COMMENT

What to expect from May 6 onward

By George Georgakopoulos

This general election is like no other due to its transitional type -- from the old pre-crisis party system to the new and uncharted political waters that have even the pollsters perplexed. May 6 serves less as a proper expression of the people?s will for the creation of a new parliament and the formation of a new government, and more as a safety valve for public wrath and disappointment at the ruling political class.

It will provide an unprecedented opportunity for an orderly expression of frustration, with a largely unpredictable outcome for old and new parties alike. Yet it will be the election to follow that of May 6 which will be the genuine one, regardless of the horror a second election in such a relatively short period of time could generate among the country's creditors.

The two main parties, socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy, will still be the top two in Sunday's election despite opinion poll findings occasionally suggesting that the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and Democratic Left (DIMAR) might edge PASOK out of second spot.

This is because, despite people?s frustration with the ruling Socialists, PASOK and ND still command the best party mechanisms across the country. On polling day they could and should swing a surprising amount of disgruntled voters back to their previous positions. Fanatical party allegiance should not be underestimated.

A hung parliament will certainly lead to frenetic negotiations, bickering between parties -- as well as within them -- and a protracted period of uncertainty. However, the last few months have already provided a blueprint for a coalition government. Reading between the lines, one can see how another unity administration might be formed.

As ND and PASOK will struggle to command a comfortable majority in Parliament even if they join forces, they will need the support of a smaller opposition party. This will be DIMAR, which brands itself as the ?governing left.? In the unlikely event that the neoliberal Democratic Alliance (DISY) also passes the 3 percent threshold to enter Parliament, it could also support the coalition, as it did with the current coalition government, led by Lucas Papademos. However, neither DIMAR nor DISY is likely to make any significant contribution toward the formation of the new government. Instead, they will restrict themselves to supporting the new government in a vote of confidence in Parliament.

The new ND-PASOK government will also have a restricted mandate -- albeit somewhat longer than the one led by Papademos -- and concentrate on specific issues which includes the passing of key bills such as tax reform, the speeding up of privatizations, the acceleration of the hydrocarbon exploration process, and preparations for a constitutional change to be completed by the Parliament that emerges after the following election.

This time, a technocrat will not be appointed prime minister. Instead, it will be a politician with experience and recognition abroad. Since the candidate is likely to come from the party to finish first in the election, ND?s vice president Stavros Dimas, the incumbent foreign minister and former European environment commissioner, is the favorite, although several others could also fit the bill.

Evangelos Venizelos?s leadership will not be seriously disputed within PASOK despite taking the party to its lowest share of the vote in at least 37 years. After all, polls had shown PASOK to command no more than 8 percent in the last few weeks of the George Papandreou leadership earlier this year. If anything, Venizelos will try to rebrand PASOK with an eye on the following election, given his oft-repeated recent words that ?we should not take for granted that PASOK will be there after the election.?

He will say that the life cycle of PASOK in its current form is over, seek to appeal to former voters and party officials who on May 6 will support parties to the right or left, and -- since he is a constitutional expert -- use the upcoming change to the Constitution as his heavy artillery. This will allow him to present himself as the reformer the country desperately needs.

The right-wing Independent Greeks party will have a strong showing on May 6 and elect a significant number of deputies, many more than the 10 it currently has in Parliament. Yet a number of them will desert the party over the course of the next parliamentary term to protest the poor organization of the rather hastily formed party. Having used Independent Greeks as a vehicle for a return to the House, they will then reject the leadership of the man who formed the party, Panos Kammenos, and seek a move elsewhere, most likely back to New Democracy.

The right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), which helped form the Papademos government, only has a 50/50 chance of making the 3 percent threshold. If it stays out of Parliament, it may seek to forge an alliance with Independent Greeks in the following election, although it will try to retain its own independence as a party at all costs.

Finally, the near-certain entry of neofascist Chrysi Avgi into Parliament with a surprisingly high share of the vote will deliver a shock to the parliamentary system and generate needless tension and disorientation in the post-election and legislative process in the House. That may well drag the parliamentary left into unprecedented battles inside and outside the House and serve to trivialize the political agenda during a period when Greece cannot afford it.

[Kathimerini English Edition]

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