The message sent by voters through polls

The message that has been sent through ballot boxes in municipal and prefectural elections over the past two Sundays has been quite clear and unambiguous. The government – despite all its mistakes, shortfalls and non-fulfillment of longstanding pledges – has proved itself to be exceptionally durable. Meanwhile, opposition PASOK has demonstrated its incapacity to exploit the government’s degeneration in just two-and-a-half years since its election and to capitalize on citizens’ dissatisfaction. If anyone had expected the political hegemony of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and New Democracy to be shaken by the recent showdown for the country’s prefectures and municipalities, they were sorely mistaken. Neither the avalanche of corruption scandals in the past month nor the continuing tension in the education sector proved sufficient to have a negative impact on the government’s performance in polls. The final distribution of prefectures and municipalities shows that there was anything but a trend of condemning pro-government candidates in these polls; this is particularly significant in view of the strenuous efforts made by opposition PASOK to emphasize the elections as a head-on clash between different camps. Certainly, the new rule setting a 42 percent minimum of votes for candidates in the first round of local authority elections contributed toward the government’s respectable performance. But evidently PASOK did not exploit this factor in a similarly successful way. It is clear that the opposition party has a deep-rooted problem. The simple fact that it is PASOK, and not the government, that is still undergoing a crisis now that the polls are over speaks volumes. A significant proportion of voters have made it quite clear that PASOK does not inspire them with confidence in its capabilities.