Today’s anniversaries are the birth of Ho Chi Minh and the death of Lawrence of Arabia.
Yesterday here in Greece was the day of local elections for Mayor and Councillors. In small places like this island, local elections have little to do with party politics and everything to do with whom one knows, and what one knows about them.
Here there were three candidates, each with his team of a dozen or so prospective councillors. (There has never yet been a female mayor here, though there have been women councillors.) A (no names, no pack-drill) is the incumbent. B is someone who was mayor before, two or three terms ago. C is pretty much unknown.
Many foreigners have now registered to vote in local elections, so each of the candidates arranged public meetings, to be held in English because few of the anglophones have made much effort, even after thirty years here, to learn much more than the Greek words for ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Beer’. (Actually Albanian is probably the majority foreign language here, but as usual Albanians were left, as it were, in parentheses.)
A speaks English well. B bravely wrote his own speech in — er — English: it had a Joycean quality but full marks for trying. C used interpreters.
Soon after sunset, when polls closed, I was as usual installed in my favourite bar with a whisky. There were only three or four of us there, but mobile phones kept beeping and other people kept popping in briefly to bring news from the count: witnesses of the count, and probably the counters themselves, were making no doubt unauthorised calls to let us know how things were going. There was of course much heated discussion, with people declaring their intention to pack their bags and move to the mainland if so-and-so got in. I suggested in vain that we should sit calmly and await the final result: with only about 1,400 voters it should come before midnight. Around eleven things were still uncertain and I went home, leaving instructions that the bar-owner should phone me, no matter how late, with the result.
Such as it was, it came just before midnight: A, the incumbent, who had been well in the lead, had nevertheless not got the 50% plus one needed for a clear win. C had the least votes. There will be a run-off next Sunday between A and B; C must drop out. ‘It’s a dangerous situation,’ said the bar-owner.
Much, probably all, will turn on to whom, if anyone, the C-voters will give their support. At his meeting I had asked C if he had made any agreement or recommendation, and if so what, should this happen. He had not understood, or perhaps had affected not to understand, and was I think a touch disconcerted when I repeated the question in Greek. He quickly recovered, smiled and said ‘Oh no: votes for me are votes for me and not for anyone else.’
We shall see. Voters have a week to change or make up their minds. I remember once, when Alastair Cooke of ‘Letter from America’ was talking about an imminent American Presidential election, he said that a lady had written in to say ‘Instead of speculating on the possible outcome, wouldn’t it be better to wait until afterwards and tell us what it was?’