Winners and losers

The much-hyped televised debate among the five party leaders was very restricted – in terms of political import as well as structure – and involved no confrontation whatsoever. It was a blunt presentation of views that did not touch on the burning issues that will dominate post-election political life. Nevertheless, the televised contest was a first step, an experiment that will be useful in the future, a chance to hold a more open democratic conversation, where politicians can address issues with each other and allow citizens to make better decisions. In that sense, it was needed to consolidate democracy and the culture of dialogue. Despite its limitations, the discussion highlighted some of the candidates’ characteristics. It underscored conservative leader Costas Karamanlis’s rhetorical skills, his ability to take any question thrown at him. At the same time, it exposed the inability of PASOK’s new leader to fulfill the big role he has undertaken. George Papandreou’s performance was disheartening. Except on foreign policy and education issues, on which he seems to hold his own, on all other issues Papandreou’s views are unoriginal. He failed to lay out PASOK’s pension and economic policy, and seemed short of what he is after. This weakness empowered the leftist leaders who appear to have gained most from the televised debate. Being virtually absent from air coverage during the campaign period, they had a unique opportunity – a week ahead of the polls and before 3,700,000 viewers – to play their part. Aleka Papariga, Dimitris Tsovolas and Nikos Constantopoulos, to a lesser extent, showed undecided voters that they have a voice and something to say. Had the debate been the only factor to determine the election outcome, New Democracy would win, widening its lead over PASOK, Synaspismos Left Coalition would secure seats in Parliament and DIKKI would struggle to do so.