Failure is not an option

October could prove to be a watershed for Costas Karamanlis’s government. Three crucial issues have emerged over the past month whose handling will determine the credibility and effectiveness of the party that rode to power in March. One issue was the audit of the country’s public finances. A review uncovered the true extent of creative accounting by the Socialist governments of Costas Simitis, sparking fierce criticism from Greece’s EU peers. Those who painted an idealized picture of the Greek economy are no longer in power. Although they will be discredited in the public eye, it is the current government that will have to deal with the consequences of PASOK’s irresponsibility. A second issue was the inquiry into the Socialists’ arms procurements and the government’s decision to set up a parliamentary committee. A key question here concerns the adequacy of evidence that has been collected; another relates to the will of the various political parties – including New Democracy – to launch an in-depth investigation into the issue. During the first sessions of the parliamentary committee, PASOK displayed a well-prepared and vigorous stand, dashing the expectations of those who predicted that Socialist leader George Papandreou would not fall in behind the party’s former defense ministers Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou, who were responsible for the arms purchases. Finally, the issue of banning media owners from controlling public construction firms has so far been backed by an ESR (National Broadcasting Council) decision – taken by an independent, not government body. The primary aim of the aforementioned initiatives is to clean up a bad political atmosphere that has rebounded negatively on the nation’s economic life and even individuals. In other words, all this has downgraded the country’s society and body politic. However, policies and initiatives are not judged by intentions but by their outcomes. Failure on an issue of political principle or morality – which has been raised by a government at its own will – could seriously tarnish its image. To be sure, there is always room to maneuver – even more so in politics, where anybody can claim to have won a battle. In such cases, however, the entire issue degenerates into a bad theatrical performance that makes observers wonder whether they are wasting their time. Surely, Karamanlis is not backed by business interests. He does not have a strong grip over the state apparatus, nor is this something he can achieve in a few months. Although the premier enjoys popular support that cuts across social divisions, the electorate does not comprise any unified action group. Paradoxically, following his coming into power, Karamanlis took steps to distance himself from his own New Democracy party in the name of «effective governance.» His references to the «social center» and the «middle ground» created uncertainty among the 35 percent of the Greek electorate who describe themselves as conservatives and who were surprised to hear Karamanlis placing them at the center. Karamanlis’s undertaking is crucial for the future shape of society and for Greece’s political system. It is also an extremely complicated one. The premier cannot afford to fail in his endeavor because the Greek people have already been pushed to their limits by what has gone on before.