Polarization is not a fitting strategy

Our political life is becoming increasingly fraught two whole years before Parliament is due to be dissolved. And the chief protagonist in this effort to undermine our political climate appears to be PASOK leader George Papandreou, who, in the past two weeks has referred to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in disparaging terms. In the first case, Papandreou called Karamanlis a «persecutor» in the recent phone-tapping scandal, without elaborating. And over the weekend the opposition leader called the PM a «crook» because his government conducted a financial audit directly after coming to power. The reasons for Papandreou’s extreme statements are quite obvious. With New Democracy and its leader, Costas Karamanlis, maintaining a comfortable lead in opinion polls at the administration’s midterm mark, Papandreou is trying every trick in the book to rally his party behind him while avoiding any concrete proposals for alternative policies. Even more unfortunately, several high-ranking government cadres have countered Papandreou’s assaults with pointed ripostes, while admittedly not disparaging the PASOK leader too directly. Perhaps the thinking behind these tactics is that some polarization would actually help the government by distracting public opinion from the lingering phone-tapping scandal. But the ruling party and opposition PASOK constitute the basic pillars of our political system; they cannot opt for their narrow party interests over the broader good of the citizens they govern. And we really cannot afford to enter a two-year pre-electoral campaign period when we still have so many diplomatic and economic problems to solve.