The hedgehog syndrome

It’s become a tradition. Each incumbent resident of Maximos Mansion, even on his worst days, takes comfort in this standard opinion poll question: Who is best suited to be premier? Spin doctors in the Simitis administrations transformed this controversial indicator into a banner promoting a fabricated reality. Even after all chances for recovery had died, the reformists took refuge in this last trench. Costas Karamanlis has not yet reached that point – but his aides are clearly following in the tracks of their Socialist predecessors. But the «good premier-bad government» hypothesis is very misleading. True, voters do not always identify a government with its leader. The premier is the last stronghold to fall in the popularity-ratings war. But if the government falls, the battle of clinging to power is lost. So, more than trying to keep his image unscathed, the prime minister must convince voters that he is trying to lead the best possible government. At the end of the day, that is the safest way to keep yourself in power; the rest is just a short-term public relations games. Regrettably, in a political system that gives most of the power to the prime minister and in an age in which politics is increasingly eclipsed by public relations, priorities have been reversed. Each premier is flanked by an entire mechanism aimed at protecting the «big boss.» Karamanlis does have reason to worry about New Democracy’s slide in the opinion polls. The hedgehog syndrome is not the right solution to his problem. Sealing himself inside a narrow circle of aides and a «they’re-all-out-to-get-us» logic are sure tickets to defeat. True, some business circles may try to undermine the government, but it’s all part of the game. The current administration has itself to fear more than its enemies.