The Study of Political Representation in Greece: Towards New Patterns Following the Economic Crisis?


The study of political representation in Greece flourished both theoretically and empirically in the late 2000s. There are some seminal works on the study of political elites during the 1960s, but all research initiatives came to an end with the collapse of the democratic regime in 1967 and the start of the seven- year dictatorship. However, the study of political representation did not attract scholarly attention, even at the start of the post-authoritarian period: it is only since 2006 - a time when Greece has taken part in comparative projects related to this field - that interest has grown. With the onset of the economic crisis, studies emerged comparing the ideology and value orientations of the political elite with those of voters, as well as their opinions on the origins of the crisis and the bailout agreements. In Greece, the relationship between the elites and the population has been particularly threatened by the economic crisis. It is known that representation is a crucial element of liberal democracy, and within the media and among citizens and protest movements during the crisis period there was a widespread debate about the quality and character of policy representation in harsh economic times. In other words, the study of political representation has, to some extent, benefited as a consequence of the crisis. For example, new research directions have been developed focusing on the degree of congruence between voters and political elites.

Following the major objectives of this edited volume, the aim of this chapter is to provide insights into the history of political representation studies in Greece. As in all chapters in this volume, we account for the distinction between descriptive and substantive political representation (see Pitkin 1967). This categorisation is a central element in the study of the mechanisms shaping the character of political representation in any representative democracy. In terms of substantive representation, the quality of political representation is possibly linked to high levels of congruence on different ideological and attitudinal positions held by representatives and citizens. Descriptive representation. on the other hand, implies the socio-demographic characteristics of elected representatives should mirror those of the citizens. Even though the composition of an elected executive body can never be ideal, there are different ways to achieve a high level of descriptive representation (e.g. using quotas for minority groups, for women, etc.).

This chapter has two main objectives. The first is to explore the theoretical foundation of these studies. The history of this field is presented in such a way as to shed some light on the roots and evolution of the study of political representation in Greece. The second is to provide an overview of the most important findings on political representation in Greece by comparing the period before the crisis with its peak and the post-crisis period. Here we aim to show how the patterns of political representation have changed over this timeframe.

The following section contains a description of the context that should be taken into account in any study of political representation in Greece, before going on to present the origins of this line of study and analyse new main research paths. We then set out the key findings in terms of descriptive and substantive political representation in an attempt to answer the main research questions set by this volume. It should be noted that the chapter focuses on a secondary analysis of the available publications and the selection of findings on substantive representation presented is therefore based exclusively on existing literature for the Greek case. The final section presents our conclusions and sets out future paths for researching political representation in Greece.

The Context of the Study of Political Representation in Greece

Informal Channels of Political Representation in Greece

Any attempt to study political representation in Greece must be placed in a specific context. The first and major characteristic of this context in Greece is the party penetration of state and social institutions. As Pappas (1999) notes, Greek political parties hold a predominant position and neither the Greek state nor Greek civic society can act autonomously - at least prior to the onset of the economic crisis (see also the discussion by Marangudakis and Chadjipadelis 2019). It could be argued that this pattern changed after the collapse of the two-party system in 2012 (see Teperoglou and Tsatsanis 2014; Verney 2014; Tsatsanis 2018), when civic society started playing a more active role and non-conventional forms of protest became more commonplace (Sotiropoulos 2014). The second main feature of this context is the dominance of various forms of clientelism (Featherstone 2005; Haralambis 1989). The steady alternation of power between the centre-left PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and the centre-right ND (New Democracy) since the restoration of democracy in 1974 and the extreme majoritarianism allowed PASOK and ND to develop a modernised version of the patron-client system with party linkages and clientelistic ties (Teperoglou and Tsatsanis 2014: 224). It should also be noted that while some actors are more open to change

(reformers), others are more resistant (traditionalists). This was particularly apparent during and after the transition to democracy and is also very marked among the Greek political elite. In other words, the modernisation project in the Greek context has economic, political and cultural aspects.1 Globalisation and Europeanisation have created new and reinforced existing domestic cleavages that are based on competing notions of reform, economic interest and identity. Change and continuity are juxtaposed as domestic fault lines across the domestic system (Featherstone and Kazamias 2000: 13). As shown below, the emergence of a pro-/anti-European cleavage in the Greek political landscape has challenged the European-ness of the Greek political elite (and of citizens) (Teperoglou, Freire, Andreadis and Viegas 2014).

A Legitimacy Crisis after the Onset of the Economic Crisis?

Satisfaction with democracy in Greece fell to historically low levels during the crisis, while levels of trust in national (and European) political actors were in single digits (Teperoglou and Tsatsanis 2014). After 2009, there were signs of a European Union (EU) legitimacy crisis among PASOK and ND candidates: in 2009, just 34 per cent of ND and PASOK candidates expressed satisfaction with EU democracy. In 2012-13, 72 per cent of Greek candidates declared their discontent, with the figure rising to 75 per cent in 2015.2 Moreover, in 2015 the Greek political elites attributed much of the blame for the economic crisis to the EU a total of 44 per cent answered ‘very or extremely responsible for the crisis’, see also Teperoglou, Freire, Andreadis and Viegas 2014. This raises the question of whether there is a straightforward trade-off between the level of support for democracy and a preference for authoritarian solutions. To the best of our knowledge, there has been no systematic and longitudinal study of satisfaction with the current regime and democracy in Greece before and after the economic crisis, and we therefore present some findings related to this topic below. A study of supporters of antigovernment protests (the Greek Indignants) found people disappointed with representative politics (fewer than one-quarter of the sample supported the idea that the best way to take decisions is through elected governments and representative democratic institutions) (Georgiadou, Kafe, Nezi and Pieridis 2019).

In another study comparing Portugal and Greece, Teixeira, Tsatsanis and Belchior (2014) conclude the Greek case is a cause for greater concern regarding the levels of support for parliamentary democracy. Differences in the levels of diffuse support are observed in the indicators from 2008 to 2012, which can be attributed to voters from the Independent Greeks party (ANEL) and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn. Overall, during the depth of the economic recession. Golden Dawn enjoyed some electoral strength at a time when there was a dramatic decline in the level of trust in political parties, politicians, the Greek parliament and the Greek government (Teperoglou and Tsatsanis 2014). This was accompanied by serious waves of civil unrest alongside a rise in levels of radicalism, extremism and populism (Dinas, Georgiadou, Kon- stantinidis and Rori 2013).

Trust in political institutions in Greece (1999-2016)

Figure 2.1 Trust in political institutions in Greece (1999-2016).

Source: Eurobarometer data taken from the analysis by Tsatsanis (2018: 115-36).

Studying Political Representation in Greece

The Beginnings

The study of Greek political elites dates to the late 1960s. The first studies of political representation in the country focused exclusively on individuals and were purely theoretical, with the analyses based on biographical data on politicians. Motivated by theories of modernisation, the main aim of these studies was to provide an overview of the profile of political elites in accordance with socio-economic changes in Greek society rather than an analysis of political power relations in Greece.

Keith Legg’s monograph covering the period 1843-1965 was among the first of these studies. He examined the educational background, occupation, family tradition in politics and regional origin of ministers. He also conducted a sample survey of 55 MPs in the 1964 parliament (Legg 1969). His work has been subjected to criticism for focusing on just one aspect of the Greek political system: the clientelist networks (for a discussion see Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2003). Nevertheless, it is considered the starting point in the study of Greek political elites. A later study looks at the Greek ministerial elite from 1946 to 1976 and asked whether the renewal of the elites had kept pace with the modernisation of the Greek economy and society after the Second World War (Koutsoukis 1982). Its major conclusion is that the traditional characteristics of the ministerial elite profile remained unchanged despite the economic and socio-cultural changes that had taken place in Greek society. Other studies focus on biographical notes or profiles of prime ministers.3 Overall, the early studies of political elites were linked to the third wave of democratisation (Higley and Gunther 1992) and most focused on the profile and social background of the political elites and their skills and professional origins.4

Moving from biographical to more in-depth analyses, we find the case study of 19th-century Greek politicians from the southern region of Achaia that examined the decline of old-style notables and the presence of family trees of politicians in that region (Lyrintzis 1992). As Sotiropoulos and Bourikos (2003) point out, no studies focus on ministerial elites in the immediate post-authoritarian period (1974-81). A small number address parliamentary elites, while others focus on ND (Pappas 1999) or PASOK MPs. Overall, the 1980s and 1990s are considered a period of stagnation with little academic research on political representation. The only available information on parliamentary elites are articles from newspapers usually published in the aftermath of a national election (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2003). Summing up, when the Greek party system entered into metapolitefsi (the period after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974), there were no systematic studies of political elites. In other words, the fragmentary and disjointed nature of the study of political elites during this important period during which Greek democracy was consolidated poses obstacles for any systematic and longitudinal study in this research field. However, as we will see below, this period of stagnation was followed by one in which the framework for the study of political representation in Greece fostered an empirical, more systematic and cross-national outlook. In this respect, the Greek case follows a research path that is comparable with other countries, as presented in this edited volume.

From the Period of Stagnation towards the Evolution of the Field

The study of political representation in Greece found a new and more empirical research direction thanks to participation in comparative projects analysing political elites. In 2005, Greece was represented in the comparative project ‘Integrated and United: A Quest for Citizenship in an Ever Closer Europe’ (IntUne project) by a research group from the University of Athens and, two years later, researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki joined the Comparative Candidates Survey (CCS) project. Since then, the study of political representation has not only become more systematic, but the more empirical orientation has raised various new research questions in terms of analysing substantive political representation for the first time. Moreover, it should be noted that developments in this research field were accompanied by the implementation of voter studies and the analysis of party manifestos.' In other words, the activities and publications of scholars seeking to provide a comprehensive understanding of the operation of representative democracy and legitimacy in modern Greece as a whole were made possible by the study of political elites (both candidates running for national elections and elected MPs), analyses of the programmatic commitments (party manifestos) of relevant political parties to national (and European) elections and more in-depth studies of the demand-side political competition (voting behaviour and party choices) in Greece. During this period, the relevant literature also includes case studies analysing specific topics of descriptive political representation, which also made an important contribution to the evolution of this research in Greece. More specifically, Sotiropoulos and Bourikos (2003) provide a detailed analysis of the changes in ministerial elites over time (1843-2001), Pantelidou-Malouta (2006) analysed gender, while Patrikios and Chatzikon- stantinou (2015) examined dynastic politics in Greece, focusing on family ties in the Greek parliament from 2000 to 2012.

Overview of Projects on Political Representation

‘Integrated and United: A Quest for Citizenship in an Ever Closer Europe’ was the first comparative study of political elites in which Greece participated.6 The project was launched in 2005 with European citizenship as its main research topic (Conti, Cotta and Tavares de Almeida 2010). The Greek survey took place between February and June 2007 (Nezi, Sotiropoulos and Тока 2010).' This chapter refers to the project’s findings on the attitudes of Greek political elites towards the EU. These attitudes are also analysed within the scope of the more recent project, ‘European National Elites and the Eurozone Crisis’ (ENEC-2014) (Tsirbas and Sotiropoulos 2015).8

Greece’s participation in the CCS in 2007 was another major step in the study of the country’s political representation. The main goal of this project is to collect data on candidates running for national parliamentary elections.9 The Greek candidate surveys were conducted by the Laboratory of Applied Political Research at the School of Political Sciences Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The first Greek CCS survey was in 2007, with further surveys in 2009, 2012 and 2015. Though usually based on a mixedmode methodology, the first mode is always a web-survey (Andreadis 2016) with invitations and reminders sent to the email address of the candidates. The methodological details of these surveys are presented in another chapter of this volume (see Chapter 7). Overall, we can conclude that the selection of the target population of the Greek CCS was determined by various factors, including the limited funds available and the availability of contact details (e.g. candidates with no email address or inability to access information).

Finally, it is essential to include the rich dataset on the ‘Study of the Profile of the Greek Parliamentary Elites (1996-2015)’ provided by the National Centre for Social Research in this short overview of the available studies.10 It constitutes a major contribution to the study of descriptive representation (Kakepaki 2016). It should be noted that the collection of this information for the Greek case is extremely difficult as the Hellenic (Greek) parliament provides very little information and parliament’s volumes with biographical details of MPs only cover up to 2007.

In short, the in-depth and comprehensive study of political elites in Greece is hampered by both the lack of information and funding problems for research.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >