Voters shout 'change' in Greek poll
Kos Island, Greece
When the idyllic Greek island of Kos erupted early Monday morning in celebration over the Socialist victory in the Greek national election, the word heard everywhere was allagi -- the change.
Vafilif Voukouvaledes, the young Socialist Party candidate for Parliament from Kos, told the chanting crowd, ''All things will be different now.''
Traveling around the island of Kos -- one of the Dodecanese chain strung along the eastern coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea -- it is hard to see what needs changing. Tourists flood in from Scandinavia, England, West Germany, and Israel to enjoy the ancient ruins of Kos, its lush flowers and greenery, and sparkling, clear seas. The tourist industry today brings jobs that allow young men to stay at home rather than emigrate to Australia or to the United States as their fathers had to do.
Yet in Kos the eruptions galvanized the island, and the reasons that impelled Kos to ''change'' reflect similar trends all over Greece. Despite its centrist tradition -- in 1977 Kos voted 42 percent for the conservative New Democracy Party -- the island this time gave nearly 60 percent of its ballot to the Pan Hellenic Socialist Union (PASOK), headed by Andreas Papandreou, whose slogan was allagi. This was higher than the national vote of 48 percent for PASOK, compared with 35 percent for the ruling New Democracy Party, and 10.8 percent for the Soviet-oriented Communist Party.
Leading the push for PASOK and ''change'' in Kos -- as all over Greece -- were the young. They rushed through the town with poster-covered cars and motorbikes. The electric atmosphere reminded an American observer of the anti-Vietnam youth crusade of Sen. Eugene McCarthy's l968 presidential campaign. PASOK's campaign posters, which covered every major building and vastly outnumbered those of the opposition, were slick, professional, and designed for every domestic and international issue. One poster showed measuring scales with a weekly food basket on one side and gold bars on the other, a jab at government economic policy; another portrayed a Greek flag, with a PASOK hammer pulling out nails labeled NATO and EC (European Community) which keep it from flying.
Despite the island's appearance of prosperity, Kos's small business men worry about 25 percent inflation. They complain that government-fostered tourist development helped mainly the big hotel owners. ''PASOK will help middle-class people and will make big industry stop evading taxes,'' said one tour operator excitedly.
Kos citizens were also attracted by Mr. Papandreou's promise of increased social benefits in health, education, and pensions.
Moreover, living almost within sight of Turkey, which they feel benefits disproportionately from NATO, they support PASOK's pledge to pull Greece out from the alliance and eliminate American bases in Greece. ''NATO is supposed to protect its members, but twice Turkey attacked (Greek) Cyprus and NATO did nothing,'' complained Ted Hondros, a young construction worker at PASOK headquarters. Kos dwellers were less concerned with PASOK's pledge to seek Greek withdrawal from the EC.
But underlying the hard issues was the overriding demand for something new after seven years of New Democracy rule. ''This victory is a historical phenomenon, a break with the past,'' insisted Mr. Voukouvaledes, who is an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Athens.
As a student under Greece's military junta in the early 1970s Mr. Voukouvaledes dreamed of socialism in Greece. He started working for PASOK in 1974. His enthusiasm was mirrored by hundreds of young men in their 20s and 30s, interspersed with older residents, who jammed the party headquarters next to the main town square on election eve and the following morning.
Part of the excitement was sparked by the personality of Andreas Papandreou, a charismatic crowd pleaser. Another factor was diminished Greek fear of the Left, a hangover from its civil war in the late 1940s, and a fear which some New Democracy leaders tried to revive. But in Kos (where support for the Communists is minimal) and elsewhere in Greece, the swing to PASOK came mainly from the right. This seems to indicate the Socialists are now seen more as the mainstream than as strictly on the left.