The political climate and the law

The political climate and the law

There is something worse than changing the electoral law within the course of a single government tenure, and that is the excuses used by the ministers of the conservative government to explain the motives behind such an act.

Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis put it in rather sophisticated terms. “At the moment, the prevalent toxicity is rendering collaborations difficult. A climate is being formed that undermines the possibility of collaborations, with the government bearing no responsibility for this,” he said (Antenna 05.09.2022).

Interior Minister Makis Voridis was more blunt. “The political climate in September is different to what it was in May, as the opposition has raised the level of toxicity,” he said (RealFM 05.09.2022).

In other words, the country appears to have “electoral laws of the moment” – i.e. electoral laws which are introduced depending on “the political climate of the moment.” To be sure, the political climate could be different eight months from now because, as everyone knows, political time runs fast; which means that Greece could end up with a third electoral law in four years.

It should be pointed out that Greece introduced a constitutional amendment designed to prevent the manipulation of the electoral law. Article 54, Paragraph 1 of the Greek Constitution stipulates that “the electoral system and constituencies are specified by statute which shall be applicable as of the elections after the immediately following ones, unless an explicit provision, adopted by a majority of two thirds of the total number of members of Parliament, provides for its immediate application as of the immediately following elections.” These are quite a lot of words added to what is an already very long constitution. But there would be no need to add them at all if all politicians actually stuck with what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has stated. “We already have an electoral law. You ask me if I will once again change the electoral law. Such talk is not serious. I am a responsible institutional politician who has learned to act according to rules” (29.03.2022).

According to the letter of the Constitution, the government can change the electoral law several times, depending on the political climate of the moment. Following the adoption of a simple proportional representation system by the so-called “progressive front” of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) as well as the Union of Centrists (22.07.2016), there can be no real winner after the first election. Ruling New Democracy has said that it will resort to a second election, while SYRIZA seems to be dreaming of fresh progressive fronts; but such fantasies are extremely unlikely to materialize as the populist Panos Kammenos, the leftist party’s ex-coalition partner, is no longer in Parliament and PASOK does not seem willing to work with its former harasser.

However, the spirit of the Constitution warrants firm rules which are not tailored to the political needs of the time. It also requires politicians who are serious about their work, rather than worry exclusively about their re-election.

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