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Helen Tzortzopoulos

Kytherian Elections. 2006. An Overview.


Kytheraismos. November, 2006. pp. 1, 11.

When Kytherians went to the polls for their munici­pal elections on 15 October, the outcome could be noth­ing other than uncertain. With three parties vying for the victory which would lead to ruling and running the island for the next four years, election fever ran high within the Kytherian community.

The outgoing Mayor, Artemis Kalligeros headed his party named the “Independent United Movement”; former Deputy Mayor Panagiotis Protopsaltis joined forces with the leader of the oppo­sition John Caravoussanos with the slogan “Kythera In
Front.”; and newcomer into Kytherian politics - Theodore Koukoulis, ran his campaign under the title of “Kythera, New Direction, Vision & Action”. (Please excuse the free transla­tions!)

Whispers and rumours of threats, promises and private agreements made the rounds and gave vent to animated dis­cussions between friends and foes. The island’s population was divided. It had split into three factions. And what a dilemma for so many families — some of whom had a represen­tative in each ticket! Woe to those who had to face such a heart wrenching decision. The question was who to vote for! One’s brother-in-law or father-in-law? Best friend or cousin? A business associate or some political "heavy”? What criteria on which to base your choice!

Suitability, credibility and experience were not necessarily the prime factors for consid­eration. Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that the leaders of the parties were inexperienced in any way. In fact, Kalligeros & Protopsaltis are old hands at the game. Local government is a way of life for them. Koukoulis has studied local governmuent at an English University which sounds prom­ising.

Each party had to present some 70 candidates all in all, since 13 topical 3-member committees had to be elected in addition to the 13 member Municipal council. In a small com­munity of some 3,000 permanent residents finding so many candidates in itself is no mean feat. Unfortunately though, finding sufficient candidates that have a good understanding of the function of local government is well nigh impossible.

Greek elections are quite extraordinary in that people do not necessarily vote where they live. There is no such thing as an absentee vote. In order to exercise their democratic voting rights there is a strong movement of people going back and forth to their place of birth or some other place where they happen to be registered. For instance, as far as Kythera is concerned, there are thousands of Kytherians living and work­ing in Athens and Piraeus many of whom travel to and from Kythera to vote. These “floating” votes of course have an incredible influence on the end result. Campaigns by local electioneers are not only aimed at the local permanent popu­lation but are also directed to these thousands of city dwellers who can change the whole course of local politics.

The influence of the Athenian vote could be seen in the results of the Kytherian Prefecture. Candidates for this posi­tion are incorporated in the ballot papers of the Athens/Piraeus Prefecture and hence all voters in Athens and Piraeus (not just Kytherians) can cast their vote for whoever might be stand­ing for Prefect (Eparhos) of Kythera. These elections ran concurrently with the local council elections. Running under the PASOK ticket for the Prefecture of Athens & Piraeus, Ms Christina Fatseas was once again re-elected as the island’s Prefect, amassing over 12,200 votes in the first and only round of voting. We extend our congratulations to her and wish her a successful and fruitful term of office.

On the evening of Friday the 13th October, the F/B MYRTIDIOTISSA sailed out of Piraeus with a full comple­ment of passengers. Campaign leaflets fluttered around the vessel’s lounges. The chatter was only politics! The past few months of frenzied electioneering was reaching its zenith. Fi­nally, on the 15th October,people took to the polls from dawn until dusk.

In Greek Municipal Council elections, if one party does not attain a 42% majority in the first round of elections a second round of voting is called for the following weekend.

Most people of course were anxious to get the voting over and done with in one swoop. Not I however! As I sailed to Kythera to cast my vote my secret wish was that we would have a second round of voting. It had been so long since I had been to Kythera — another trip the following weekend to exercise my “democratic rights” was the greatest bona fide excuse for leave of absence from work that I could hope for. Mind you, I do find it imperative that everyone takes an active role in their local government — though I do have my reservations as to whether we (Kytherians in transit!) have the right to preju­dice the lives of those who live permanently on the island.
They live there 12 months of the year and know their problems. Who are we to shape their future?

As the MYRTIDIOTISSA sailed out of Diakofti on the Sunday evening, it appeared that newcomer Koukoulis had
won the election with a marginal 42% victory. I went and laid down in my bunk and became dejected at the thought that it would be quite some time before I saw Kythera again. Early next morn­ing however, I awoke to find that Koukoulis had just missed out by four of five votes. He had attained 41.93% of the vote. I felt very
sorry for him having to go through all the motions again the following week after having done so well in the first round, but
I personally felt very happy at the prospect of yet another visit the forthcoming weekend.

Artemis Kalligeros was now out of the running, however, his team secured two seats in the Council in the first round. The race was truly on between Protopsaltis and Koukoulis the following Sunday, and each campaign picked up momentum during the week. Just where would the Kalligeros votes go next time round? Well, it seems a good number of votes were lost in oblivion, as fewer people bothered to return to the island in order to vote a second time.

Following the next and final round of voting (no third round unfortunately!) Koukoulis received 53.41% and Protopsaltis came in with 46.59%. As a result Koukoulis won 8 seats, Protopsaltis 3 and Kalligeros 2 seats on the new council.

Kythera’s new Municipal Counsellors as of January 2007 will be

Mayor: Theodore Koukoulis
Michahis Protopsaltis
Adamantia Koroni
Eustratios Cassimatis
Lazaros Vezos
Nikolaos Megalokonomos
Panagiotis Alevizopoulos
Stavros Veneris

Panagiotis Protopsaltis
Ioannis Caravoussanos
Haralampos Sougiannis

Artemis Kahligeros
George Leontsinis

On Kythera’s electoral rolls there are 6,813 people listed -(this is that strong Kytherian lobby we are always talking about) - out of which 2,721 voted. This equates to a 39.94% participa­tion only. Generally throughout Greece this year there was a high abstention rate. Why such apathy? Surely local govern­ment is of direct importance to every community. This body is ultimately responsible and answerable for the island’s general administration; for preserving and protecting the environ­ment by maintaining beaches, reserves, historical sites; for providing domestic transport; preserving our cultural heri­tage; for supervision of development and promoting trade and industry and so much more.

Kytherian polities have entered a new age. Extensive local media coverage brought the candidates into the Kytherian
home with televised interviews and debates. Kytherians were perhaps ready for a change however. Koukoulis promised to steer a new course; he promised vision. His very professional brochure and marketing prowess was obviously what ultimately appealed to the majority of the electorate.

So congratulations to Theodore Koukoulis — Kythera’s next Mayor. For someone who has had relatively little exposure to Kytherian political and social circles it will be very interest­ing to follow his progress and assimilation into fulltime local society. His academic, cultural and broader political qualifi­cations and experience will definitely be an asset to his calling. We wish him well and hope that he will be able to withstand the pressures and challenges of our demanding society. Theodore Koukoulis is certainly the man of the moment.

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