Delicate business of humour: Party ads spice up Greek polls
Alexis Tsipras is a six-year-old with a broken left arm and Greece's leading female politician changes a tyre in high heels while refusing to pay the country's debt -- such party advertisements are spicing up an otherwise flat election campaign.world Updated: Sep 17, 2015 19:37 IST
Alexis Tsipras is a six-year-old with a broken left arm and Greece's leading female politician changes a tyre in high heels while refusing to pay the country's debt -- such party advertisements are spicing up an otherwise flat election campaign.
It is a neck-and-neck race between mainstream leftists and conservatives ahead of Sunday's election cliffhanger -- but at the other end of the chart, smaller parties desperate to keep a foot in Parliament are pulling out all the stops to soak up votes.
The group of anti-austerity leftists who toppled Prime Minister Tsipras last month, Popular Unity, may be seen as outdated euro-haters but are earning top marks at send-up as the country slogs through its fifth snap election in six years.
Their leader, Panagiotis Lafazanis, pokes fun at himself in a cab while debunking rumours that he plotted to seize the country's euro reserves, while sharp-tongued Zoe Constantopoulou, the pugnacious former parliament speaker sharply opposed to Tsipras and his economic reforms, shows she has what it takes by deftly changing the tyre.
'Nothing to lose'
"It's communication guerrilla tactics," says Paschos Mandravelis, a columnist at the liberal Kathimerini daily newspaper.
"The small parties have no views to highlight, nothing to lose, and on top of that it's fashionable," he says.
Tsipras himself seems to be all over the airwaves.
In his party's own commercial, he is the leader of Greece's future promising to rid the country of decades of mismanagement and party nepotism.
"We're done with the old and we'll win the future," he says.
But in Poland, where he features in the campaign for elections in October, he can be seen in a commercial by the ruling centrist Civic Platform party that warns voters about Greece's economic pitfalls.
Back at home, his erstwhile -- and possibly future -- coalition allies, the Independent Greeks, seem to believe 41-year-old Tsipras, Greece's youngest premier in 150 years, will forever be a boy.
In a scene-stealing commercial from the January election campaign that brought Tsipras and his Syriza party to power, Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos mentors the future PM in the form of a young boy called Alexis over a toy train.
Now there is a sequel.
This time round, little Alexis has broken his left arm -- a reference to the anti-austerity revolt by Syriza hardliners in August that toppled his government and forced this week's ballot -- and right-wing Kammenos promises to teach him how to use his right hand instead.
"My left hand is fine," Tsipras joked to reporters earlier this month, calling the commercial "cute".
He has yet to comment on the TV appearance of his former comrade Lafazanis, who led the summer rebellion that split the Syriza party asunder.
In July, anti-euro Lafazanis -- then a senior Syriza cadre -- was rumoured to have advocated a takeover of the Greek national mint, the Nomismatokopeio, to seize euro reserves, thus enabling Greece to survive a standoff with the European Central Bank that had shuttered Greek banks.
Lafazanis has strongly denied this, but in his party's tongue-in-cheek ad, he boards a taxi and tells the driver to take him to the national mint.
When the startled driver turns to face him, Lafazanis gives him a smirk.
He then tells prospective Popular Unity voters: "We have an anti-austerity solution. Learn about it."
It is also his party that features tough-talking high-heeled former parliament speaker Constantopoulou, who believes most of Greece's huge national debt is illegal and the country should not pay it back.
Towering matriarch-style over a male Mini Cooper driver seated in the dirt reading a parliament report on the national debt, she lectures him on economics and throws him a spare tyre.
Back into coma
Centrist To Potami party shows a man waking up in hospital after a six-year coma, having missed the country's three bailouts, five governments and the economic crisis.
Learning that his family store has shut down and he can no longer get a pension, he asks to go back into coma.
"Wake me up in four years if something goes well," he says.
In contrast, Greece's main conservative party New Democracy has mainstream TV spots portraying Tsipras' administration as gamblers and economy amateurs whose experiments plunged the country deeper into crisis.
New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis has accused Tsipras of wasting months in fractious talks with EU-IMF creditors, imposing capital controls and nearly taking the country out of the Eurozone.
"No more experiments -- Greece needs stability," the ad says.
The latest polls have shown Syriza and New Democracy in a tight race for the first place.
"Small parties have nothing to lose," says Manolis Alexakis, a professor of sociology at the University of Crete.
"Humour is a delicate business, and the main parties don't want to risk a costly mistake."
First Published: Sep 17, 2015 18:09 IST