OPINION

In the final stretch

Two days before the elections, the outcome of the ballot is more uncertain than a week ago. Back then, a conservative victory appeared secure. Opinion polls gave New Democracy a clear lead, which was further reinforced after the televised debate. The margin has been trimmed, but not so much as to render the vote a close call. This conclusion is not based on surveys commissioned by the parties’ campaign planners. Such findings are rarely credible, for they tend to serve propaganda purposes. The conclusion is based, rather, on an assessment of the recent political events. PASOK tried to turn things round with George Papandreou’s latest string of handouts, which were mainly targeted at farmers. New Democracy fought back with Costas Karamanlis’s commitment to give 230,000 contract employees in the public sector permanent employment status. These two last-ditch efforts are morally dubious but not ineffective. Many voters see elections as a chance to extract handouts. Still, the impact of benefits is hard to weigh. The same applies to the defamatory pamphlets – a secondary affair that PASOK tried to promote into a major issue. The greatest damage seems to have been caused by the remarks of Vyron Polydoras and his imitators. Their arrogant and vengeful posture, helped by PASOK propaganda, fed into the good old anti-rightist reflexes. Such statements, of course, undermine Karamanlis’s moderate rhetoric and his efforts to break stereotypes and sway disaffected centrist and center-left voters. Karamanlis’s mistake is an insufficiently strong reaction – perhaps because his overall campaign has primarily been defensive. His main priority was to avoid mistakes and maintain his lead and not to create waves or shock the public. A defensive strategy may not always pay off in politics, but he is still the most likely winner of the elections.