Revenge at the polls

The wave of strikes, which shows no sign of abating, is largely the product of a political climate which the government itself has created. Indeed, Costas Simitis’s government needs to take full responsibility for its tactics, which have opened a veritable can of worms. It gave the public the impression that it was willing to spend freely from state coffers in the countdown to the elections. Certain social groups saw this as the ideal time to press for salary rises and other improvements in their working conditions. But when the prime minister found himself faced with the consequences of his strategic populism, he was obliged to change course. Evidently, he realized, albeit rather late, that his initial tactics had lost him a great deal of credibility, and he now risks turning off more voters than he attracts because of these handouts. Moreover, his insistence that he will not give in to pressure is not enough to stem the tide of strike action. Such situations can easily exacerbate fiscal pressures, which then need a great deal of time and effort to ease. In any case, the ruling party will pay the cost of its pre-election tactics. The thing that has infuriated striking workers is not that their demands have not been met but the general feeling that they have been duped… And such circumstances, defeated strikers tend to take their revenge at the polls.