Presidency issue ends transition era

By common consent, the way in which Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis brought the presidential candidacy issue to an end, months before the process of presenting him to Parliament will begin, was a masterstroke. Although everybody was certain that New Democracy would win overwhelmingly if elections were called due to the failure to elect a president, Karamanlis did not yield to the temptation of arrogance – in contrast to the practice of Costas Simitis’s governments in the past. Instead of promoting some ND official to the post of president, he chose Karolos Papoulias, one of the closest associates of PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou, demonstrating that he possesses the moral superiority and political self-confidence needed to implement his declarations about crossing dividing lines. PASOK’s immediate and unavoidable acceptance of Papoulias’s candidacy ended the issue in an instant. It confirmed, once again, that the premier not only has an comfortable majority but definitely has taken the political initiative. By resolving the issue of the presidential election, the government essentially dealt with all unfinished business it inherited from PASOK. Having seen the Olympic Games through to a universally acclaimed close, it carried out the necessary financial audit, solved the matter of entangled media interests with its legislation on major shareholders, and drafted its own budget and its own tax and development laws. After maneuvering around the chief national obstacle this week in Brussels, by dealing with the start of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations on Greek-Turkish issues and Cyprus, one may now speak of the end of the transitional period, on territory which ND itself has to a large extent shaped. The government will come up against everyday problems, the routine that demands a constant display of imagination, decisiveness and the courage to make difficult decisions. But it is this routine that determines the public’s view of a government and, in the end, determines its success or failure.