New mentality

The growing number of cases of mini-rebellion that have hit the ruling New Democracy party are, politically speaking, more a manifestation of systemic defects and deep-rooted shortcomings than evidence of disenchantment felt by conservative cadres. Union leaders affiliated with New Democracy are publicly accusing government officials and ministers of allegedly attempting to «disengage New Democracy from its more militant supporters for the sake of some middle ground;» and they do so simply because they are not allowed to place the state apparatus at the service of their partisan ends. The Thessaloniki prefect, who was elected under a conservative flag, warned the government that the «period of grace would expire in the coming months» unless his district received «instant emergency aid worth 20 million euros.» Farmers’ representatives and conservative deputies are blackmailing the government by threatening to blockade highways with their tractors unless Costas Karamanlis’s administration goes against Brussels and spends 30 million euros from the state coffers in order to satisfy the absurd demands made by cotton producers. Some government officials, including senior cadres, have systematically distanced themselves from the drive to sever ties between media barons and state contractors so that they do not lose their slice of publicity in the embattled media. The common denominator in all these reactions is the resistance coming from vested or sectoral interests – of all social strata – to any aspect of the «new administration» that is perceived as hostile to their supposedly hard-won rights. All political parties and governments have for decades helped cultivate and consolidate this mentality and reactions to the government’s bid to remedy the current stagnation were to be expected. Conventional management will simply not do for Greece anymore. The prime minister has no option but to take on these forces of inertia, even if they are expressed through New Democracy’s party base. Forces and mentalities of this kind neither change nor retreat at their own will. The government must be ready to break with the past. Such ruptures will also be a test for Socialist opposition leader George Papandreou and his pledges of a «new PASOK.» If he really means what he says about transcending the past, Papandreou must offer his wholehearted support to Karamanlis, thus contributing to the rise of a new mentality.

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