The price of early elections

One wonders why Greek politicians, so frequently seen gossiping about potential presidential candidates and analyzing the fallout of an early election in March, are so tight-lipped about an issue that ought to be at the heart of the ongoing debate: Namely, that holding national elections in spring next year after a parliamentary deadlock on the new president would absolve the now-departed Socialist politicians of any wrongdoing during PASOK’s latest tenure. About 10 cases have gone to court or come before Parliament which potentially incriminate Socialist MPs. In order to prosecute individuals who have served as ministers or deputy ministers, the current parliament must wrap up its investigation into each case and take it to the Supreme Court by June 2006. Should the parliament in session be dissolved by springtime without having first completed its investigation into the outstanding cases, the statute of limitations will apply. However, a premature election would also mean an informal, yet important, amnesty. According to the constitution, the nomination procedure must begin during the first 10 days of February. This means it is impossible for Parliament to complete its inquiry in the time that is left. Are the politicians currently parading on television and babbling about the presidential vote overlooking this basic factor, or are they deliberately keeping quiet about the issue so that we shall all be seemingly caught by surprise by the unexpected fallout? It will be interesting to see which party might force early elections. For New Democracy, it would be a sign of hesitation and would spark justified charges of opportunism. In PASOK’s case, it would be seen as a bid to cover up its checkered past. The party that stands to gain most from an early ballot is the one that refrains from seeking it.