OPINION

An old favorite

The prime minister’s rejuvenation of the Executive Bureau and replacement of PASOK’s general secretary was ostensibly carried out within the framework of an initiative for governmental and party awakening – an awakening which, although undermined by the minor government reshuffle, appeared to be Costas Simitis’s chief goal. However, the government’s decision to raise the issue of changes to the electoral law – after careful preparation – suggests that party expediency continues to take precedence over initiatives of substance. Indeed, why the urgency for changing the electoral law now, especially if the new legislation will not yet apply by the time of the expected elections in 2005? Unfortunately, the only available explanations have little connection to speculation about the extent to which existing electoral legislation is fair, representative and functional. On the contrary, in the raising of the issue, one can discern an attempt to create a new point of conflict with opposition New Democracy and to set aside criticism of alleged corruption within the government’s ranks. One can also discern certain party interests that are fueling the search for a more proportional electoral system – chiefly a system which makes it easier for a party leader to send select deputies to Parliament. If the exploitation of the issue of electoral legislation for public relations purposes can be interpreted as a show of political pettiness, then the party interests behind this exploitation are even more worrying. The existing electoral law, despite its imperfections, has served the country well. Speculation about whether it limits the proportional representation of smaller political parties more than is necessary for the existence of stable government is too serious a matter for debate during an extended pre-election period. As for the dependence of parliamentary deputies on their supporters and the party itself, this is an even more awkward matter, which is further aggravated in the case of MPs elected via party lists. Finally, if anyone wanted to regard as «new» Simitis’s basically unchanged government, they could not deny that, by choosing electoral legislation as its chief focus, it has proven how dated it actually is.