Polls and flouting the election cycle

Polls and flouting the election cycle

Although the prime minister insists that ballot boxes will be set up at the end of the government’s four year term – something that should be the rule and only be breached in very few cases and under extremely special circumstances – almost everyone is acting as if elections will be held in autumn.

Many ministers and members of Parliament have already launched what amounts to the beginning of an election campaign. Unfortunately, we tend to take it for granted that elections are called when it suits the government. A typical example is connecting the effectiveness or lack of dealing with wildfires over the next couple of months with the prospect of early recourse to the polls in the fall.

The principle of the four-year term is flouted and the only criterion about going to the polls is “When does it suit us better?”

With this contemptuous reasoning, suggestions were made for early elections as far back as the summer of 2020, just a year after ruling New Democracy’s victory, due to the positive opinion polls that were the result of the good management of the border crisis with Turkey in Evros, and the first phase of the pandemic.

The notion that “I am doing well in the polls, I’ll call elections,” does not look good for anyone and especially the politicians themselves. This criticism is not only about the current administration. It also concerns many of the previous ones.

Announcing elections should not have been part of party planning. The spirit of the Constitution on the issue is to have a stable electoral cycle of four years, a period sufficient to produce results and to be judged by them. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Too often we have resorted to early polls.

From September 2007 to September 2015, six national elections were held, and that is not counting the European elections, nor the regional and local ones.

It will be a positive and encouraging development for Greek democracy if the country, after these continuous electoral battles, confirms its electoral maturity and goes on till the spring of 2023 before there is another election, in which case it would be just the second in eight years (after September 2015, we only went to the polls once, in July 2019). It will send a clear institutional message that the country has returned to normality.

In any case, it is not certain this is the right time for the country to go to elections, when in fact, according to all indications, we might end up with a relatively long period without an elected government. The scenarios vary: Polls show there will not be a majority government, maybe not even in the second elections expected to be needed.

In a difficult international geopolitical and economic environment and with complex electoral scenarios – caretaker government, mandates to form a government, coalition consultations – the decision on whether to hold elections cannot be one-dimensional. Special attention and a sense of national responsibility is required from everyone.

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