Shelving reforms until re-election?

There is a widespread notion that the government does not care about anything other than its re-election. According to this conviction, the government promotes or shelves reforms according to the prevailing social and political circumstances or the outcome it believes such a move will have on forthcoming elections. It plans and replans everything according to public opinion polls, and it operates with one eye on the changes that need to be undertaken and the other on poll results and pre-election campaigns. And this is why it fails to hit its target. It manages to neither push through reforms nor secure its re-election. This theory has been consolidated by various cadres of the ruling New Democracy party who, 16 months before scheduled elections, have discovered problems in existing electoral legislation and attempted to re-establish the Greek language. More specifically, these cadres claim that if elections were to be held next October (six months before the constitutionally determined date for polls) they would not be premature. But this conviction provokes a linguistic question: How many months difference make elections early? Eight? Twelve? Of course, every government – in Greece and all over the world – has its re-election at the forefront of its concerns. Its planning will always include the parameter of forthcoming polls. But this does not mean that re-election should become an end in itself. It should be the result of correct governance, namely the administration’s proven ability to solve problems, not to put them off due to fear of forthcoming elections. And this government undoubtedly has too many pressing concerns demanding its attention to sit and worry about elections scheduled to take place 16 months from now. There are the problems in the education sector, the pension problem whose solution is postponed every four years, public enterprises which milk their staff. There is our public administration which is still hassling rather than helping citizens. There are thousands of problems to be addressed that should not allow government cadres the luxury of fretting about elections. The current government clinched a strong victory in 2004 elections. Opinion polls continue to show that most Greeks support the ruling party. The Left does not appear to pose a great risk. The circumstances could not be more ideal for reforms. But the government spent the first half of its term distracted by the Olympics and then local authority elections, and now it risks wasting the second half worrying about renewing its mandate.

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