Speaking at a meeting of the political council yesterday, conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said the municipal and prefectural elections set to take place this fall are a «political matter.» But that does not mean they must be hijacked by partisan agendas, he added. At the same meeting, New Democracy General Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis stressed that the ballot box will contain messages for all political parties and their specific policies. Surprisingly, Karamanlis refuses to imitate previous political leaders who tended to downplay the political significance of municipal and prefectural polls, usually seen by voters as a chance for a cost-free protest against the ruling party. New Democracy’s decision to accentuate the political character of the coming polls underscores its confidence in victory – with some help, of course, from the new law according to which mayors and local officials will be elected during the first round of polling as long as they garner more than 42 percent. The fact is that Greek voters are interested in seeing worthy politicians run for local offices. The bitter truth is that municipalities have degenerated into centers of bad management that waste funds on political favors. Municipalities consume time and energy in recruiting excess staff on the basis of political criteria. That, of course, invites economic troubles and constant badgering of the central administration for economic handouts. For their part, governments exacerbate this regrettable situation by failing to meet their own financial obligations toward the local administration. Worse, municipalities often fail to live up to their most basic tasks, such as the maintenance of gutters, squares and school buildings. This occurs despite their aggressive taxation policies, with hikes that exceed the inflation rate by far. One hopes that the coming elections will see the emergence of mayors and prefects who are capable of breaking with the usual operating style of local governments, regardless of party tag.