OPINION

Whiff of political opportunism

Frequent changes to the electoral system that serve the interests of the ruling party of the day have always been a sign that a democracy is immature and problematic. Hence the constitutional embargo on applying a newly voted electoral system in the following elections unless across-the-board consensus has been achieved. Electoral law determines the most important rules of the parliamentary game. Those rules must be clear and transcend petty political expediency. The electoral system need not be fixed and unchanging, but changes must take place with care, after dialogue, at a neutral time and by consensus. Since 1974 (apart from the simple proportional election in 1989), all elections have been conducted according to different versions of the enhanced proportional system. The argument was that this system combines fair allocation of seats with the production of stable governments. The smaller parties object and want a simple proportional system. They claim its implementation will lead not to political stability, but to coalition governments which have disadvantages but also advantages. Prime Minister Costas Simitis declares the existing electoral system will change, come what may. The petty political expediency of this action is clearly visible. The only need we can see for two-speed deputies is for the premier to get cadres loyal to him in Parliament. The existing system is imperfect and needs improvement, but nobody has argued convincingly for its replacement. Despite shortcomings, the enhanced proportional system has proved to be good for both major parties over 30 years in operation. This is why the premier’s initiative reeks more of political opportunism than of a desire to improve Greece’s political system.