Accountability in Greece Should Not Stop at Elections
By Stefanos Loukopoulos
Greeks woke up to a vastly altered political landscape this morning following Sunday’s national elections, which swept the anti-austerity Syriza party into power. It’s the first time an anti-austerity party has taken power and upends the two-party establishment that has dominated Greek politics for decades.
This was Greece’s second national election in two years, held amid sky-high unemployment, stagnant wages, and an exodus of young people seeking better opportunities abroad. The crisis has left Greeks skeptical of their political institutions, a disillusionment that’s giving rise to right-wing extremist parties like Golden Dawn, which took third place in the elections.
The electorate’s growing sense of alienation from the democratic process is palpable. Nearly 40 percent of voters abstained despite the high stakes of the elections. Winning back these people’s trust, and re-establishing the bond between citizens and their representatives, is a critical yet often overlooked element of Greece’s recovery.
Vouliwatch (“vouli” is the word for parliament in Greek) was created a little less than a year ago for that very reason. The website features profiles of all the Greek members of parliament (MPs), monitors their voting behaviors, explains the political process and Greek constitution in simple terms, and most importantly, offers citizens the opportunity to ask direct questions to MPs, which are then uploaded to the politician’s profile. Each MP can then answer their constituents’ questions on the site. The platform also gives users the chance to influence political debate and highlight issues that they believe are not being discussed widely enough.
Through Vouliwatch, citizens can also share their ideas and experiences and make direct proposals for parliamentary action. The community can then comment on and rate those proposals. A Google Maps application depicts all the submitted data and allows users to filter it by issue. Every two months, all this submitted data is summarized in a report and sent to Greece’s MPs by our team. Vouliwatch then publishes and promotes any resulting parliamentary reaction.
Following the announcement of the snap elections, we at Vouliwatch created some additional election tools to help inform Greek voters. For instance, Policy Monitor allows the user to compare the various party positions on specific issues, such as education, the economy, or human rights. The second application is Candidate Watch, in which candidates add their profiles to our database by answering a set of questions designed by the Vouliwatch team.
At Vouliwatch, we believe that the true value of democracy lies in an open dialogue between citizens and those they elect. Voting in national elections is not enough to create and maintain a relationship of trust and a culture of accountability. If politicians are to be held accountable for their promises and actions, ordinary people must actively take part in the political process. Likewise, the political establishment must take steps to allow and to encourage wider participation, as well as to increase the transparency of the political and legislative processes.
Vouliwatch stands for more accountability, transparency, and bottom-up participation. Our team is committed to advancing these values as a solid step towards a better tomorrow for Greece.
Vouliwatch is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations.