The coronavirus epidemic has expedited the modernization of the state and even the private sector. We have all seen the digitization of many public services, the growing and efficient use of the internet, the expansion of teleworking, the successful implementation of online education, while at the same time appreciating the resilience of the National Healthcare System.
But there is also another encouraging element present and that is the respect for rules and institutions. I am not referring to the implementation of the strict measures by a society that was generally considered disobedient, nor to institutions such as justice.
I am referring to the issue of elections and the decision of some politicians in the past to abuse the right to call snap elections. They did so, not because the circumstances required it, but because it suited them; it was politically convenient.
In this light, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ commitment in his recent interview with Kathimerini not to surprise the public by calling snap elections and his absolutely correct comment that “we are not here to indulge in political tactics or to hold elections whenever this suits us poll-wise,” is not simply a sound one; it is part of a broader trend of respect for institutions that we can only hope will become the standard for all Greek governments.
Mitsotakis is obviously right when he says that he does not feel that he “lacks any political legitimacy” to implement his policy program, considering he was elected just nine months ago with an 8 percent lead over the main opposition. According to the same reasoning, of course, his choice to start calling for elections at the start of 2016, just five months after the now main opposition party SYRIZA swept to power with a 7 percent win, was unfortunate.
Those who are advising Mitsotakis to call snap elections at a time when the country is experiencing an unprecedented crisis are opportunists who show a lack of respect for institutions. The prime minister is handling a very difficult situation effectively. He is trying to do the right thing.
Those who call for snap elections want him to take advantage of the fact that, as in every crisis, the leader enjoys significant advantages over his political opponents. But Greece does not need new elections. What is needed is for the prime minister to continue to work hard and implement a proper approach based on respect for experts’ opinions.
Mitsotakis will remain on the right path which he has set on many levels, while showing respect for rules and institutions. And that will be an important legacy for a country that too often in the past has seen personal and party expediency rule the day.