OPINION

The critical edge ahead of elections

The return to Athens of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis essentially signals the beginning of the countdown to general elections, which will take place in March 2008 at the latest. As the Maximos Mansion and PASOK’s headquarters on Harilaou Trikoupi Street will be operating with their minds on the forthcoming polls from now on, it would be wise to examine the advantages and disadvantages of each side as they prepare for the imminent showdown. It is quite clear that the government has, justifiably, invested much toward purging the national economy, which recently won approval from the European Union, and it has managed to achieve this without having to impose stringent tax measures which would have affected the incomes of the lower-income groups. Furthermore, despite the inevitable wear and tear suffered by the government after more than three years in power, New Democracy still retains the «comparative advantage» in that Karamanlis is still significantly ahead of PASOK leader George Papandreou in opinion polls as to who citizens would prefer to be their premier. As for PASOK, while it appeared to be heading for certain electoral defeat a few months ago – and a decisive defeat, at that – it now believes it is in a position to transform forthcoming elections into an irresolute showdown. PASOK’s pre-election program provided a decisive, albeit delayed, answer to those who claimed that the main opposition party has no clear stance on the country’s major problems. Then there is the structured bonds scandal which, despite the government’s declared commitment to conduct a wide-ranging investigation, has deprived ND of the moral advantage it enjoyed over PASOK due the latter’s mistakes while in government, according to certain ND cadres. However, if the above gives the impression that the two major parties are entering the final stretch of the pre-election period from the same starting point, this is not actually the reality. ND, thanks to its economic (and particularly fiscal) policies, is in a position to attract the most dynamic and productive sections of Greek society. On the contrary, PASOK’s rhetoric appears to be almost exclusively geared toward the less affluent social groups. This difference between the two main parties is likely to swing the outcome of elections in favor of ND. After all, there has been no party since the fall of the dictatorship which failed to represent the «middle ground» and still won general elections (unless its opponent had suffered irreversible damage). And if opinion polls are anything to judge by, the current government is not showing any signs of any serious or dangerous decline.