The government is in a powerful position, with a comfortable parliamentary majority and with the opposition seeking its way after electoral defeat. The years of crisis and the period of government by leftist SYRIZA and the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks have broken many taboos, providing a rare opportunity for a new administration to change things in politics and the economy.
The dangers that it faces are mostly from abroad (such as the increased flow of immigrants and refugees, a global recession, and so on). But the government ought to fear itself, too. A lack of action on issues that need to be tackled, as well as needless haste on others, could lead to defeats without reason, undermining the opportunity for necessary reforms.
The politician who wants to succeed needs to know which battles to wage and in which order, and whether diplomacy or surprise will work best. Today it is clear that citizens want solutions to chronic problems and are backing the government for this. This adds new dangers – those of arrogance and impatience.
The ministers, MPs and party officials who want to rally the troops and strike fear into the enemy with hyperbole and aggression, serve only to alienate centrist voters who helped their party on the basis of their leader’s moderate image. The refugee and migrant crisis may have existed before the election, but it is this government’s responsibility to handle it now. However much it may chafe at the opposition’s hypocrisy, it ought to restrain those who wish to show strength by presenting hard-right credentials with statements that demonize people in need.
Many who voted for New Democracy wanted to see order restored on this issue and others, but no one wants immigrants, refugees or anyone else to suffer more than they did under the previous government.
Every society has an image of itself based on common principles, experiences and myths. We Greeks may have a strong tendency toward division but we believe that we express humanitarianism and solidarity toward anyone in need, whether compatriots or migrants. We do not wish to see injustice against ourselves or anyone else.
That is why not only inertia but also carelessness in dealing with sensitive social issues are grave dangers to the government. Restraint and a positive image are powerful weapons that will be needed in the battles ahead.