Chapter 1 – introduction
John is 18 years old, a student in the University of Athens. This is his first year in the University. As an active and creative young man, he is looking forward to learn what being a student means. The beginning of his new life as a student is also the beginning of his life as an adult. Therefore, he will soon have the chance to exercise his right to vote, for the first time, in the upcoming national elections. Thus, put trust in the political party, which- on his opinion- will benefit his country, hence himself as well.
His fellow students do not seem to care very much about politics. When they talk about political issues they seem to identify politics with the elections and the political parties. John has a different opinion on what politics is.
To him, politics is any action or measure taken for the benefit of the citizen. It does not have to do with the acquisition of power, but with the obtainment of all the necessary means that can guarantee a high quality life to decent citizens.
chapter 2 – Getting informed
John’s family keeps voting for the same political party for more than 10 years. Both of his parents read the newspapers and watch the news on TV, in order to inform themselves. John rather uses the TV like a radio and listens to the news, as he eats his meal in the kitchen. After dinner, he usually discusses with his mother and father about all the good or bad news he has watched or listened to. The national elections will hold in about a week and John still does not know which party to vote. Therefor, he searches the internet to find information on the Greek political parties.
chapter 3 – Student’s rights
John is trying not to be influenced by his parent’s opinion and create his own political consciousness. But, as days go by, he realizes he should learn more about the Greek electoral system and the voting process.
The next morning, when he goes to the university, he decides to use the internet and search for all the information regarding the voting and electoral process. While climbing the stairs to go to the library, he meets Peter Murfy, one of his fellow students and leader of a political party called “Mind the Gap.” Peter informs John that unfortunately, students have no internet access, because, the librarian who is in charge of the whole computer network has not yet filed the petition for the provision of free internet access to all students and of course, didn’t mail it yet to the main department of the university. “We repetitively have asked for free internet access during the school boards, but yet, nothing is done. Nobody seems to be paying attention to our needs”, says Peter and gives John a leaflet with general information on his political party. “Feel free to attend one of our meetings or even join us”, says Peter and waves John goodbye.
After talking with Peter, John thought it would be good for him to attend the next student’s meeting. Therefore, he tried to think of the most important topics, that, on his opinion should be discussed at that time. The topics he noted were:
- Improved services and teaching methods in the universities
- Provision of the necessary technological equipment
- Public and private universities (advantages and disadvantages, consequences in the functioning of the general educational system)
- Creation of special (technological) labs
- Research funding programs
- Educational travels abroad (student’s exchange programs)
Chapter 4 – Designing the poster
The next day, John played with the thought of creating his own student political party. He would definitely need a poster, so as to promote his ideas and to attract others attention. This is the poster he made:
Chapter 5 – Parliament, electoral law
After making the poster, John thought he had to learn more about elections in general. Back home, he used his computer to surf on the internet. Finally he found all the information he needed about the Greek electoral law, the parliament and the voting process.
The Greek Parliament (Vouli ton Ellinon) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term by a system of ‘reinforced’ proportional representation in 56 constituencies, 48 of which are multi-seat and 8 single-seat. Seats are determined by constituency voting, and voters may select the candidate or candidates of their choice by marking their name on the party ballot. However, the party receiving the largest number of votes receives 40-seat premium, which is filled by candidates of that party not declared elected on the lower rungs (the constituencies).
Greek citizens aged 25 and over on the date of the election (and eligible to vote) are also eligible to be elected to Parliament.
Under the current electoral law of “reinforced proportionality”, any single party must receive at least a 3% nationwide vote tally in order to elect Members of Parliament (the so-called “3% threshold”). The law in its current form favors the first past the post party to achieve an absolute (151 out of 300 parliamentary seats) majority, provided it tallies about 41.5% of the total vote. This is touted to enhance governmental stability. The previous law (applied in the 2004 legislative elections) was even more favorable for the first party. The current electoral law reserves 40 parliamentary seats for the “first past the post” party or coalition of parties, and apportions the remaining 260 seats proportionally according to each party’s total valid vote percentage.
Polling takes place in school buildings on a Sunday, a festive occasion for students who are then given a four-day weekend off. The procedure is run by a presiding judge or attorney-at-law appointed by the local Bar association, and secretarially assisted by local citizens selected by lot in a process resembling jury duty. Local police are available too. Local party representatives are allowed to monitor tallying; their theoretical role is to ensure transparency but in practice they are delegated the roles of ordering food for the exhausted crew.
Traditionally, voting takes place “from sunrise to sunset” but times are usually rounded to the nearest “top of the hour” (e.g. 7 AM to 8 PM). Individual precincts may prolong voting time at the judge’s discretion, if there are still voters queueing up to vote. Voters identify themselves by their ID cards and are given the full number of ballot papers for the constituency plus a blank ballot paper and an empty envelope. Then they withdraw to a secluded cubicle equipped with a lectern, pen and waste basket, where they select the ballot paper of their choice, if any, and mark the candidate(s) of their choice, if any; they cast the sealed envelope with the ballot paper in the ballot box and are given their ID card back.
Voters may select specific candidates within the party list of their choice by marking a cross next to the candidate name or names. The maximum allowable number of crosses on the ballot paper depends on the number of seats contested. Signs other than crosses next to a candidate name may mark the ballot as invalid during tallying, as such findings may be construed to violate voting secrecy. Ballot papers with more crosses that the maximum number allowed, or without any cross, are counted in the total party tally but are disqualified during the second part of tallying, i.e. the determination of which individual candidate is elected to a seat already won by the candidate’s party.
Once on-the-spot tallying is over and the tallies reported officially, the ballots are sealed and transported to the Central Election Service of the Interior Ministry. There ballots are recounted, mainly in order to ascertain the validity or invalidity of the few ambiguously marked ballot papers.
chapter 6 – local elections
Οnce he found out all the information about the electoral law and all the details about the voting procedure, John realized he should learn more about the local elections procedure as well. Again he searched the web, so as to find relevant information. He was also informed about a new government plan, called ” Kalikratis”
Local elections elect super-prefects, prefects, and mayors for the country’s 3 super-prefectures, 54 prefectures, 900 municipalities and approximately 135 communities, as well as the councillors to serve on the super-prefectural, prefectural, municipal and community councils.
According to the current voting system, the poll-leading candidate (and her or his list) polling more than 42 percent of the vote in the first round of voting is elected to the public office they were contesting, i.e. super-prefect, prefect, mayor (in a municipality) or president (in a community). If no candidate attains this percentage, a second round of voting takes place between the two poll-topping candidates from the first round. In elections at the community level there is no second round, i.e. the election is won by the first past the post list.
The main element of the plan, known as Kallikratis, is the intention to do away with the country’s present 76 prefectures and replace them with 13 regions. Similarly, 1,034 municipalities will be whittled down to less than 370.
Chapter 7 – your own political Party
Since local elections were coming, John was invited to join Peter Murfy’s political party, in order to become a town councilor. John didn’t really accept the “invitation”, still he thought of a list of goals Peter should set, in order to make the town better. Then he created a profile on a social networking tool trying to give voters the reasons why they should vote for Peter Murfy:
- TO FEEL SECURE WHEN YOUR CHILD IS AT SCHOOL
- TO KNOW THERE IS A GOOD SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD
- TO KNOW THERE IS A SAFE PLACE OUTSIDE, WHERE YOUR CHILD WILL MEET FRIENDS AND PLAY
- TO LIVE SOMEWHERE, WHERE EVERY NEIGHBOR IS A FRIEND
- TO BE PART OF A COMMUNITY WHERE EVERYONE IS EQUALLY TREATED
- TO BE IN A TOWN WHERE THE ELDERLY ARE TREATED WITH CARE
- PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ENJOY AN ACCESSIBLE TOWN
- TO SEE GREEN INSTEAD OF GRAY
- TO WALK UNAFRAID AROUND A FRIENDLY PLACE
Chapter 8 – Elections in the European Union
Once he found out the information he was looking for, John went back to the university, where his professor asked him if he would like to write an essay giving details about the elections in the European Union. John said “yes” and as soon as he went back home, that evening, he started searching the web again, so to find all the information he needed for his essay. As he read, elections in the European Union take place every five years by universal adult suffrage. That’s how the members of the European Parliament, which has been directly elected since 1979, are elected. No other body is directly elected although the Council of the European Union and European Council are largely composed of nationally elected officials.
John also read that there is no uniform voting system for the election of MEPs; rather, each member state is free to choose its own system, subject to three restrictions:
- The system must be a form of proportional representation, under either the party list or Single Transferable Vote system.
- The electoral area may be subdivided if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the voting system.
- Any election threshold on the national level must not exceed five percent.
chapter 9 – previous election results
Out of curiosity, John searched the web to find the last European Election Results for every National Party of Greece.
The European Election Results, for the National Parties of Greece, are shown in the graphical representation below:
chapter 10 – Democracy in real life
Having learned so many important things about the national, local and European elections, John couldn’t help thinking that voting and electing is without doubt a democratic procedure. At school teachers wouldn’t stop reminding him of how proud he should be about being born in Greece, the country that gave birth to Democracy. But John knows that Democracy is not just a regime. It is rather a way of living. “The are a lot of things we can say or do, in order to put Democracy in to practice”, he thought. Then, he wrote down some examples of Democratic behavior, just to prove himself right:
Respect other’s opinion
Show respect to majorities without ignoring minorities
Respect laws when they represent a public decision, expressed through democratic procedures ( ex: non smoking inside public buildings)
Respect the ethics formed within a Democratic society (provide access to services and goods for everybody)
chapter 11 – being responsible for my city
Paul is John’s best friend. He is the frontman of a Pop group called ” Loved by Few”. He says he doesn’t believe in politics and that whoever gets involved in politics is an opportunist. John is trying to convince his friend that he is wrong. “Politics do not always have to do with the political parties or the government. Politics has more to do with you and your better life”. But Paul wouldn’t listen. One day he entered the university complaining about the flat tire of his motorbike, explaining he had just fallen in to a pit, while driving on the main road, few meters far from his house.
“Hey mate, that is exactly what I was taking about, when I mentioned something about a better living, the other days. If you had the slightest idea about politics, you would know that you can go to the mayor and demand payment for your flat tire and of course demand a better road”, said John.
John didn’t know what to answer. He only started writing the lyrics for his new song called “Flat Tire.”
The next day, John decided to go for a walk around the block. While walking around the streets, he realized that there were still a lot of things to be done for the general makeover of his town. “This is not the best place to live in” he said, but instead of nagging, he picked up his smart phone and started recording all the awfulness around him. “In fact, this is rather a good period for the mayor and his team to work more, since the local elections are coming soon”; he thought and pressed the “rec” button. His video could be a precious “gift”, mailed straight forward to the mayor’s office.
This is the video he made:
After finishing his filming, John decided to go for a coffee somewhere in the square. While waiting for his espresso, a young man approached him and asked him if he wanted to buy some handkerchiefs. The man’s name was Victor. He was an immigrant from Albania living now in Greece. He looked thirsty and tired. John offered him a glass of water and a chair to sit down. The two men started talking about each other. John was looking forward to listening to Victor’s story.
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