No self-confidence

It makes sense for PASOK to advance the scenario of its being briefly replaced by a right-wing government next year, followed by a push for early elections in 2005 were Parliament to prove unable to choose a new president. What is incomprehensible is the influence this scenario exerts over a number of conservative officials, whose reactions betray deep unease at such a prospect. Evangelos Meimarakis, secretary of New Democracy’s Central Committee, on Sunday called on PASOK to agree to a joint presidential candidate together with ND. On Monday, ND deputy Aris Spiliotopoulos said he has a potential candidate in mind while, before him, ND MP Giorgos Voulgarakis sought a coalition with the Left in order to stave off early elections in 2005. By virtually begging PASOK to commit itself to oppose early polls, and by appearing ready to pay any price to win such a pledge (deputy Michalis Liapis reportedly said ND may have to vote for current premier Costas Simitis), the opposition displays an embarrassing lack of self-confidence. The public knows that if PASOK suffers a marginal defeat in the 2004 elections it will do everything it can to force a new ballot in 2005, in order to claw its way back to power (by refusing to back ND’s presidential candidate). On the other hand, if PASOK suffers a landslide defeat in 2004, it will try to avoid an even heavier one a year later in order to stave off the internal discord that could render it unelectable for many years to come. Only then will it agree to a president’s election without going to the polls. In short, the outcome of the 2004 parliamentary election will, to a large extent, determine the outcome of the subsequent, presidential vote. That is where the political goal really lies. Anything else is a fruitless, if not harmful, exercise in speculation.