The coming storm

Any independent observer of the two major political parties’ electoral platforms would understandably feel confused, as an initial glance is hardly enough to comprehend the full picture. Their platforms, particularly their economic programs, resemble nebulous images within frames cut to fit each party’s particular outlook. The government resorts to flattering, freed of all difficulties; the main opposition highlights the gray areas as well as brighter hopes for an ideal future. To be precise, PASOK has covered itself as far as possible, forgetting the problems in public finances, debt, social security and the labor market. The main opposition New Democracy party, while describing the country’s economic position in bleak terms, does not delineate the escape routes; on the contrary, it sets goals that are far too optimistic. The ruling party conceals the reality and the opposition overemphasizes it but does not say how it will overcome it. Of course nowhere are election platforms, in Greece or anywhere else, a reflection of the absolute truth. Independent observers realize that political party leaders are reluctant to describe in precise terms their plans for government, and that is only to be expected. During this age of television democracy and the all-powerful nature of the image, when ideological contrasts are on the wane, reservations are only natural. A typical example was the negative reaction to New Democracy’s position on the social security issue. However, conditions in the country, and the people’s high expectations of any government (outgoing or incoming), call for a different kind of political behavior. In times of great change that call for unpopular structural reforms, politicians have a duty to prepare people for what is to come, to make society jointly responsible and a participant in the main choices. This calls for information, for efforts to set out the country’s choices, for setting out possible solutions and alternatives, for saying how much these will cost in time and money, and, of course, highlighting the expected gains so that expectations will be consistent with the effort expended. At this stage, however, the electoral battle is moving into the distorted realm of the image, for which the ruling party is chiefly to blame. «The message is the medium.» The essence – that which makes democracy truly participatory – is lost. What remains? Post-electoral surprises and the coming storm, no matter which party wins.