New morality

Speaking to New Democracy’s parliamentary group yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis mostly reiterated his previous recommendations. His insistence is of particular importance. It shows that the promise of a new political morality was not just a campaign firework. Neither was it some vague intention. Rather, it is Karamanlis’s central priority in an attempt to shape a whole new climate inside his party and the body politic in general. During his long tenure in opposition, the conservative leader had the opportunity to watch government officials turn into managers of power, all with the air of an establishment mentality. He saw politicians’ love of power, their arrogance and, in many cases, their entanglement with business interests. It became obvious to him that these degenerative phenomena have negative political and electoral consequences. He saw a robust majority crack and then fall apart. Karamanlis seems to have learned from the mistakes of his opponents. He is, therefore, trying to cultivate a climate that will prevent such degenerative symptoms from re-emerging. The content of Karamanlis’s speech yesterday highlights the new premier’s awareness of the political weight of his endeavor. Should he succeeds in imposing the basic principles that he has pledged, Karamanlis will not only protect his party against the perils of power, he will also set a precedent for the future governments. The promise of a new political morality and his emphasis on a strong social face converge on the same strategic goal. In a sense, Karamanlis is trying to change the rules of the game. In that way, he expects to prolong his appeal to swing voters and to turn protest votes against PASOK into votes of confidence for New Democracy. Karamanlis is not satisfied just with being prime minister of this country. He aspires to consolidate a new political and electoral balance of power and thereby transform the political map of the post-1974 period. As always in politics, intentions are a necessary but not sufficient condition. Karamanlis took the helm of the country at a very difficult conjuncture and his task is made harder by the tight timetables of Olympic-related projects. He is faced with accumulated and some very acute problems. At the same time, the fiscal imbalances that he inherited impose considerable limitations on the funding of welfare measures. This gives him little room for maneuver, yet enough to leave his mark. Most importantly, they do not prevent Karamanlis from finding clever answers to the problem of revenue and spending.

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