218,000 citizens of Thessaloniki, or how we experienced the referendum

By the editors of dimotopia.gr

The undeniable success of the referendum on the privatization of EYATh (Corporation of public waters of Thessaloniki) is not only its result. It is certainly of paramount importance that 98% of those who voted said no to the privatization of water, but more important are the new elements for our understanding of political action and mostly the unprecedented situations we experienced last Sunday. The participation in the referendum of those who came to vote for municipal and regional elections reached, based on our estimates (the number of votes cast in the referendum) at rates close to or above 60 % . But the message was mainly qualitative . Most people voted with a smile, tenacity and conviction. “Water is for everyone, and they will not get it” sounded of all ages, from 18 to 80. Parents with children, put their children to cast their vote, and many told them: “we vote no, you should know, because the water is for everyone and it is ours. And they will not do what they want”. The life and power of the many is still here, four years after the onset of the oligarchic assault and social disaster. With the collective participation in an initiative that began as a citizens’ initiative, as ordinary, non partisan citizens we were all in the election commission. Nothing is over, everything is possible; it’s time to show and impose the power of the many for the common good .

The 218,000 residents of Thessaloniki who enthusiastically participated in the electoral process and the more than 2,000 volunteers gave a truly self-organized and ‘from below’ character to the referendum and proved that democratic processes on a large scale can be realised. From very early on Sunday morning the flow of people to the referendum was beyond all expectations. No citizen was leaving the really long queues (especially at peak times) and many volunteers did not change their shift! Those who came stayed on, and most kept their posts from six in the morning until midnight for the counting of votes in the town hall of Thessaloniki. It is characteristic that many people came and voted only for the Water !

The initial decision and prediction was (or should be) that the referendum take place in the same room with the municipal elections, and voters enter the booth and fold the ballots so that they do not show. Envelopes were finally not used after Michelaki’s decision for purely economic reasons. Elections are costly when they concern 200m + people and the referendum had little funding and relied mainly on volunteers. With better funding, there would have been envelops.

The members of the election commission were volunteers many of whom had little relevant experience or knowledge, so they were given basic instructions which nevertheless did not cover the new conditions. In general we were asking voters to fold the ballots before casting them and suggested to those who were concerned with privacy to get all three ballots, fold one a little further away and then cast it. There were people who did this, and others who voted yes and said they did not want privacy; these were our efforts with the means we had: to ensure full neutrality we did not make comments or proposals, we did not even have NO posters or t-shirts.

You can read the results on http://www.vote4water.gr/

It will now be very difficult for the government and multinational companies who prey onthe city’s water to ignore the will of the citizens of Thessaloniki. Water is a public good and a human right and no one is more qualified to manage it but the users themselves.

Members of the website dimotopia who actively participated in the electoral comissions of the referendum