Having it both ways

The discrediting of politics is not only a result of political and business entanglement, the conflict of interests and corruption. Inconsistency and political amoralism may not lie at the heart of partisan confrontation, but they certainly are two of the main reasons for the average citizen’s disenchantment with contemporary politics and its protagonists. This was flagrantly demonstrated by the two «crucial decisions» taken by Prime Minister Costas Simitis over the last 10 days. With the removal and political repudiation of PASOK Party General Secretary Costas Laliotis, the prime minister signaled a new PASOK overture toward the center right. Regardless of any opportunistic and ulterior motives that may exist, Simitis’s move carries much political weight because it presages the policy that the government will follow until the polls, which are due to take place next spring at the latest. After his overture toward the center right – which will last until the next elections – Simitis announced last week the changes that the ruling party will make to the electoral law. These changes will prepare the ground for PASOK’s post-election overture toward the Left. We have seen it all before. In effect, Simitis’s moves failed to impress or take his enemies by surprise. They merely confirmed the existence of a political cynicism that is grounded on the rationale that holding and exercising power is the ultimate aim of a party – a goal that justifies the use of any means or method. As is known, the Constitution says that should a new electoral law come into force, it will only be valid for the election after the upcoming one. That may well take place in February 2005, should the Parliament that will emerge from the elections this spring fail to elect a new president of the Republic (which requires a 180-strong majority in the assembly that New Democracy is quite unlikely to enjoy). If PASOK loses the elections next May, eight months later it will be able to oust New Democracy from power through a coalition government with the leftist parties which will have acted so as to take advantage of the proposed electoral reform. (PASOK’s «concession» – that the new law come into force after the election of the president of the Republic – in the 2008 elections, that is, is obviously driven by ulterior motives. Because, regardless of when it comes into force, a more proportional electoral system is bound to have an early effect on the current balance of power which has been shaped on the basis of the existing two-party system). All this, however, is a minor matter, even trivial, next to the blatant political inconsistency in electoral strategy for the next couple of polls – a strategy which PASOK is openly devising. In the logic of the ordinary citizen, Simitis’s strategy is the following: «We will try to win the next elections by praising the virtues of the free market and by making unreserved overtures to the center right. If we lose them, which is very likely, we will have anyway prepared the ground for our return to power – not with a one-party government, but with the cooperation of DIKKI, Synaspismos Left Coalition and any other leftist party that will be willing to join. In that case, we should expect a U-turn toward the Left. But that is not essential. The main aim is to keep ‘the haves’ in power.»

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