The prime minister has said it again and again these past few days: Elections will take place the in spring, as planned, at the end of the government’s four-year term. He said it in Parliament on Wednesday and again in an interview with Skai TV the very next day: “I will not jeopardize the country’s stability for the sake of re-election. If this means paying the political cost because of a difficult winter, so be it.”
The leader of the main opposition, however, has chosen to ignore Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ assurances. In Parliament on Wednesday, Alexis Tsipras reiterated the dilemma – “political change and an end to the nightmare, or an endless nightmare?” – and urged the prime minister to proclaim early elections in September. Then on Thursday, speaking at the Economist conference, he said that elections are necessary for “Greece to find its footing and deal with present challenges.”
What he’s basically saying is that in order to protect social cohesion and safeguard society’s trust in the political system, the government needs to agree to early elections. It’s like the action from one brought a reaction from the other, which has been recycling the same stale argument for the past six months. It’s as if Mitsotakis left Tsipras and the opposition without any fuel.
Regardless of whether the prime minister is sincere in his selflessness or in his concern for the country’s stability, and regardless of whether his decision was influenced by public opinion polls showing continued support for his New Democracy party and for him, personally, as prime minister, is neither here nor there. His decision to shut down the rampant speculation about early elections, the calm and determined way he did it and, mainly, the fact that the already volatile environment and the public’s sense of insecurity will not be exacerbated, are all political moves that strengthen his profile as the “responsible leader.”
The next few months will be a minefield of problems for the government, but also for the opposition, whose political survival is also at stake with regard to what stance it maintains in response to the looming crises. The divisive tactic of “elections now” has lost credibility and trying to tap into people’s anger is not only dangerous, it is dubious – and this is because all it does is generate more toxicity instead of progress.