OPINION

Promoting political change

The new year will undoubtedly have some surprises in store that will upset the plans currently being drafted by the executive offices of the political parties. But it is also certain that it will be a crucial year for shaping the plans of both Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and PASOK chairman George Papandreou. For Karamanlis, involvement with executive power and all the problems that entails must have been an overwhelming experience, and both his and other government officials’ adaptation to the new situation – due to the problems inherited by Costas Simitis’s administrations but also to New Democracy’s long absence from government – must have been extremely arduous. Citizens showed leniency despite the mistakes and clumsiness witnessed during the past 10 months, due to an intense dislike for certain PASOK ministers and to Simitis’s eight long years in government. But there are limits to good will. No one expected all problems to be solved immediately. However, it is clear that, after 20 years of PASOK governments, the coming to power of a conservative party has not simply marked a change of government: For the overwhelming majority of ND voters, the party’s March 7 electoral victory was tantamount to a change of regime. It should be stressed, however, that «regime change» signifies the promotion of a new political outlook, a new ideological stance – not the prosecution of political rivals in the public sector (where the government always holds sway). Instead, Karamanlis has adopted an ideology of the «middle ground» proposed by certain theorists and, as a result, has sidelined the conservative hard core whose support he would have needed to reformulate a social, political and cultural credo consolidated over the past eight years. Costas Karamanlis came to power extolling education and culture as top priorities. But these happen to be the sectors in which no significant developments occurred last year – not due to any incompetence by the new government but to the lack of any central ideological guideline. However, despite the shortcomings and the problems, New Democracy voters were grateful to Karamanlis for his stance at Burgenstock in Switzerland and his support of Cyprus up until now, for the disappearance of the economic and cultural «bosses» that had dominated the past eight years, and for ND’s victory over PASOK, despite the fact that the new government’s cadres are still trying to get on their feet. In any case, it is clear that Costas Karamanlis will have to make his presence far more clearly felt over the course of 2005, to inspire and mobilize the conservative hard core and to promote radical changes in thinking. The new year will also be critical for George Papandreou – who is forward-looking by nature and did not hesitate to shake up the gradual fossilization of PASOK…