A government in deep water

Heavy clouds are starting to loom over the government – and in a way hardly anticipated either by New Democracy or by PASOK, which is still reeling from its March electoral defeat. The post-electoral honeymoon was bound to be over by autumn, when Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his ministers would be obliged to deal with the other, less pleasant side of power. The hard landing began with the dramatic crash of the Chinook helicopter and the government’s inept handling of the case, which abruptly laid bare a range of shortcomings. That incident was the first to reveal the lack of a command center capable of assessing such situations correctly, making the right decisions and imposing effective coordination. From the start, Karamanlis aimed to transform a one-off victory into a comfortable and stable majority for his party. The care he took to promote his social program after the elections and his focus on political ethics serve that goal: to retain those voters disenchanted with PASOK and who voted ND in March. Karamanlis has had to balance implementing party strategy with managing state affairs. But putting an election platform into practice has proved much harder than making speeches. As a result, the government is finding it hard to hit its stride. Governing the country is certainly more complex than it used to be. The effort demands structures and machinery that can manage crises, create practical solutions to problems and above all, guarantee their implementation. All this merely underlines the need for a more effective direction. In fact, the government is less threatened by political clouds than by a problematic economy. The sins of the Simitis regime will resonate with the public for a while longer, but they will serve less and less as a shield for the omissions and errors of the Karamanlis government.