Greece must be the only country in the world that starts talking about when the next elections will take place almost as soon as a government has been picked. Sure, the rumor mill took some time to warm up this time around, but now it’s working at full speed. The subject is being discussed at coffee shops and living rooms around the country. The bets are coming thick and fast – some without malice, others quite the opposite.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis believes it to be intrinsic to his brand that he sees out his four-year term before considering elections. It’s the responsible and institutionally correct thing to do, in his view. And this is true, but for one thing: the land mine of simple proportional representation that lurks ahead and is threatening to blow the country apart. The risk is too big. It is a land mine that needs to be neutralized quickly and effectively. The country needs a clear period of political calm and predictability if it wants to put the crisis behind it once and for all, emerge from the pandemic and remain on the path of growth.
There are plenty of arguments why the government should go to the polls in spring and some of them are good ones. Unable to find its voice and to tap into the frustration felt by a part of the public, the opposition is in a state of flux. There is room to the right of New Democracy for something new that could draw strength from the world of social media and the powerful anti-systemic trend which has found a new raison d’etre with the anti-vaccination movement.
A leader has not emerged in this area, but the audience is there, and as one veteran politician said, “someone will eventually set up shop where there’s demand.” With the main opposition trapped by its own contradictions and introversion, and the right disorganized and leaderless, it can be said to be the perfect opportunity for Mitsotakis.
But summers have become a period fraught with risk. Wildfires are a constant risk that won’t go away. The state and its services are too slow when it comes to change, regardless of how efficient the political leadership is. It’s a real issue. Next summer will be similar to the last, before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan enters the big electoral race for survival – with everything that may entail for Greece.
The decision is not easy and a lot is at stake for the country. The danger of early elections being called at the wrong moment is huge. Rising prices will test society’s tolerance and citizens are not as predictable as they once were, every so often punishing leaders they feel to be “blackmailing” them politically. We saw it happen in Canada and elsewhere. Nevertheless, we need to keep our eye on the main target: evading the big land mine that will blow us off the tracks of reason and stability.