A question of credibility

The conservative New Democracy party, realizing that Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his PASOK government have the upper hand in the pre-election period due to their ability to provide handouts to voters, has been persistently pressing the message that the government does not have the credibility to make good on its promises. No sooner had Simitis finished his news conference in Thessaloniki yesterday than ND leader Costas Karamanlis made a lengthy statement trying to pick apart the premier’s message and stressing ND’s line that the PASOK government has failed. «The prime minister had a last opportunity to beg forgiveness for what he promised and did not deliver. It is unprecedented politically for a prime minister to promise the same things each year, the same tired promises, indifferent to the thoughts of those listening,» Karamanlis said. «Mr Simitis has been trapped by a policy of polarization and confrontation. He is consumed by attacks against New Democracy instead of concentrating on the country’s problems and trying to solve them.» As the government is to present a «Convergence Charter» on Wednesday, in which it will set out the economic and social measures with which it hopes to bring Greece in line with its EU partners, New Democracy has released a number of statistics and arguments which, it claims, is the «Divergence Charter» of PASOK’s tenure. For example, ND says that in 2000 Simitis had set a target of Greeks achieving close to 80 percent of the EU average living standard, but, the opposition adds, today Greeks have 67.8 percent of the buying power of the average EU citizen, placing Greece in last place. The «Divergence Charter» presents what it says are official EU or Greek statistics to drive home what the party’s chief strategist, Giorgos Souflias, says: «The PASOK governments from 1993 to 2003 achieved precisely the same as they did in 1981 to 1989 – the worst possible performance of all governments of EU members in the crucial sectors of our social and economic life.» ND lists what it says are PASOK’s failures in fighting high prices, unemployment, reducing the public debt, creating a safety net for the poor, supporting regional development and competitiveness, and the fall of the Athens Stock Exchange (from its historic high in 1999). Responding to Karamanlis’s statement yesterday, government spokesman Christos Protopappas said: «Once again, a panic-stricken Mr Karamanlis chose to turn himself into the footnote of a news conference held by the prime minister. Today the people had a chance to compare them and draw their conclusions. On the one hand, we, the government, stride toward the future with security and stability. We guarantee the wellbeing of the Greek people. On the other hand, the opposition remains stuck in the agenda of the past.» Karamanlis accused PASOK of «mixing up the State with the party, destroying public administration and paralysing the state machinery.»

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