A long, hot summer

It is likely to be a long, hot summer for the country’s two main political parties. Although their standpoints are different, they are both expected to clarify their stances on serious issues regarding political governance, whether this be related to fiscal affairs, social security reform or the labor system. And since neither of the two camps has a clear direction, this has provoked genuine political turmoil. The government – which is expected to take decisive action – has made its position clear: It is determined to proceed with its policies, even if this causes social rifts. However, this decision is the product of necessity. New Democracy has populist roots, just as PASOK has. It is not a mouthpiece for pseudo-aristocratic or pseudo-liberal outlooks. The ruling party’s de facto obligation to push through reforms does not mean, therefore, that it has prepared its party and union bodies for this. It will now attempt to strike the necessary balance. And this challenge to achieve the necessary changes in governance without upsetting voter sentiment portends a difficult summer for the government. The situation is equally adverse for PASOK. Despite the fact that it is not governing and so does not stand to suffer direct political costs for its decisions, the opposition party does not have the luxury of remaining silent. The questions that have been posed have become almost palpable. The party itself had acknowledged the need for reforms. As a result, it must now clarify its stance, and offer explanations and counter-arguments. If it limits itself to anti-government rhetoric, it will be stigmatized as hypocritical. As we saw in the case of the voluntary retirement scheme for Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) employees, people want a clear understanding of the situation. And, as the same example demonstrated for us, the definition of this stance caused shock waves throughout the party, which has still not clarified whether it supports its party chief’s emphatic declarations against statism or whether it rejects them. So, the two major parties find themselves faced with the same problem – a problem that should not be used for scoring political points but which demands specific decisions regarding political governance; decisions which presuppose more general choices between conflicting interests and values. It is evident that neither of the main political parties can present a clear stance unless it is willing to risk the inevitable internal protests. However, such difficulties constitute a veritable leap forward in the quality of our political life. Faced with unavoidable necessity, the parties must abandon their slogans and reveal their true selves. It is time for political honesty in Greek public life.

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