Underestimating public intelligence

One of the most basic reasons for the political parties’ lack of credibility in the eyes of the public is their strong tendency to underrate the intelligence of Greek voters. This is exemplified by the two major political clashes of the past week: over Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis’s talks with her US counterpart Condoleezza Rice on the one hand, and PASOK MP Alekos Papadopoulos’s remarks on pensions on the other. Starting with the latter issue, it is unclear what the former health minister said to provoke such outrage within his own party and such mirthful scorn from figures of ruling New Democracy. Indeed, by describing pensions before the age of 60 as «unacceptable,» Papadopoulos was hardly saying anything new. An increase in the minimum age for cashing one’s pension was accepted by all political parties a long time ago and the average age for new pensioners since 1993 has been 63.6 years for men and 62.5 years for women. In this case, as with that of Giorgos Floridis – PASOK’s former economic policy coordinator fired after his «Scandinavian model» proposal – the point is not the content but the reasoning behind the statement. And the truth is that the pensions problem is one that must be solved but one which parties would rather exploit for political gains than actually tackle, because of the heavy political cost this would entail. The political clash provoked by Rice’s visit to Athens last week also demonstrates politicians’ condescension of voters’ intelligence. In particular, the opposition’s unrelentingly patriotic stance suggests that citizens have forgotten Greece’s support for the US in the past.