It is usual for Greek governments, whether one-party or coalitions (which are normally loath to actually work together), to claim that their only real challenge is dealing with the country’s problems and not the opposition. They also like to say that their only desire is to save the country, not their hold on power.
What they usually contend is that having finally risen to the proverbial occasion (or at least, in less dramatic tones, to the occasion as defined strictly by the Constitution and not beyond), they are indifferent to the political cost of their decisions, they eschew the traditions of cronyism – which has always favored the good old boys – they spend their time focused on the job at hand rather than on things of lesser importance and they abhor the idea of a state that is subject to the whims of political parties.
If only it were so. If only we had been witness to such a miracle, even once. Because anything reasonable and just, anything truly constitutional, would indeed seem like a miracle. Next-day jitters and election day anxiety stifle even the most well-intended and honest efforts, while governments throughout the decades have always returned to what they only yesterday condemned as being undemocratic and rejected as belonging to the past. This behavior could also be interpreted as a knee-jerk reaction to another traditional tactic: the demand of the opposition for elections to be called “right here, right now,” even before the voting booths have managed to gather any dust from the previous race.
Pretty words have little impact. They burn out fast in the fire sparked by the instinct for political survival inherent in every political party, the need to remain in power, fanned by the anxiety of every individual deputy or official. The interests of the party and of the individual politician are not always in concert, which is why the phenomenon of tension between government deputies and ministers is as natural as the autumn rain.
The battles in the present government are being waged on more fronts and are more brutal than usual because of the fact that it is a two-party coalition. Two parties whose clashes marked the Metapolitefsi era and who have exchanged particularly harsh words over their history could hardly be expected to coexist in a climate of mutual trust and honesty. The mistrust runs deep and it is of course not mitigated by the continued barbs, with PASOK on the one hand accusing New Democracy of heavy-handed tactics and ND blaming the Socialists, on the other, for trying to distance themselves from the more painful measures.
If the anxiety over the next day is further stoked by public opinion polls in the coming weeks and months, it is likely that a “save yourself” mentality will befall the coalition, and that is something that would be very hard to recover from.