Greek vote sees families divided

A father and son who always supported Greece's main socialist party are now divided in their allegiances ahead of Sunday's general election.


    In a break between the grating din of a powerful chainsaw and the crash of felled trees comes an irritable bellow from the wood cutter.

    His words echo around the forest: "Well let my vote be lost!"

    I had just asked Apostolis Kasidis if his plan to vote for the No Pay movement in Sunday's Greek election is a wasted vote.

    Bare-chested Apostolis, sweat dripping from his brow, is hot and frustrated. All of his life he has been loyal to Pasok, the mainstream Greek socialist party. He stood by its former leader George Papandreou right through to his political demise as prime minister last year.

    Despite the austerity programme, Apostolis carried on supporting Pasok right through to the May election when the party was decimated at the polls, dropping to third position behind the far-left, anti-austerity Syriza Party and New Democracy, the centre right party.

    But all attempts to get agreement on a coalition failed. Apostolis became enraged at the political stalemate that ensued.

    "I am angry because we voted for who we believed in," he says.

    "They should have formed a government but they just argued. One came to the table, the other left. I think this election will be the same."

    Normally a mild-mannered man, this 58-year-old runs a small timber business deep in the forest high on Mount Pelion, and finds it hard to make ends meet with increased taxation, and higher fuel costs.

    He has kept his timber prices frozen for five years, yet they are still being undercut by Bulgarian imports.

    Extreme right

    Standing close by, looking pensive, is Apostolis' son and heir to the failing business, 30-year-old Stamatis.

    He has always gone along with his family's socialist traditions. But not anymore.

    Stamatis has gone from left to extreme right. He intends to vote for the anti-immigration Golden Dawn party.

    Unlike his father, his doubts about Pasok - and the other mainstream party, New Democracy - have been built up as the austerity measures made his life harder.

    "They made the rich richer and the poorest people poorer," he says. "Nearly all the money in my father's business goes on taxes now."

    But would he really want to see an ultra-right party like Golden Dawn play any role in Government?

    "No, not in Government," he replies.

    "But it's good that they shout about things. All foreigners must leave Greece, all of them."

    Later, Apostolos starts to explain that he is uncomfortable with his son's switch to the right, but Stamatis won't let him finish.

    He rants about the immigrant issue, suggesting a vast amount of money is being sent out of the country by migrant workers.

    And for immigrants without work he had another issue:

    "Since 1989 they've been letting Albanians into Greece and it's crazy. Totally out of control, chaotic. There is widespread crime as a result - not only in the cities but in the villages also. There is no policing."

    Under one roof

    Back home in their rustic mountainside home overlooking the Aegean Sea, Stamatis' mother, Yanna, is feeding the livestock, mules and horses.

    She will be voting the same way as her husband but can understand why her son is so frustrated with the mainstream politicians.

    She lists some of the issues off the top of her head: "Poverty, hunger, theft, unemployment."

    And then she touches on one of the main reasons her son is so frustrated.

    Stamatis, his wife - also named Yanna - and their six-month-old baby son, have to live with his parents. Three generations under one roof.

    "It makes me so sad," says the older Yanna.

    "They should be together in their own home with their own life. But it's not possible with how things have become. And it won't get better. Only worse."

    When father and son return home from their tree-felling, Apostolis makes a fuss of his baby grandson, only too aware that by the time he grows up the family business may no longer be in existence.

    This is a family now divided politically but supportive of each other. It does seem that Stamatis is beginning to think that his future may not be here on the mountain but down below in the urban sprawl of Volos city, where his wife used to live and work.

    But he cannot afford to rent the most basic of homes, and jobs in the city are scarce at any level.

    This family's future, like that of the country, is incredibly uncertain.

    And in Sunday's elections this father and son will be voting out of anger rather than from a place of any true belief.

    Read Andrew Simmons' earlier blog entry from the Greek island of Agistri, where tourism has been hit hard by the economic crisis: 'We have lost our smiles'



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