Moves for a ‘second round’

By withdrawing the two main innovations in the new electoral law being proposed – that is, voters’ ability to pick a candidate from a party other than the one he/she voted for and the introduction of regional deputies elected from a list – the government has lost any moral highground over its desire to change the electoral system. The only significant change remaining in (Interior Minister Costas) Skandalidis’s now somewhat emasculated plan is the abolition of the provision that made it difficult to form alliances prior to the elections, strengthening the party with the most votes only when it had a majority. So it is clear that the Simitis government’s plans are focused on the «second round.» That is, with the most likely scenario being a defeat for the ruling party in the next elections, the government is seeking a return bout before the New Democracy party has completed a year in power, on the basis of the presidential election scheduled for the spring of 2005. In order to acquire a majority – and a continued hold on power – PASOK is hoping for the help of Synaspismos Left Coalition and the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) parties during the election campaign to boost its total percentage to above that of ND. The only two really enterprising provisions in the plan, mentioned above, were rejected after strong opposition to Skandalidis’s «reformist» measures by PASOK deputies, who naturally were concerned about their own re-election. Skandalidis, as a «sincere reformer,» finds himself in an even more embarrassing position as he invokes arguments that could not convince anyone with any intelligence or any knowledge of politics. The minister rejects the three left-wing parties’ demand to replace the existing electoral system with a simple proportional system, claiming that the new law should still ensure government stability by boosting the main party. However, he is also proposing that power should later be claimed by an alliance of three or more parties. It would be more honest – and more convincing – if the PASOK government tried from now to achieve a convergence of platforms and to establish a framework for campaign cooperation with its potential partners. Time is on its side, since it still enjoys a formal majority and it is in a strong negotiating position vis a vis its future allies. However, if PASOK loses the next elections, the conditions for an alliance will probably be set by – in all likelihood – the Left Coalition and DIKKI.

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