Protecting the competent

The first round of local elections showed that New Democracy enjoys the backing of the so-called social center, or middle ground, which encompasses the majority of the population. But the middle ground is populated by responsible voters who adopt a critical stance toward the government. They acknowledge success but are always ready to point out the failures. Those who voted for ND, and who are determined make the same choice in 2008, did so because they trust the prime minister and not because they are satisfied with the conservatives’ overall performance. Indeed Costas Karamanlis has been the only «moderate and humble» politician within the ruling camp, while most of his cadres, even the most competent, have been mostly busy parading on television shows where they are dragged into cheap confrontations with ill-mannered TV stars. Asked why they don’t follow the premier’s example of avoiding appearing on the TV screen (with the exception of the Thessaloniki International Fair and the TV duels with other political leaders), ND officials tend to respond that they are doing so to promote the government’s work. The truth is, of course, that their regular appearances are motivated by fear that the voters might forget their faces. The problem is that almost all ministers share the same insecurity and this is affecting their performance. A good idea would be for Karamanlis to summon his most-trusted ministers – five or six cadres who can carry out ND’s ambitious reform campaign – and promise them a place on the party’s list of state deputies so they no longer worry about re-election. That would allow them to focus on their job without being distracted by TV appearances and opinion polls. After all, the purpose of the state deputy ballot is to protect key ministers from the temptations of electioneering and not to ensure an MP seat for the prime minister’s cronies.