Simple proportional madness

Simple proportional madness

The protests by extremist fringe parties and lone fans of the anti-vaccination movement in Athens in recent days are the first pre-election rallies of the age augured by an electoral system that will allow their representatives to be elected to Parliament. Let’s not fool ourselves: after the next elections, in which each party will be represented according to the percentage of its votes, many of the demagogues who stoke trouble from the periphery will take center stage as kingmakers. Their participation might decide whether a governing coalition will form, in which case their demands, ambitions and bigotry will determine the country’s course.

Today’s political scene will resemble a golden age. With a strong government and a strong opposition party, regardless of the many weaknesses of our politics, we are generally in agreement as to our country’s direction and priorities. What is coming will be a cultural shock. It will stir up all the dark currents, broaden rifts, reshape politics and society. The montage of images from the recent protests – where the crucifix and the hangman’s noose come together in a rant of rage and hate – is a sign of what’s ahead if any of the groups that exploits these subterranean forces gets into Parliament.

Our politicians are called on to deal with a danger of historical magnitude. For the government, the achievements of its term in office will not mean much if, after the elections, the country sinks into a swamp of ungovernability. New Democracy must therefore prepare the ground so that in the period in which no party will be able to forge a coalition there will be broad consensus on the urgent need for new elections. These will be held using the electoral system that this Parliament adopted, which promotes stability by giving the winning party a bonus of seats.

For SYRIZA, the responsibility is even greater: the main opposition party is called on to reject its own decisions and tactics. Because it was the SYRIZA government that adopted simple proportional representation; Alexis Tsipras has already proved that he will collaborate with anyone who will help him gain power, having done so with Panos Kammenos’ nationalist party. We already see signs that the “end justifies the means” policy is still there.

In 2015, when Greece’s place in Europe was in jeopardy, Tsipras took a step back. Now that the stakes are between developing a modern country and stepping into national madness, a timely change of policy is even more urgent. And, unfortunately, less likely.

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