NEWS

‘Strong’ governments and parties that daren’t tell the truth

The other day we were talking about the electoral law being drawn up by PASOK as it plans its future after a possible defeat in the next elections. There is no doubt about their motives, but the law in question, like every other electoral law, cannot be dismissed as simply an electoral ruse. During the 1950s and part of the 1960s, it was precisely such electoral tricks, some of them outrageous, that gave Constantine Karamanlis, the leader of the most cohesive political force at a time where political power was not only electoral power, the opportunity to carry out vigorous, systematic policies. History does not waste its time on the nature of the tricks employed. Despite the left’s justified bitterness since that time, the work of Constantine Karamanlis taken as a whole has to be judged as positive and beneficial for the country. Under any electoral system, up until 1963 at least, Karamanlis represented the strongest political force, and it was precisely that fact that was the reason for electoral manipulation. I am not referring to the violence and vote-rigging which was a product of the different circumstances at the time. The existing electoral system imposes a two-party system, allowing the party which is ahead by even a few dozen votes to form a strong, independent government. If one attempts to give reality to these adjectives by comparing them with the current political situation, one sees how false they are. The decision as to which party comes out ahead often depends on the slightest of shifts by dissatisfied voters from one party to another. In the last elections, the difference was only 1-2 percent and would have been even less without the «Hellenizations» (giving citizenship to non-Greeks). So, the first concern of both major parties is always to keep everyone happy in a society that is split into many small minorities, with conflicting interests and demands that suddenly acquire the status of national policy. There isn’t a political party today who dares tell the unpleasant truth to farmers, small-business owners, or civil servants. That is why the main party in opposition always agrees to all demands and then when it comes to power, refuses to yield to any. (There was one very capable juggler, Andreas Papandreou, who could hold five watermelons under one arm and everyone thought he set a good example.) I regret to say that these political parties are not strong parties with firm principles. By their very nature, they cannot form strong, independent governments. We saw this with the most recent government of Constantine Mitsotakis, we are seeing it again now with Costas Simitis. Above all, political life has once again become desperately impoverished, restricted to an uninspired tug of war between the two major parties over who will gain electorally from voters’ displeasure with the other party. Hence no strong government will dare to raise issues or provide solutions to problems that might prove unpopular with, not a majority, but just a small sector, of the electorate. This is also why, as we have recently seen, political rivalry is not exercised through political arguments but through insolent, pettifogging rhetoric devoid of content. Governments are not strong. By their very nature, they are extremely weak and that is why they crumble at the first «untruth» or the first «truth» that emerges on television. That is also why they are so vulnerable to the demands and the blackmailing of non-institutional power centers. The prime minister talks about «economic interest groups» threatening and blackmailing him. He knows who they are and what they are demanding. He does not dare accuse his blackmailers by name, precisely because he leads such a «strong» government. All zeal