Heads must roll

Parliament will vote on the 2006 budget on Thursday, and after that the clock will start ticking for the long-heralded shake-up of the Cabinet. The administration has lost its way, so a reshuffle appears inevitable. According to opinion polls, voters share the urgency. But if conservative voters want to see a reshuffle, it is not because they are keen to see Dora Bakoyannis or Vyron Polydoras back in the Cabinet but rather to see the administration regain the strength and cohesion which was seriously hurt by endless squabbling among conservative ministers (although it is true that the media often used the lens of distortion to magnify not-so-serious scuffles). A shake-up would send voters a strong message. Such a move will help build an effective government but people will also evaluate it based on the boldness of the prime minister’s choices. The new composition of the Cabinet will affect Costas Karamanlis’s leadership credentials: It will either paint a bold leader who does not hesitate to throw out senior cadres who have proved incompetent during the first 22 months, or it will suggest he is a weak leader, a manager of day-to-day affairs who treads carefully not to upset the administration’s equilibrium. A reshuffle will install a new group of ministers who will implement the government program without delays and conflicts. Otherwise, we will return to the rival fiefdoms of the Simitis administration. In an alarming sign of the government’s disarray, some ministers increasingly display a go-it-alone attitude. The trend suggests that they have misinterpreted Karamanlis’s consensual style – some actually behave as if they stand above him. The reshuffle won’t get far unless heads start rolling.