Unhappy voters

There is little doubt the government is trying to sort out the chaotic legacy of its Socialist predecessors without sacrificing social justice. New Democracy inherited a troubled economy (despite PASOK’s attempts to prettify the situation), a disgruntled public administration, and strong popular demand for a swift cleanup of the sleaze-ridden system installed over the previous two decades. Certainly, the past 22 months saw no miracle cure. But important steps have been taken. ND put the public sector into some order, clamping down on deficit and waste without passing the burden on to taxpayers. Economic growth was sustained, unemployment went down while net wages up. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis avoided old-style austerity measures while a modest and prudent Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras has taken measures to eradicate corruption in the judiciary. Moreover, the government is pushing ahead with crucial structural reforms long shelved for fear of the political cost. More importantly, reforms in public utilities, the labor market and the economy enjoy strong popular backing – and not just among conservative voters. Why, then, are voters growing increasingly unhappy with the government’s performance? Some say ND has failed to deliver on its pre-election promises. Strained as voters may be, they know that the reason the administration cut down on its handouts is that the state coffers are in the red. They know who is to blame for that. The real causes lie elsewhere. People are disillusioned by the fact that no legal action has been taken against big tax dodgers and the culprits of the stock market fiasco. Another reason is that the style of governance, with endless bickering between ministers and the successive blunders undermining the administration, indicates a lack of experience and leadership.