Friday, 22 February 2008

It’s nearly over

The Cypriot presidential election campaign continued yesterday with supporters of conservative candidate Ioannis Cassoulides trying to win over voters from centrist DIKO – whose party leadership has come out in favour of communist Dimitris Christofias – by depicting Christofias as a godless anti-hellene and the Christofias team retorting that this anti-communist scaremongering is absurd and belongs to the past.

As well as a debate over whether Hellenism and communism are compatible, we also had a good exchange of views over the relative virtues and vices of socialist and market economies, the nature of the Soviet Socialist regimes, poverty, inequality and the capitalist system, religion, nationalism, totalitarianism, statism and so on. The discussions I heard were interesting and civilised, though listening to them did make me feel as if I were back in the 1970s, which, of course, Cyprus, in many ways, because of the Turkish invasion (1974) and subsequent and continuing occupation, is stuck.

The result on Sunday is going to be close and there have been no opinion polls allowed to give us an idea of how things are going, though I think it’s safe to say that if the conservative Cassoulides wins, this will constitute a significant upset.

Today is the last day of campaigning. It will culminate in a live TV debate between the two hopefuls. Last night, we had the final Nurembergesque rallies. Christofias’ rally in Limassol concluded with a concert given by Greek rock legend Vasillis Papaconstantinou, while Cassoulides’ event was in Nicosia and finished with entertainment from another Greek musical god, Dionysis Savvopoulos (pictured).

Personally, I don’t like Vasillis Papaconstantinou, not only because Greek rock doesn’t do it for me, but also because I once attended a free concert outside Athens University organised by the dreadful Melina Mercouri to highlight the so-called εθνικά θέματα/national issues – Cyprus, Macedonia, Northern Epirus – at which Papaconstantinou burst on stage to demented adulation from his loyal following of grunting black-clad teenage boys who knew more about Metallica than Macedonia and cared more about Black Sabbath than Cyprus, and declared: ‘Εκτός από τα εθνικά θέματα, υπάρχει και η μοναξιά’/Apart from the national issues, there is loneliness.

I was appalled. What Papaconstantinou should of said, of course, was ‘Apart from loneliness, there exist the national issues.’

Dionysis Savvopoulos is altogether a more serious individual and musician, even if I do find his ersatz Bob Dylan and Beatles stuff hard to listen to. Savvopoulos wasn’t at the Melina Mercouri nonsense, but I did see him perform a while later at a concert for Northern Epirus marking the 28 October national holiday, the defeat of the Italian invasion of Greece in 1940 and the liberation of Northern Epirus (southern Albania), though the concert was spoiled for me by a woman from Northern Epirus sitting behind me who kept asking me to sit lower in my seat because she couldn’t see Savvopoulos on stage. Eventually, I had to stand up and reveal to her that I am a tall person – six-one – and explain that if I sat any lower in my seat I would end up on the floor.

Anyway, I’ve made available three Savvopoulos songs in Radio Akritas:

1. Ας κρατήσουν οι χοροί
2. Για την Κύπρο
3. Τσάμικο

Here are some important lyrics from Τσάμικο:

Ζήτω η Ελλάδα
και καθετί μοναχικό
στον κόσμο αυτό
Ελασσώνα, Λειβαδιά, Μελβούρνη, Μόναχο,
Αλαμάνα και Γραβιά, Αμέρικα,
Βελεστίνο, 'Αγιοι Σαράντα, Εσκι Σεχήρ,
Κώστας, Κώστας, Μανώλης, Πέτρος, Γιάννης, Τάκης,
Πλατεία Ναυαρίνου, Διοικητηρίου κι Εξαρχείων,
Αλέκος, Βασίλης, 'Αγγελος,
Μπιζανίου κι Αναλήψεως, Αγίας Τριάδος κι Εικοστής Πέμπτης Mαρτίου
η Ελλάδα που αντιστέκεται
η Ελλάδα που επιμένει
κι όποιος δε καταλαβαίνει
δε ξέρει που πατά και που πηγαίνει.

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