OPINION

The time is ripe for general elections

Eventually the whispers and the speculation became a reality. Following Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s declaration that «elections will be held when appropriate,» the only thing that remains to be clarified is when exactly this is to be, in May or in the fall? Opinion polls will no doubt help us to reach a decision but it would be better to draw a conclusion based on the needs of the country. Actually, the government has two major issues that it is under real pressure to resolve. (Of course it has much more than two problems – ranging from the creation of a comprehensive land register and the reform of our pension system to the rationalization of public administration expenses and the fate of ailing state carrier Olympic Airlines.) But the two really pressing issues are the completion of the first phase of revising the Constitution and the creation of a legislative framework for upgrading the education sector. The government really needs to tackle these two issues and then press on with elections as soon as possible. Whether the government likes it or not, the political system has entered a pre-electoral phase. Irrespective of the assertions by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos that «elections will take place at the end of the government’s four-year term» – that is in March 2008 – all indications suggest that the government ministers have stopped focusing on their respective portfolios and are instead checking out the situation in their respective constituencies, suggesting that they are expecting polls much earlier than next spring. But this puts an exceptional burden on the country, for two reasons. Firstly, in Greece, the public sector plays a major role in every facet of life and – when it is not functioning properly – there are severe repercussions for society and the economy. Secondly, in this country the government administration does not function properly even when there is constant pressure from the politicians who are ostensibly in charge; so procedures are even more dysfunctional when these politicians are off canvassing for votes. One can conclude then that the best pre-electoral period is a short pre-electoral period. And seeing as we have entered this phase, we might as well get on with it so we can finish sooner. Constitutional revision is already under way despite the withdrawal of opposition PASOK from the debate in Parliament. There remain the promised reforms to the state university system, which have fueled much debate, and much opposition, but overall the Greek people agree that it is high time for change in this area. Proposals have been submitted, university professors are increasingly in agreement on the subject. So it is time for the government to submit the legislative framework foreseeing reforms to the state university system. The people will reward it for such a bold move.