Despite its corrupt past and a lack of credible policies, opposition party Pasok will probably win Greece’s snap election
by Matina Stevis Guardian 8/09/09
- Like a lover who has been indifferent and unfaithful for far too long, but asks for a final opportunity to make things right, Greece’s prime minister of five and a half years, Kostas Karamanlis, has called for early elections, again. Karamanlis has been unable to complete a full, four-year term in office; he was elected in 2004, only to cut his own term short in 2007. He won then, to yet again ask for a third term two years before the end of his second one.
A mere 26 days away from this new electoral battle (set for 4 October), his promises remain the same as in 2004: fight against corruption; smaller, cheaper and less sclerotic government; tidy-up Greece’s notoriously messy public finances spearheaded by a war on tax evasion; a better educational system.
Karamanlis’s decision to call for early elections has caused a major rift within his own party, Nea Dimokratia, for the simple reason that they are most likely to lose. Some claim that he has made a behind the scenes agreement with another prominent member of the party – many site ambitious Foreign Secretary, Dora Bakoyanni – to step down upon defeat and hand over the leadership. Whatever the case, the latest polls, published in the Sunday papers, show a 5.7-6.7% lead for the Pasok opposition.
This comes as no surprise. Karamanlis’ government has been overwhelmed by scandals involving even his closest associates. He was in charge when two of the most catastrophic fires in modern Greek history ate away at the country’s remaining forests (in 2007 and again a few weeks ago). It was on his government’s watch that the murder of a teenage boy by a police officer culminated in dark days of urban unrest and destruction in the capital of Athens last December. He was at the wheel while the public debt skyrocketed even before the financial crisis hit, putting the country under European Commission probation for excessive debt for the second time during his premiership.
Karamanlis is blaming his decision to call for early elections on the opposition. He argued, in a nationally broadcast address last week, that opposition party Pasok’s vow to cause early elections in March was going to drag the country into a painful and prolonged pre-election period of political tension, which would only harm the economy.
On Sunday, at a major press conference in Thessaloniki, he assured his party’s electoral base that he is feeling combative as ever. He then went on to announce that, if reelected, he plans a two year freeze on pay and pension increases, among other measures, in an attempt to bring the public deficit under control and slow down public borrowing. He apologised for past mistakes and swore this time would be different; he would try his hardest ever, just as unfaithful lovers do.
Yet the other suitor vying for the Greek vote is no knight in shining armour. Opposition leader George Papandreou has led Pasok to several electoral defeats. He is well-liked at home and abroad, but regarded as lacking that certain je ne sais quoi. Papandreou’s American upbringing and his frequent linguistic slips, his obsession with a rigid work-out regime, his apparent lack of decisiveness and aversion to making specific policy proposals are just a few of what most regard as his faults.
He has been demanding early elections for a few months and despite the fact that his party is well ahead at the polls, it is yet to prove that it has a consistent plan to steer the country away from the economic trouble that it’s in. Moreover, Pasok’s governmental record is also riddled with corruption scandals, a thorn in the hearts of Greeks who are asked to pay dearly for an ailing economy while they have been watching their governors get richer for decades.
As Karamanlis struggles to rid his party’s candidate list from the names of those involved in scandals in an attempt to prove he is a reformed man, Papandreou strives for the words and specifics that will convince 39-41.5% (required to form government, varying depending on the performance of smaller parties) of Greeks that he knows what he’s talking about. Pasok is likely to have a hard time, under existing electoral law, to gather enough seats to form a government on its own. However, it is aided in its endeavour by an ailing left and a shaky opponent…….
P.S Για την Rits μιας και ξεκίνησε κουβέντα για τις εκλογές από το προηγούμενο ποστ