A renewed mandate for change

Both the ruling New Democracy party and PASOK, the main opposition party, had reason to be satisfied by the result of the municipal and provincial elections last night. Midway through its four-year mandate, the government appears to confirm the lead that opinion polls have been giving it consistently. Meanwhile, PASOK, despite growing dissatisfaction with its leadership, managed to maintain its own strength (keeping the Athens-Piraeus superprefecture) and appearing to win the port of Piraeus. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis interpreted yesterday’s result as further confirmation of the public’s approval of his reform program. Last night he effectively quashed all rumors of early elections, declaring that national elections will be held in 2008, when they are due. PASOK leader George Papandreou, whose leadership has been questioned within his own party, appeared to see the result as confirmation that his recent policy of all-out attacks on the government is bearing fruit. Indeed, he took the opportunity last night to declare that the «political scene is changing.» He repeated his claims that the government is hiding the truth from voters and he called for early elections as soon as possible. The elections were the most low-key in memory, but they were held in a climate of increasing tension between the two main parties. The problems on the education front, the poor reaction to natural disasters such as the recent floods and fires, and the widespread belief that the government has not managed to curb corruption sufficiently have all contributed to the tension. But this did not appear to influence voters to any great extent. Following yesterday’s elections, the government will have every reason to push ahead with its reform program, taking more decisive steps than it has so far. So far, it has seen that its minor adjustments – especially in education – have provoked a full-frontal assault from the opposition. Now, with an electoral result that can be seen as a renewal of its mandate, the government will be able to continue its reforms without delay and without excuses.

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