In an election campaign, both the expressed positions and the silences hold significance. In the recent Greek elections, the agenda of issues that divide voters remained camouflaged during the campaign. By Professor Vasiliki Georgiadou*
Electoral political discourse is shaped by the upcoming electoral context, taking into account the aspirations and needs of the electorate. The dissemination of political party discourse to reach the voters involves various channels and platforms. However, the increasing “presidentialisation” of politics has placed party leaders at the forefront of the electoral stage, with their public speeches playing a significant role in shaping the thematic focus of the election campaign.
In recent decades, there has been a discussion about the limited emphasis on specific policy issues in election discourse. Critics often argue that election campaigns have turned into political spectacles, prioritizing style and aesthetics. While there is some truth to this, it would be inaccurate to claim that parties and political leaders completely avoid addressing the policy concerns of the voters. In fact, politics at both national and European levels has faced criticism for its growing complexity. This complexity became especially evident during the pandemic when scientific expertise was integrated into policymaking to tackle the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Based on the research conducted by iMEdD Lab on the analysis of political discourse during the recent elections, it is evident that the speeches of party leaders covered a wide range of topics. Of course, a significant emphasis was placed on the elections themselves, given the difference in the electoral system during the May 21 contest and subsequent discussions about party cooperation for potential coalition governments or the possibility of holding new elections. However, the recent elections also brought attention to a diverse set of issues and stakes that party leaders emphasized in their campaign speeches.
The iMEdD Lab’s research data on the thematic agenda of each party leader reveals an interesting finding: the agenda is subject to modification based on the timing of the election and the location of the speech. This indicates that both the specific context within the broader electoral context and the influence of localism play a role in shaping the election agenda. This finding leads to a related observation about the interactive nature of the electoral process: the audience at an election rally plays an active role, and there is a dynamic relationship between the speaker and the community. In a well-prepared election speech, this is taken into account, with the political leader identifying both the particular issues that may be of concern to the specific audience and the specific content that carries emotional significance for each focus area.
During the recent pre-election period, there was a hidden thematic agenda that remained undisclosed. This agenda primarily revolves around divisive topics, which not only divides supporters of different parties but also causes divisions within the same party.
In an election campaign, both the expressed positions and the silences hold significance. This refers to what is explicitly addressed and verbalized in election speeches, as well as what is left unsaid. It encompasses the issues occupying a prominent position in terms of frequency and emotional intensity fluctuations, as well as those marginalized or excluded from the pre-election political discourse, often accompanied by non-critical and non-confrontational references that lack depth in emotional engagement. During the recent pre-election period, there was a hidden thematic agenda that remained undisclosed. This agenda primarily revolves around divisive topics that create rifts among voters, such as immigration, which not only divides supporters of different parties but also causes divisions within the same party. But the agenda also includes issues of consensus, like the environment, which do not generate significant electoral mobilizations. Considering the overall emotional climate of the recent elections, which remained relatively neutral and avoided heavy negativity, polarizing issues were kept at the periphery of the pre-election discourse. Parties usually seek camouflaged ways to convey their messages on these polarizing topics to voters during campaigns. Nonetheless, the current Parliament will inevitably have to address such issues, given its composition. The presence of numerous parties on the parliamentary benches, along with the high number of party formations across the ideological-political spectrum, suggests an increase in emotional tensions and polarization in political debates both inside and outside the Parliament.
*Vasiliki Georgiadou is Professor of Political Science and History at Panteion University, and Director and President of the Board of Administrators at the National Centre of Social Research (EKKE).
Translation: Anatoli Stavroulopoulou
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