OPINION

People’s concerns

Alarm and astonishment among the ruling Socialists greeted the Metron Analysis opinion poll, as New Democracy opposition is reported to be leading in voters’ preferences with a 7 percent margin. At the same time, 57.8 percent of those questioned said they expected the conservative party will win the next parliamentary elections. The poll obviously surprised Socialist cadres, as they thought that the crackdown on terrorism, the election of Fofi Yennimata, a Socialist, as «superprefect» and, mainly, the looming positive developments in Greece’s foreign policy issues had trimmed ND’s lead. This, however, has not happened: ND’s lead is 1.8 percent narrower than it was last June but is 1.5 wider than it was in July. The reason for this is expressed in people’s answers. People are mostly concerned about economic problems, unemployment and income distribution in general. The issues of terrorism and foreign relations are subordinate in terms of shaping voter preference. This should not surprise the governing party. It’s common knowledge (and Bill Clinton’s pre-election campaign exploited this against George Bush senior, the winner of the Iraq war) that the economy always tops public concerns. The dismantling of terrorism is not ignored but it’s no paradox that it doesn’t weigh in decisively. Foreign policy issues, on the other hand, are crucial but it’s commonly thought that they are largely decided by outside factors and that their handling by ND would not radically differ anyway. In light of these parameters and given that fiscal austerity measures will be extended at least to 2006, the people’s stance is not absurd. It rather signals that the government has to put more effort toward the problems of the economy, unemployment and agriculture. Furthermore, PASOK officials should keep in mind another thing. Even if they think that they are more competent than ND in terms of administrative skills, their edge is offset by the attrition their long stay in power entails. ND’s charges of PASOK’s «establishment mentality» are not groundless, as PASOK shows signs of fatigue and degeneration and a failure to revitalize itself in terms of policies and faces. The prime minister failed to shape governments with fresh characters and to present a renewed political program after his re-election in 2000. He still has the opportunity to do both. As long as he doesn’t, he shouldn’t be surprised by opinion polls.