Economic factors

When former US President George Bush lost the presidential race in 1992 despite his preceding victory in Iraq that was achieved under the umbrella of a wide international coalition, everyone blamed it on the economy. It is the economy that determines people’s sense of satisfaction and prosperity and which ultimately ended Bush’s hopes for re-election. Domestic opinion polls over the last few months confirm this conclusion. The crackdown on terrorism, the hopes of resolving the Cyprus dispute, Cyprus’s membership of the European Union, Greece’s presidency of the EU – none of these factors has succeeded in reversing or even putting the brakes on New Democracy’s lead in voter preference. Even the last survey by Metron Analysis pollsters, conducted after the war began (which usually bolsters the percentage of the ruling party), gave the conservative opposition a 6.5 percent lead, while the MRB poll, which took place shortly before the outbreak of the war, boosted the margin to 7.9 percent. The Metron Analysis survey makes clear that public disaffection is clearly a result of their economic misfortune. Only 51.3 percent of the people said they are satisfied with their lives (vis-a-vis 56 percent in November) while the percentage is down to 32.7 percent among the lower-income strata. The economy lies at the heart of people’s problems. This is not only because it determines their present condition but also because it affects their optimism for the future at a personal as well as at a national level. If one takes into consideration that, according to the same opinion poll, only 10 percent believe that the economy will improve in the coming year, then one can understand the reason for PASOK’s low ratings. Besides, those questioned state clearly that they have the same confidence in the government and the opposition alike as far as the economy is concerned, an area where the Socialists used to outdo the conservative opposition. The war has upset us, hurt us, taken up all our thoughts and emotions. But it will be over not long from now. And then the economy will emerge, even more vigorously, as the most fundamental factor – and hence the central priority for the government. The mere anticipation of an external tonic for a worldwide upswing is not enough.