Dialogue or show?

Following lengthy negotiations, PASOK’s Nikos Athanassakis and New Democracy’s Theodoris Roussopoulos finally agreed on a single televised debate between the two leading candidates. The regulations under which the televised duel will take place are so restrictive that the event is bound to degenerate into a theatrical play of sorts. Understandable as the parties’ public relations objectives may be, certain limits should not be overstepped. This particularly applies to George Papandreou, PASOK’s new leader. Although the need for dialogue is one of the trademark components of Papandreou’s political rhetoric, he has done everything he could to avoid a genuine political confrontation with his conservative rival. The country is faced with accumulated and acute problems in virtually all sectors – especially in the economy, where the utterances of the Simitis government used to border on virtual reality. As a result, PASOK has managed to build a fabricated picture which has greatly misled any political dialogue. Those who have in-depth knowledge of the situation remain skeptical of what politicians have to say. A sincere and constructive dialogue between the political parties would help shed light on problems, and this is itself a precondition for finding solutions. Besides, on many issues there is much room for convergence. Even where compromise is not feasible, clarification of the disagreements on both sides will significantly upgrade the quality of our political life. The fact that the two front-running parties are both led by young and moderate politicians who claim to possess a vision for the future of the country as well as proposals on how to tackle its problems had nourished hopes that Greece had left sterile partisan confrontation behind. This was a chance for both to move beyond cheap sensationalism and to focus on the heart of the issues. Comprehensive discussion about concrete plans and action could influence the undecided voters – or at least some of them. True, most television programs offer this odd and twisted kind of dialogue that we all know of. However, what we need is not politicians parading on television windows scrambling for the best sound bite. This may entertain the viewing public, but does very little to inform them. Politics, however, is too important an issue to be held to ransom by the objectives of a cheap spectacle. It concerns the future of the country and its people. Society needs straight talk. It needs syntheses, where possible, and clear positions when differences are unbridgeable. This is the obligation of our political leaders. Doing this would help people decide on the basis of more conscious criteria. And it would help upgrade our political system, whose credibility has long been tarnished.