Fragile balance

The middle of the four-year term normally presents a crucial turning point for the governing party. This established trend should not comfort New Democracy, currently struggling to keep voters on its side. It does not mean the conservatives’ lead over the Socialists will necessarily grow in the remaining two years. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis undoubtedly has more cards up his sleeve, but he will have to reveal them in order to reverse the current trend and win the next election. The French labor demonstrations and the wave of strikes at home have forced even the champions of ND’s structural reforms to reconsider their position. Currently, the most popular view inside ND is that the government must still push the measures but in a more flexible, conciliatory fashion. The premier remains convinced this reform is necessary. But he does fear the prospect of general social unrest, which would take its toll on the government and strengthen the hand of opposition parties. The seamen’s strike was a reminder that governments cannot escape unscathed from a clash with unions. As a result, the conservatives are wavering. The middle classes and others must weather the economic fallout on their incomes. Government measures aimed at bolstering competitiveness have also strained the labor market, which in turn has increased insecurity over jobs and social programs. The conservatives’ political dominance is fragile because it is grounded more on PASOK’s failure to propose a convincing alternative and less on the strength of ND’s appeal. The government is still grappling with the economy and with day-to-day issues that affect people directly. Success in this effort will boost its prospects for re-election. But without positive feedback, the horizon will darken. It’s still early to tell, although polls this spring will give a clearer sign.