NEWS

Single-party governments are a thing of the past

The end of single-party governments was proclaimed by Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos in an interview with Kathimerini published on Sunday, in which the minister said that changes in electoral law were not taboo for the ruling PASOK party. Tsochadzopoulos added that as interior minister in 1989, he drafted what was «the fairest electoral law ever,» thanks to which «New Democracy and the Left Coalition formed a coalition government.» The tendency for coalition governments is not only needed by the Greek political system, Tsochadzopoulos said, but is part of an overall trend in Europe. He felt the important thing now is for the government to formulate good policies, called on left-wing parties to do some thinking, and announced initiatives to be taken by the premier and PASOK. Coalition governments exist in most European countries, the minister pointed out, and in a few years, the presidents of the European Union and the European Commission will be elected. In his view, the democratic deficit in Europe necessitates changes to the domestic political system: «In PASOK we are ready to propose the implementation of a series of democratic changes related to the structure of the state.» The minister also made an overture to the market and business. Using the term «democratic development» to describe the attempt to boost business, he said Greece «needs profitable investment,» and noted that tax incentives no longer suffice to attract investment. Tsochadzopoulos also announced that legislation intended to secure investment from new producers of electricity from natural gas and renewable sources will be submitted to Parliament later in November. The minister says his objective is to formulate regional policy that will help supplement rural incomes with revenue from tourism. Since the local elections, the likelihood of cooperation between PASOK and the Left Coalition has been debated. In an interview, you spoke of electoral cooperation. My view of the developing political scene is not restricted simply to cooperation between PASOK and the Left Coalition. I believe conditions have matured to the point where a broad front of convergent progressive political forces will be able to express the aims, hopes and dreams that are of concern to the vast majority of Greeks, and which are represented by PASOK, the Left Coalition and other forces, regardless of party. I believe that dialogue with the Left Coalition and other forces is important, first of all so as to ascertain whether such a prospect would find acceptance. That is the crucial thing. It is one thing to have cooperation between two parties, and another to have an electoral front supported by a number of parties, such as PASOK, Left Coalition and other groups which believe in that prospect. I think the issue in Greece today is to stake a political claim for the entire center-left spectrum, starting from the democratic center, where PASOK has very deep roots, and extending to the Left. This development is in line with what is happening in certain European countries, such as Finland, Sweden and Germany, where cooperation with the Left formed the basis of future power, through agreement on the government’s program and the participation of the parties. In contrast, cooperation with the Right was the tactic used by other parties, which basically aimed at claiming the center. There is the vital matter of the electoral law. Do you believe that the government should take initiatives in that direction? The government has committed itself to introducing a new electoral law, which is to be implemented in the next elections but one. As you know, the current electoral law does not permit coalition governments. In contrast, the law PASOK implemented in 1989, which was the fairest electoral law ever, allowed a coalition government. It was on this electoral law that the coalition of New Democracy and the Left Coalition was based. I was interior minister at the time and I worked very hard on that law; I know its weaknesses and its advantages. So PASOK has shown that it does not regard the electoral law as being taboo. We have already implemented a fairer law and are ready with our proposal for a new law. In my view the electoral law is not the key. That is a given, it will happen. And that is of interest to all political forces in Greece. Not just to PASOK? It is also of interest to New Democracy. With the problem of the political emergence of an ultra-rightist, extremist, racist, xenophobic view, ND is also worried about how it can retain the center. Everybody is claiming the center, but the more openly they claim it, the greater the risk they run of losses from the extremes to the other side. I see you reject the criticism that when PASOK loses influence, it looks to the Left for rescue. Of course, I disagree profoundly. It is a strategic proposal for success. This is not a defensive move. It is a strategic proposal which aims to express a broad political and social convergence, beyond PASOK and the Left Coalition, and with a majority so that it can govern. And that is the significance of the content, a government proposal that will spark dialogue. I am certain that the prime minister will take some initiatives, that PASOK, as a party, is preparing similar initiatives. I wish and hope that the other parties will do likewise so that we can approach a new horizon. We are in the 21st century. The fact that we are in the eurozone, that we are part of the common European market cannot be confined purely to the economic sphere. Everyone must realize that the economy is directly connected with the political environment. Formulating new conditions for the operation of the political environment is a necessary democratic measure for this era. Europe is changing rapidly, through enlargement of the European Union and also through processes concerning institutional changes in Europe. We are at a crucial stage. The decision to enlarge the EU by 10 new members ensures the accession of the Republic of Cyprus, which has been a national aim for many years. It is the first time in 27 years that we have had a positive result from the attempt to overturn the situation in Cyprus. The prospect of enlargement also ensures new conditions for the operation of the European political system and of European societies overall. For the first time at a European level, there are proposals demanding constitutional safeguards for the rights of European citizens – not only the right to vote in European elections, not only European nationality which is an essential element in forming the EU, but also a more democratic election of representatives at all levels. They propose democratic election of the EU president, the European Commission president, a European electoral procedure to settle the matter of electing Euro deputies, which is a major departure in European terms. As are the institutional changes that will determine the character of the new Europe, if not on a federal basis, then – I would say – as a minimal intrastate coalition of independent states, an intermediary stage to a federal formation, which will have a direct effect on the internal operation of states. The broadest possible expression of pluralism and democracy in our political system is essential. All society must act to acquire the same rights at the European level; everyone must be able to participate. So agreements and dialogue will become new elements in Greek political life. And that demands political will on the part of the existing political players. That means that PASOK, New Democracy and the Left Coalition must take a stand on these questions, and propose the restructuring of the political system.