Wednesday’s debate in Parliament was carried out in an almost pre-election climate – unsurprising given the recent government leaks, pressure from the main opposition and growing calls from almost all the parties for elections as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, given the barrage of statements, estimates and analyses about the timing of the polls, the majority of Greeks are showing remarkable maturity and believe the government needs to see out its four-year term. Even though almost everyone in the media and even the politicians themselves seem to have concluded that we will go to the polls in September or October at the latest, a different message is coming across from public opinion polls.
I don’t know if citizens believe in the institutional importance of a democratically elected administration going the full distance or whether they are alarmed by the prospect of the drawn-out period of instability that is inevitable as there will be at least two consecutive elections. What the polls show is that the people do not want elections now.
While the prime minister reiterated that the elections will take place at the end of the term, he has not cleared up the uncertainty. Maybe he’s waiting until after the August 15 peak of the holiday season before making any announcements to avert the risk of sinking the country into the pre-election doldrums prematurely. So far, though, he has staunchly defended institutional order and likely wants to see his term out.
The main argument for snap polls – that the government should come into what promises to be a very difficult winter with a fresh mandate – falls short, especially in such complex circumstances, which are only compounded by the explosive mix in Greek-Turkish relations and the unpredictable factor of wildfire management. Whatever happens, the excessive pre-election mood in the government is harming its image and is certainly not helping it govern the country effectively.
This process of erosion – more so for the country than the governing party – which is of concern to all, regardless of partisan preferences, needs to end. For this to happen, the prime minister needs to convincingly state that elections will come, as planned, next spring and he needs to rein in his ministers and party officials and get them focused on the many tasks at hand, which, at the end of the day, will determine their own and – more importantly – the party’s performance at the polls.