Are we ready for coalitions?

The government’s proposed new electoral law has triggered political discussion and awakened public opinion. The government’s proposals are obviously part of a broader plan, or an overall effort by the government to recover and to ward off public disapproval. Its proposals for changes to the electoral law are dominated by concern about the prospect of defeat in the next elections. One cannot help but wonder about the proposal to enhance the proportionality of the electoral system and boost electoral coalitions. This makes it difficult for a single party to secure power and favors broader formations than the current bipolar arrangement of PASOK and New Democracy. Aware that corruption has gone deep within his own party and will probably last a long time, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is trying to open out the field of political opposition. The PASOK-ND polarity will not yield victory under the current system, so the proposed changes favor a broader opposition between the center left and the center right, which the drafters of the bill expect will bring more opportunities for victory. They believe, perhaps rightly, that the center left is larger and will more readily permit the formation of coalitions, in contrast to the center right, which has not formed any coalitions in recent history. Should party-political considerations be allowed to bring into question a system which has given Greece stable governments and normal political life since the return to democracy? Is Greek society mature enough to accept coalitions or weak minority governments that this law leans toward? This is the issue the government must tackle, because Greece’s experience in the early 1990s was not of the best.

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