Wrong response

George Papandreou has not hesitated both to back the striking unions and to call for structural reforms at the same time. This wavering by the Socialist opposition leader is often interpreted as legitimate or, at least, as a necessary evil: The opposition always tries to capitalize on social turmoil and popular disaffection with the governing party. If the past is any guide, the above observation holds true. However, the aim of politics is to offer an alternative and not just blindly follow the accepted rule. If that is indeed what Papandreou is doing, then he is making a huge mistake. It would be unforgivable if the Socialists showed signs of reluctance or political opportunism. This is because, first of all, the PASOK leader has himself stressed the need for such changes in a bid to win away Costas Karamanlis’s title as the radical and reformist politician. Second, both mainstream parties have outlined the necessary changes, so the general public is already convinced that there is no alternative solution or sweeter pill to swallow. Third, extensive media coverage of the causes and details of the ongoing reforms have exposed the hidden agendas of the protesting unions. As a result, support for or, worse, political instigation of union action will only please the vested interests, yet it is bound to bring far more disillusionment among the larger numbers of voters. PASOK’s ambivalence toward the conservatives’ reform campaign is above all harming the Socialist leader himself. Since the main parties converge on key issues, people can’t help but look for consistency, courage and credibility.

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