OPINION

Capturing the center

«We have proved that we meet citizens in the political center. In the modern social center… «I want you to extend our overture to the rest of society. We will stick to the strategy of the middle ground,» said Prime Minister and New Democracy Chairman Costas Karamanlis at the close of his party’s three-day congress on Sunday, presenting ND’s ideological hallmark for the years to come. «The new administration rejects discrimination and fanaticism. It rejects vested interests. It rejects audacity and arrogance. Dialogue, the quest for new ideas, and a two-way communication with society do not end on ballot day. The citizen is constantly at the center of our policy. Our strength lies in a broad social alliance of the citizens,» the prime minister added in an address to the delegates. Karamanlis’s move is no doubt part of a sound strategy. His decision to shift New Democracy toward the center of the political spectrum aims to expand the party’s political base and to forge a climate of political consensus – both seen as enabling the ruling party to address a nationwide audience. The prime minister seems to realize that it will be a long time before PASOK recovers from the present crisis, a fact which gives him a unique opportunity to infiltrate the Socialists’ pool of supporters. However, Karamanlis’s vision will only materialize if he manages to fulfill his pledges on the role of the State and the State’s relationship with the citizens. His comments are correct, his proclamations are wonderful, his intentions show every sign of sincerity. But at the end of the day politicians are judged by their actual policies. Public opinion of an administration is shaped exclusively on the basis of their deeds. A government’s performance is the fundamental criterion according to which people judge. Citizens have patience, and they are willing to give a government more time when they see things moving in the right direction. But they also have judgment, which enables them to quickly form an opinion as to whether declarations genuinely reflect government policy or whether they are merely used as a smokescreen for other objectives. The Greek public is still disillusioned with the discrepancy between the words and the deeds of the Simitis administration. They would wholeheartedly welcome a more consistent rule were it to come from Karamanlis. It is up to the government to exploit this unique opportunity for the benefit of the country and the conservative party.