OPINION

The harm caused by pre-poll speculation

It is no longer important when exactly the general elections will be held, as far as the smooth operation of the state, economic productivity and political initiatives are concerned. In any case, we are experiencing the most extensive pre-election period in recent years, with all the negative consequences that this entails for public life. Furthermore, the government’s handling of the entire issue has been so clumsy and amateurish that even if Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis were to come out and proclaim the exact date of forthcoming elections, it is doubtful that the public would be convinced. He would probably have a hard time convincing his own ministers. It is wrong of ministers and government cadres to condemn the media for keeping the issue on the current affairs agenda in order to boost viewing figures. First, the government’s advisers and spin doctors should have explained to Cabinet officials that the public as a whole really doesn’t give a hoot about when polls are held. Especially now, with summer holidays on the horizon, most are only concerned about the high cost of accommodation on most Aegean islands and the unacceptably high price of ferry fares (an entire monthly wage for the average family plus a car). Secondly, if we examine the ratings of television news bulletins and political debates, we will see that figure drop when the top issues on the agenda are the elections and other «political issues» (such as partisan politicking, in-party intrigues, etc); this suggests that the average viewer is switching over to another channel to watch something less mundane. The trivialization of politics (and of politicians) is increasingly alienating the public and discrediting public life, as is evident in opinion polls. It is quite simple: If the prime minister wanted to resolve speculation about early polls once and for all, he could do it by making an announcement confirming that elections will take place in March, as foreseen by the Constitution. He could also quite easily forbid his ministers from giving any indication that polls will take place earlier. When it is clear to all that an extended pre-election period (particularly in the current, tense political climate) is the worst thing for political initiatives, and for the economy, it is a mystery why the government persists with such a disastrous course of action. Saying that «elections will take place when the time is right» does not really clarify things, as we can see in the wildly differing accounts proffered by television channels and newspapers. And ministers offering clashing outlooks only adds to the confusion. It’s about time this rigmarole came to an end.