The president’s daunting legacy

The debate over the presidential candidates is being largely shaped by politically expedient objectives in both major camps. Even so, finding a worthwhile figure who can replace incumbent President Costis Stephanopoulos remains a daunting task. The political legacy of Stephanopoulos, who has held the post for the past 10 years, is by all accounts a vindication of his being unanimously nominated by both leading parties. At the time Stephanopoulos was elected president, his political and moral credentials were already being hailed by politicians as well as ordinary people. For this reason, his responsible and ethical posture while he was in office was to be expected. The president must also be credited with a number of achievements. Stephanopoulos managed to remain in close contact with the people throughout the country without having to resort to public relations gimmicks. He elevated the presidential image into a popular and genuine symbol of solidarity. At the same time – and always perfectly in line with the constitutional stipulations defining his sphere of competence – Stephanopoulos adopted a vigorous and useful political discourse. His public speeches, which were never either pompous or populist, were always carefully phrased and made full use of the wealth of the Greek language. They made citizens feel that the president was on their side, that he was cognizant of their everyday problems, and that he is a guardian of high political principles. Whenever he deemed it necessary, Stephanopoulos also did not hesitate to sound off on crucial foreign policy issues. Greece’s body politic is being overwhelmed by talk about the next president, but it will not be easy to find a successor given that Stephanopoulos’s performance has raised the bar high for the next incumbent.