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?A strong party does not exclude consensus,? says ND’s Dimitris Avramopoulos

A strong leading party would constitute a stable framework for consensus, Dimitris Avramopoulos, defense minister and New Democracy party candidate for the first constituency of Athens, said in a recent interview with Kathimerini when asked whether he agrees with party leader Antonis Samaras?s strategy for a one-party government.

Avramopoulos sees a shift away from the policies of the PASOK government as imperative and also feasible in terms of the commitments made by Greece in the first memorandum with its creditors, while also expressing the certainty that on the day after the May 6 elections there will be some positive developments in regard to a number of facets of the bailout agreement.

Mr Samaras has his eye firmly fixed on the goal of a one-party government. In fact, he has even suggested that a second round of elections may take place if a majority is not achieved. What is your position on this issue?

Greece needs stability and a strong government. The target of a one-party administration marks the need for a strong government, which ND wants to function as an axis of stability for the smooth operation of the political system. In other words, a strong leading party not only does not exclude national consensus, but it also forms a stable framework for it. We are looking at an exceptionally crucial period for Greece and we have an obligation to make important decisions for the country and for the Greek people fast. At ND we believe that the power of the party which has strongest presence in Parliament corresponds to our country?s need for a strong and effective government that will serve a full four-year term. This is our target and this is what we are fighting for.

Of course it is the citizens who have the final say. They are the ones who judge and who ultimately decide. If the outcome of the elections and political conditions dictate the need for a government made up of more than one party, then that can be formed only on the basis of a program for exiting the crisis. According to the Constitution and to procedure, the party that has the most seats in Parliament ultimately decides on such a program.

Curbing the extremes

Public opinion polls have shown a complete fragmentation of the center-right and an unprecedented strengthening of the extreme right. To what do you attribute this trend? Did ND make mistakes in its handling of certain issues that led to this?

History is full of similar examples in similar times. The economic crisis and the acute problems it has created for the whole of society have resulted in a small portion of citizens aligning themselves with the extremes of the political spectrum in protest at the main parties. It is easily swayed by populist slogans that come at no cost for the parties and do not constitute a political proposal. The phenomenon has manifested itself in France and Italy, and in the past in Austria and the Netherlands, and elsewhere. However, when you have a powerful and effective government composed of democratic parties, these phenomena recede and often disappear altogether. The response therefore is to give citizens a sense of trust, security, justice and social cohesion so that they don?t get carried away by the extremes. As such, this is not just a simple matter of political handling, but a symptom in society that arises from the economic crisis and the crisis of values that has manifested itself in Europe and the rest of the world over the past few decades.

High stakes

What is at stake? Given the country?s obligations, do you agree with Mr Samaras that there is room to redraft policy?

Yes, I do. Redrafting the policies adopted by PASOK regarding the obligations of the first memorandum is both imperative and feasible. There is no doubt that the troika [of Greece?s international creditors: the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund] know this as well. I am also certain that on the day after the elections there will be some positive developments in regard to certain aspects of the policies adopted. Our lenders set the goals for fiscal reform and competitiveness. However, instead of structural reforms, instead of a reorganization of the state and the liberation of the creative forces in the private sector, the PASOK government bound as it is by vested interests in state-owned companies chose horizontal spending cuts and tax hikes in order to plug the black holes created by the irresponsible policies it had pursued. Unfortunately, PASOK opted for the worst possible approach to achieving those objectives because it is dependent on its political commitments to state-owned companies and to an overinflated state.

You served as a minister in the unity government of Lucas Papademos. Do you believe that the Papademos experiment was successful?

Given the circumstances under which he took over the government, Lucas Papademos responded with great presence of mind and a sense of responsibility toward the mandate he received from an unprecedented majority in Parliament, for an interim government with a specific goal. It was indeed an experiment conducted within a minimum framework of consensus, which, however, achieved its mission.

End of an era?

For years you have talked about the end of the historical cycle of the parties of the post-dictatorship era. How do you see the political landscape after elections?

It has been clear that this particular historical cycle has been coming to a close for a decade. If the political system had looked deeper and further into the future, it would have already solved many of the problems we are facing today. Even great opportunities, such as two constitutional reviews, were wasted on changes of minor importance. However, the May 6 election will reveal a new political state of affairs in our country, whose main characteristic will be dealing with all the big issues that have arisen since the restoration of democracy. I am talking about transparency in the management of public money, the culpability of politicians, and the application of a program of balanced growth to the benefit of all citizens, with social equity and the prospect of becoming a prosperous country. Our country must not stray from its European path, which is a national accomplishment.