OPINION

Exploiting the time left until elections

Over the past few days there has been intense debate regarding forthcoming elections and whether plans to stage them next October would constitute a premature showdown between the country’s two main political parties. And this is a debate that has been fueled by high-profile figures in public life such as New Democracy’s Honorary Chairman Constantine Mitsotakis and Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. It is true that staging general elections just six months before the current government’s four-year term is due to expire cannot really be considered premature. By that time, the current ND administration will have completed more than three years in government. And it would be preferable for elections to be held within a relatively neutral political landscape than our country and economy being subjected to an extended pre-electoral campaign period during which various social groups would invariably make demands on the state budget and tensions would heighten between the two main political parties. But that’s not the real point. It is whether the period of time between now and the next general elections will be truly beneficial for the country. And Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Cabinet have real responsibilities to face. Over the next few months, the government must make swift progress in two directions. Firstly, it must complete the reforms that it has already heralded, primarily those in the education sector, an area which has suffered serious disruptions over the past few months. Secondly, it must lay out the groundwork that will enable it to gain a reiteration of the public mandate it received in 2004 and subsequently push through a series of radical reforms which this country needs. In other words, the forthcoming 11-month period is a time for the necessary preparation to ensure that conditions are ripe by the time of the next general elections for necessary measures to be taken in crucial areas. These critical issues include that of state pensions – which remains a time bomb ticking in the very foundations of our society – and the health system, which is still crippled by shortfalls. Certain reforms which had been promised by the government in March 2004, such as the deregulation of the energy market, should also be implemented. If the government succeeds with this challenge without yielding to pressure to loosen fiscal policy, then the period leading to next year’s elections will not have been wasted.