No room for maneuver

By Pantelis Boukalas

Greece?s upcoming parliamentary elections will be unique in many respects. In a rather melodramatic tone, the political parties like to repeat that this will the ?most crucial vote in the country?s post-1974 period.? Of course voter turnout will show if that is really the case, or if it is just verbal manipulation aimed at reducing the number of people who have told opinion polls they will stay at home on election day.

The significance of the ballot will also be demonstrated by the degree to which parties try to fulfill their own pledges. For there is no point in heralding a new kind of election and at the same time refusing to shed your old populist mantle: the lavish promises, the thinly disguised political gifts to your clientele, or, in the style of conservative Transport Minister Makis Voridis, the preferential amendments in favor of your political cronies.

It makes no political or ethical sense for the politician who is meant to be leading by example to claim that everything has changed while they remain exactly the same.

The key feature of the coming elections is neither the shifting political landscape nor the emergence of so many splinter parties in the wake of the numerous austerity measures dictated by Greece?s bailout agreement. The main characteristic rather is that the nation?s so-called mainstream parties, PASOK and New Democracy, need to prove that they still have a raison d?etre. It won?t be enough for them to convince voters that they have the most effective or pleasant-sounding program. What matters is that if they come to power, they will be in a position to implement at least one of their many promises.

Their problem is an existential one. It is not just related to their ideological poverty or their inability to break free from the cocoon of old-style politics. Nor is it all about their mammoth responsibility regarding Greece?s troubles. The problem is also related to the fact that they have signed agreements with our international creditors that effectively commit them to stay on a predetermined track; and to be punished if they deviate from that path.

Even if voters were to forgive the political crimes of their socialist and conservative politicians, there?s little to expect from them when these have already agreed that their ultimate judge is not the otherwise dominant people, but rather the troika.