OPINION

Strong mandate

New Democracy received a strong and meaningful mandate to govern the country for the next four years. A vote for New Democracy is not a negative vote. It is not only dissatisfaction and protest against PASOK that prompted the electorate to vote for the conservative party, or at least this was not the most important factor. The comfortable margin by which New Democracy won the polls shows that this was a positive vote, a vote of confidence for the party and incoming prime minister Costas Karamanlis. With hard effort, prudence and modesty, Karamanlis convinced the Greek people that he is willing and capable of leading the country into a new era. We believe that it is not only New Democracy’s voters and supporters who anticipate that Karamanlis will govern the country in a wise and modest fashion, without arrogance but with a high sense of responsibility. Rather, it is the sum of the citizenry who want to see a government for all citizens, free from parochial dividing lines. The first remarks by PASOK leader George Papandreou and outgoing prime minister Costas Simitis were positive and constructive and underscore that the time is ripe for a better quality of political life. There are many problems. First, there are immediate problems that the new government will encounter right after it is sworn in. First is the Cyprus issue, where for the first time after the island’s EU accession, conditions for a settlement of the longstanding dispute appear favorable. Nevertheless, developments concerning the Cyprus issue and our national interests will not be trouble-free. A second, immediate problem is the organization of the August Olympic Games. The conservative government will have to make a great effort and show determination in order to overcome difficulties and solve outstanding problems. It is positive that Papandreou, the new opposition leader, showed willingness to cooperate on these two immediate problems. Then, there are everyday problems, complex and costly ones, about which Karamanlis made specific commitments. Last, but not least, the New Democracy government will have to tackle economic problems and their social fallout: unemployment, inflation, weak business culture, faltering effectiveness, and all in a highly competitive environment. The economy lacks a clear orientation and incentives for growth. This is perhaps the greatest challenge. We hope, for the sake of the country, that New Democracy and Karamanlis will succeed.