OPINION

Hope and protest

The margin by which conservative New Democracy beat the ruling Socialists in the country’s general elections was more comfortable than most would expect. No doubt voters showed a clear wish to punish the outgoing PASOK government, casting a strong protest vote. This is upheld by an analysis of poll findings, according to which a significant section of the electorate, numbering approximately 500,000 voters, left PASOK (against 75,000 people who joined its ranks), trimming about 5.5 percent of its power. However, ND’s high approval rate was not just the product of voter disillusionment with PASOK. It also reflects Costas Karamanlis’s popularity with young voters. His emphasis on the need for a State that can guarantee equal opportunity and equality before the law, a State that is not held ransom to conflicting interests, coupled with a carefully built-up image of modesty – as opposed to the unabashed arrogance of PASOK cadres – allowed ND to send a reassuring, if not attractive, message even among voters with deep anti-right-wing reflexes. This, combined with ND’s strength among various social groups (farmers, the self-employed, pensioners, housewives and employers) indicates that Karamanlis’s party has managed to expand its influence to those in the low- and middle-income strata who have suffered most from inflation and social insecurity, and who until recently constituted one of PASOK’s main bastions. This development also marks a change in the makeup of ND’s electoral base. In order to fulfill the needs and expectations of these people, ND must readjust its policy in ways that will bring radical and permanent changes to the political sphere, undercutting PASOK’s influence in once-privileged sectors. The demand for change surfaces in many ways, both at the political level and on the level of figures. Everything seems to indicate that over 100 of the 300-strong Parliament will be young deputies. At the same time, voters expressed striking disapproval for a plethora of ministers and deputy ministers, as well as MPs from all parties who were well-known fixtures in their constituencies To this we should add the wave of disapproval of PASOK’s top leadership as, according to currently available data, over 50 of the 180 central committee officials failed to win a seat in Parliament. Finally, with the triumphant election of virtually all television stars, even those with no political skills whatsoever, one can conclude that the deep crisis of confidence in Greece’s politicians presents an opportunity for radical change in this area as well.