Economy: The new political battlefield
In politics, everything counts. Even things that appear harmless can have far-reaching effects. In any event, the battlefield that will eventually determine the conservatives’ political fortunes is the economy. The New Democracy government started out with a strong political mandate against a severely hemorrhaging Socialist opposition. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has effectively been able to tap into great reserves of popular support. Great but not endless. The key parameter at play is the rate at which these reserves will run out. This rate of reduction will to a large extent also determine the country’s political trajectory. There is little doubt that the conservatives inherited a plethora of challenges. Former Socialist premier Costas Simitis’s airy mantra about a «robust economy» turned out to be a typical political gimmick. But the truth will out, as we have seen. The general public has clear knowledge of the Socialists’ misdeeds – and this has extended the government’s grace period. But people have no interest in the political blame game. After all, they punished PASOK by sweeping the party out of power in the last elections. What they want now is to see a government program that will set the economy on a path toward reform and growth. But that is not the sole challenge facing Karamanlis. Equally daunting are the inflated public expectations that were fed by the lavish pre-election promises of the conservative cadres.