Open dialogue

George Papandreou, PASOK’s newly elected chairman, is being extremely inflexible and reserved on the question of televised debates between the country’s political leaders. One can understand Papandreou’s desire to avoid throwing himself into an uneven battle in which he would have to encounter three or more opposition leaders at once. That said, there is no excuse for excluding the leaders of smaller parties from a televised duel, particularly those of leftist parties which are one of PASOK’s biggest headaches since its alliance with Greece’s leading neoliberals Messrs Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos. Solutions can be found as long as there is the political will – something that the new Socialist leader appears to be lacking. Papandreou could, for example, face Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga and Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constandopoulos in a separate debate. The view of PASOK official Nikos Athanassakis, who said that «whether we like it or not, there are currently only two prime-ministerial candidates,» is not a sufficient excuse for restricting democratic dialogue. Furthermore, Papandreou’s effort to avoid any comprehensive debate and to limit discussion to chosen subjects whereby the politicians will deliver rehearsed mini-lectures does not honor free dialogue. Nor does the organization of TV debates in the form of two separate monologues contribute to any fruitful exchange of ideas and views… It would be far more useful if the political leaders engaged in an open discussion, criticizing and refuting each other’s arguments. The exemplary discussion recently between European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou and New Democracy MP Miltiades Evert on the Mega television channel is proof that politicians can engage in an open and courteous dialogue that is a far cry from the typical exchange of barbs we so often see on television political input shows. Moreover, it is unacceptable that the panels of televised political debates are made up exclusively of TV journalists. There are many press and radio journalists who are as good or even better than their TV counterparts and could be very effective in using a televised encounter with political leaders in the best interest of the viewing public. What is more, these journalists possess the advantage of not being employed by heavily indebted television networks whose owners depend on the State in order to continue broadcasting. A free and democratic discussion and a question-and-answer session with independent journalists are, perhaps, beyond the parameters of the much-hyped «participatory democracy» whose primary manifestation so far has been the nomination of a new leader in a one-candidate election.