PASOK leader on the wrong path

A fundamental condition guaranteeing the smooth and effective functioning of our democratic system assumes that the ruling party must accept the opposition’s monitoring – which must, in turn, be done responsibly. Reminding politicians of this basic principle would be pointless had it not been for Monday’s parliamentary debate (on youth unemployment and the phone-tapping affair) which exposed the opposition’s failure to live up to its obligation. As leader of the conservative opposition, Costas Karamanlis was a fan of consensus politics when it came to serious issues. As head of the government, Karamanlis made clear on Monday his intention to join hands with the Socialist leader on these two problems. He obviously deemed that they should not be hijacked by politically expedient objectives. Unfortunately, Papandreou responded with a confrontational, hardline approach in a bid to impress the members of his Socialist party. True, Papandreou has come under strong pressure from PASOK cadres as well as outside interests to adopt a less conciliatory tone. Deputies have often accused him of keeping a muted stance toward the conservative leadership. Pressure has made him more intransigent. It is no coincidence that the prime minister attributed Papandreou’s ill posturing to bad advice. There is little doubt that the opposition leader must take into consideration the mood inside his party. But should he allow that to become his guiding principle, then he is in for more mistakes. Political influence and election victory are not a matter of aggressiveness but popularity among voters. Society is not interested in empty demagoguery but responsible criticism and credible political proposals. The PASOK leader should approach parliamentary procedures not as a tribal leader but as a senior institutional figure – that is with an open mind and with interest in the common good. The country needs a mild political climate and maintaining it mandates a responsible stance at least from the leaders of the two mainstream parties.