It’s hard to measure the impact that politicians’ personal behavior can have on public attitudes. Nevertheless, one can only welcome gestures like the one made Friday by conservative heavyweight Dora Bakoyannis.
The former minister praised a proposal by Nikos Fylis, opposition SYRIZA’s shadow education minister, emphasizing that partisan dividing lines are inconsequential next to the universal objective of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Filis had a few days ago suggested that the vaccine certificate should expire after six months for those who avoid a booster Covid shot. The New Democracy MP actually even invited Filis to a joint campaign, village square after village square as she said, to try to explain to people the merits of vaccination.
In a recent interview, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also appeared amendable to Filis’ proposal. A similar debate is taking place in other European countries.
Given the usually poor quality of political rivalry between the government and the opposition, also on the issue of the pandemic, such consensus comes like a small crack of light on a solid wall of PR stunts, half-measures and backpedaling, all of which would be business as usual if they did not have an impact on the health of millions of people.
Transparent as the motivations of the government and the opposition may be, an initiative calling for a common street-level campaign could have the effect of persuading a good number of people to get the shot – at least those who have not ventured into irrational territory.
A public alliance between political rivals provides a temporary break from the usual exchange of accusations. It conveys a strong message about the seriousness of the situation. And it is a breath of fresh air in the stale partisan discourse.
Should Bakoyannis and Filis appear together in public to speak about the benefits of Covid vaccination, more politicians would be likely to follow their example. Something good could come out of this unexpected gesture.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said that the Covid pandemic will end “when the world chooses to end it.”
“It is in our hands. We have all the tools we need,” he added. Politicians are also part of this “world.”