens

Next Sunday, November 7, is the day of municipal and regional elections in Greece.
The legal and administrative framework is such that many Greeks do not vote in the town where they actually live but in the town where they are registered, which may be the town they live in or the town they were born in, or the town where their parents were born...
So, many people leave Athens and go to vote for the mayor of another town who doesn't affect their daily lives. Sounds twisted, doesn't it?
Even so, during the past few elections more and more people have started to break partisan barriers and vote for people who they think may actually do a good job. Not just for "their" party's favorite. And especially in smaller towns where it's easier to actually know who the people running for office actually are and what they stand for. This trend seems to be getting stronger this year, although Athens seems likely to suffer another four years of the same corrupt and incompetent leadership. Why that? Take this as a partial explanation: The Radio Station of the City of Athens has -hold on to your hats- about 300 journalists in its payrolls, most of them also having a second job. Do you think that most of these journalists will be decent or brave enough to level any kind of critic towards their employer...? And I'll leave it at that.
However, people do realize, when asked in surveys, that the city is dirtier than ever but it's not certain how much factors like this will weigh on their decision. Anyway, the winner has to get a 50% majority, so in case nobody gets that many votes there is a 2nd round (the following Sunday) between the two runners-up.

Furthermore, Greeks will vote for regional governors this year, for the first time ever. Up until now, regional governors were appointed by the government (and had fewer responsibilities) and people only voted for the Mayor and the Head of the Prefecture. The Prefecture is an administrative unit larger than towns but smaller than regions and it is now being abolished. From now on, there will only be Regions (divided in subregions) and Towns.

So, anyway, we are also voting for the Head of the Region for the first time, but if I said that anyone knows what these people will be doing exactly, I'd be lying big time. The main thing is that they'll be managing large amounts of money, among other things...

Back to Athens, there are about 515,000 registered voters and only 58% (297,000) voted in the previous elections in 2006. I just checked out and it's funny when you realize that for a "city of 3 million people" the mayor was actually voted for by around 130,000 people! Of course the "3-million" number is deceptive since it includes the many suburbs and peripheral towns. The actual population, as measured in the 2001 census was 790,000 people. But again, I forget that just like in elections, many people (fewer, but still many) leave their permanent residence town and go back to their village / place of birth, to be counted there, so even the official population of Athens is underestimated.
"Greek statistics" anyone?

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